7 Unique Animal Adventures Your Kids Will Go Wild For

Kids love animals and summer is a great time to head to the area zoos and other institutions that members of the animal kingdom call home. There are lots of opportunities to learn more about various animals and make friends with creatures big and small at these unique animal adventures.

Feed the giraffes at Brookfield Zoo

  • Address: 8400 31st St., Brookfield
  • Cost: Zoo admission is $21.95 for adults, $15.95 for children 3-11; parking is $14; giraffe feeding is $10

Kids love to join in animal care and they can do just that by helping feed the giraffes at Brookfield Zoo. Offered twice daily from 10:30 a.m. to noon and 1 to 2:30 p.m., it’s magical to see these creatures up close. The giraffes live in Habitat Africa! The Savannah. While you’re there, make it a point to say hello to the five dwarf mongoose pups born in May. If you have tweens or teens, Brookfield Zoo also recently began offering poolside penguin feeding adventures. They take place twice a day for $75 per person for individuals age 12 and older. Learn more here.

See the new residents feathering their nests at the Phillips Park Zoo

  • Address: 1000 Ray Moses Drive, Aurora
  • Cost: Free

Phillips Park Zoo has gone to the birds, and you can do so, too, when you are among the first to welcome two new feathered residents. Iggy is a blue-throated macaw, which is a critically endangered species, and Iris is a green acari, which is a small toucan. Mastodon Island has been reimagined and now features a new playground, new pavilions, redone paths and a small amphitheater where zoo staff will occasionally bring both animals (like the new guinea pigs who recently became zoo residents) and books for story time as well as a chance to pet and experience the animals.

Touch stingrays at the Shedd Aquarium

  • Address: 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago
  • Cost: General admission is $39.95 for adults, $29.95 for children 3-11; Chicago resident admission is $19.95 for adults, $14.95 for children 3-11. Stingray Touch is included.

The Shedd is a fun place all year round, but summer visits are extra special because the seasonal outdoor Stingray Touch exhibit is open. (It operates between late May and mid-September.) Guests of all ages can reach (gently) into the 78-degree water habitat and touch cownose rays. Even if kids aren’t looking to get their hands on the rays, the close-up view offers a new perspective and appreciation of these mesmerizing creatures and the way they move through the water. Sea star touch and sturgeon touch session are other hands-on activities included with admission. The Shedd also offers a variety of behind the scenes experiences with sharks, otters, belugas and penguins that you can learn about here. If you’re going with older kids, have them check out the Teen Learning Lab.

Become better acquainted with bobcats backstage at Cosley Zoo 

  • Address: 1356 North Gary Ave., Wheaton
  • Cost: Zoo admission is $7 for adults, free for kids up to age 17, Wheaton residents and Zoo members; Bobcats Backstage costs $18/person

Cosley Zoo features 20 exhibits and more than 50 species of animals. It’s a great place to see wildlife native to Illinois, including deer, foxes, turtles and more. For a unique experience, Bobcats Backstage allows guests to join zookeepers for a behind-the-scenes look at these felines and to observe a training session. It’s offered daily with check-in before 10:45 a.m. Reservations can be made by calling 630-665-5534 or signing up the day of at the Wild Side gift shop.

Observe a baby animal nursery and say hi to sandhill cranes at Willowbrook Wildlife Center

  • Address: 525 South Park Blvd., Glen Ellyn
  • Cost: Free

Located in the Willowbrook Forest Preserve, the Willowbrook Wildlife Center is a place where animals are rehabilitated and where humans can learn more about the animal world. The visitor center has windows into both the kitchen where you can see staff prepare special meals for the animals and the nursery, where you can observe staff caring for baby animals. Outside, there’s a butterfly garden, and a trail for animals with permanent disabilities who call Willowbrook Wildlife Center home, including owls, red foxes, groundhogs and raccoons. There’s also an enclosed wetland bird habitat where you can see two sandhill cranes.

Photo Credit: Randall Oaks Zoo

Watch a camel training session at the Randall Oaks Zoo

  • Address: 1180 N. Randall Rd., West Dundee
  • Cost: Zoo admission is $4.25 for nonresidents, $3.50 for residents, children under 2 are free.

Elmer the camel is a fan favorite at the Randall Oaks Zoo, and every day at 3 p.m. you can watch an animal training demonstration with him. You can also see training demos with Annie the Clydesdale horse at 11 a.m. each day. Don’t miss the wallabies who were added to the zoo last year, and Casper the llama plus many farm animals available for viewing, petting and feeding. Animal feed is $1 per cup.

Feed some peckish penguins at the Lincoln Park Zoo

  • Address: 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago
  • Cost: Zoo admission is free, penguin feeding is $60/person and participants must be at least 6 years old

The Lincoln Park Zoo offers an opportunity to meet some of the African penguins living at Pritzker Penguin Cove with the Malott Family Penguin Encounter. This animal encounter lasts approximately one hour, during which time guests learn about the penguins and what their daily routines involve both at the zoo and in their natural habitat of along the southern African coast. Participants spend time both inside the exhibit with the penguins and in a behind-the-scenes area.

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