10 animal adventures this summer in Chicago and the suburbs

With two zoos, a world-class aquarium and more pet parades and nature fests than you can shake a stick at, Chicago offers a menagerie of events for animal lovers.

There’s plenty more to do! Bookmark Chicago Parent’s Summer Fun Central.

With two zoos, a world-class aquarium and more pet parades and nature fests than you can shake a stick at, Chicago offers a menagerie of events for animal lovers.

Hang with the insects… and the giraffes and rhinos and apes.The Brookfield Zoo’s “Xtreme Bugs” features real and animatroniccreepy crawlies through Sept. 7. In addition to real bugs, the Zoowill feature 130 larger than life sculptures, with 22 that move.You’ll feel like your in some sci-fi “bugs take over the world”movie.

When you finally tear yourselves away from the bugs, head to theHamil Family Play Zoo, and get a lesson in lemurs and banana peels(not necessarily together, though).

Hamill Family Play Zoo is open 10 a.m. to 30 minutesbefore the zoo closes. Admission is extra.

Bug out at the Brookfield Zoo

‘Xtreme’ Bugs invade Brookfield Zoo

In 2008, Stingrays pooled their resources and came to theBrookfield Zoo. Then sharks joined them in 2009. In 2010, dinosaurstook up temporary residence. Who can forget the giant dinosaur thatmoved and roared right next to the Theodore Roosevelt MemorialFountain?

And now it is time for some of nature’s humblest, but equallyimportant creatures to have their moment in the sun. Or shade, ifthey like it that way.

“Xtreme Bugs” arrived at the zoo May 19 and will be crawlingaround through Sept. 7. However, you won’t have to get out yourflashlights and magnifying glasses to find some of them. These bugswill be right in your face, so to speak.

All in all, nearly 130 much larger-than-life insects will bemultiple-eyeing you. Some of them don’t just stand or lie around,either, like cicada husks. Twenty-two of the state-of-the-artanimatronic bugs spring into action.

But before you enter the Xtreme Bugs exhibit, be kind to theblack and yellow Japanese hornet, just a little north of theTheodore Roosevelt Memorial Fountain, on the grass. Try to show nofear. After all, he’s only 33 feet long and 16 feet high – only 250times the size of a normal hornet. But he moves and buzzes.

Then head over east to the exhibit, in the very same area oncethe home of the dinosaurs. See the 45-foot diameter aster flowerwith the giant bee inside and hiss back at the hissing cockroach, amere 42 times normal size.

Ever seen a ginormous Monarch butterfly with a 13-foot-longwingspread? There’s one here so big you could ride on its back.Unfortunately you can’t. This Xtreme kind of butterfly doesn’t comewith seat belts. Or even a baby seat. Maybe you could bring yourown parachute … if the butterfly doesn’t eat it first. Or you.Bring milkweed and make a friend!

Don’t miss the anxious ladybug who seems to have locked herselfout of her specially-detailed Volkswagen Beetle.

If being around big bugs “bugs” you too much, you can visit andlearn about live creepy-crawlies at “Harry’s Big Adventure: My BugWorld!” You can interact with some of them in their habitats,getting up close and personal with them. Find out the many waysthat insects get along in their surroundings and how they affectyou.

Weekend activities include bug cooking demonstrations by BugChef Zack Lemann. Crunch on a free, small cup of Crispy CajunCrickets.

“They taste like sunflower seeds” is the general opinion ofthose who dare to try them, a reporter found them to have more of apumpkin seed flavor.

The Bug Chef will also be preparing Red Beans and Yikes! wherethe rice is replaced by waxworms. Got your mouth watering yet? OK,how about sampling 6-Legged Salsa? The salsa is replaced by boiledmealworms.

If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll be there in time for the CinnamonBug Crunch (fried waxworms with cinnamon sugar) or the ChocolateCovered Crickets. Everybody loves chocolate, right?

Inside the 5,000-square-foot tent is “Harry’s Big Adventure”(Harry is a Chinese praying mantis from Memphis, Tenn.), and it’shere that the wonderful world of bugs really comes alive. A Chineserose-haired tarantula is waiting to greet you. Go ahead, touch him,and pet the giant millipede, and don’t forget the vinegaroon.

For those who like sports, Madagascar hissing cockroach racesare also held on weekends. Want to get the kids busy for a littlewhile? Put them on the 10- by 20-foot Spider Web Climber. Or maybethe kids would rather be bug detectives, and conduct their own pestinspections of a small house. Lab coats and white safety hats areprovided.

At “Harry’s Big Adventure,” it is revealed that bugs have eveninvaded our vocabulary and culture.

“Sometimes people use bug vocabulary, and they don’t evenrealize they’re doing it,” said Andre Copeland, interpretiveprograms manager for the Chicago Zoological Society. “Like ‘thebee’s knees,’ ‘snug as a bug’ and ‘butterflies i


Commune with the goats

Garfield Goats

For one week a month this summer, Garfield ParkConservatory is hosting Sani, Salvi, and Gracie, three local goatswho will be browsing on their prairie grass. People and goats havebeen living side-by-side for over 10,000 years, and today’s citydwellers are starting to realize the benefits. Come visit our goatfriends to see an urban pasture at work in our big backyard prairiearea. Please note goats will not be on display during inclementweather. Look for a sign in the lobby or call the front desk at312-746-5100 before your visit.

The Goats Are Scheduled to Visit on the FollowingDates:

• Saturday June 2 through Friday, June 8

• Saturday, July 7 through Friday, July 13

• Saturday, August 4 through Friday August 10

• Saturday, September 8 through Friday, September 14

• Saturday, October 6 through Friday, October 12


…Visit some really, really old animals. For all the bells andwhistles that seem to accompany museum exhibits these days (andusually, they’re terrific), the classic animals behind glass arestill a kid favorite, and Chicago’s Field Museum is, pardon thepun, crawling with them.

The Field Museum


If there’s anything that instantly lifts a mood more thanhelping out in the community, it’s helping out in the communitysurrounded by puppies. Some animal shelter volunteer opportunitiesare meant for adults, but check out PAWS Chicago’s Family Service Program.
Specially created for volunteers ages 12-17, the program places
young volunteers at the Adoption Center at 1997 N. Clybourn Ave. on
weekend mornings form 9-11 a.m. There are only five spots each day
(sign up here) and kids must be
accompanied by a guardian.

Volunteer at an animal shelter


We’re in the Midwest, so of course there are plenty of workingfarms that kids can visit – and we have a list of all of them.

Here are some samples:

Big RunWolf Ranch is a wildlife rescue center that people can visit –
and even camp at. You can find aminals here that you really can’t
find anywhere else in the Chicago area.

Your kids can pet the wool of real sheep at Lambs Farm,
which is a petting zoo with a larger mission: home and workplace to
the developmentally disabled.

Wagner Farm has ongoing events like “Rise
& Shine,” where you can play a role in milking the cows,
gathering eggs from the coop and feeding the animals.

KlineCreek Farm does blacksmithing demonstrations Saturdays at
1:30p.m. and has seven summer “Farmhand Sessions,” each including
three days where kids can experience life on an 1890s farm.

Visit a working farm


The Shedd Aquarium acquired a rescued sea otter, Cayucos, thispast January and spent the winter and spring months nursing himback to health. Now, you can stop by and say hi and welcome toChicago (and visit the penguins and beluga whales while you’rethere).

Look for Cuyucos this summer in the sea otter exhibit at SheddAquarium.

The Shedd is Otter this world

Shedd’s new otter

Although she won’t be in a public exhibit for a few more months,10-week-old southern sea otter pup Cuyucos has already wonChicago’s hearts. Cuyucos is the latest addition to the sea otterfamily at Shedd Aquarium, where she was brought after being rescuedoff the California coastline she has been named after. Wildliferescuers found Cuyucos abandoned and calling for her mother inmid-December and she has been at Shedd since early January. Amember of the California sea otter population, Cuyucos is athreatened species, with fewer than 3,000 of her kind left.

Cayucos is currently under a 30-day quarantine but will soon beintroduced to the five Alaskan otters at Shedd, beginning with thefemales. Until then, she is getting plenty of attention from over adozen Shedd staffers, who make sure she is cared for around theclock.

Lana Vanagasem, Senior Trainor at Shedd, said the otter pup hasmany of the same needs as a human baby. Cuyucos has seven feedingsa day, with a diet of formula, clam, shrimp, squid andpollock.

In between feeds, she loves to play both in and out of the waterand naps throughout the day. With the help of staffers, she islearning how to groom herself and dive for food.

And although she is young, Cuyucos has already begun some basictraining exercises.

Look for Cayucos this summer in the sea otter exhibit at SheddAquarium.


The Butterfly Haven at PeggyNotebaert is one of the most astonishing experiences in
Chicago. But it’s not the only flying you can catch in Lincoln
Park. The north pond is home to a lot of different birds, and kids
can learn not only what they look like, but how they sound. Your
3-7-year-olds can also go to the Istock Family Look-In Animal Lab,
and see scientists at work studying animal behavior. (Don’t be
surprised if the animals and the scientists look back at you.)

Butterfly Fun


Composting is the decomposition of yard and fruit and vegetablefood scraps into a garden-friendly, nutrient-rich gunk that willperk up your peonies in a hurry. Where do the animals come in, youask? Worm composting, or vermiculture compositing, is one of thebest ways to really pack in the nutrients. You can do it in aslittle as 1×2 feet, “ideally in a garage, porch or basement,”according to the city of Chicago’s compositing website So get a
bin, get digging for worms, and get started!

Go grub-hunting


Be a good neighbor to your feathery friends and the first stepis finding the right birdfeeder. But put that hammer and nailsaway: Here is a simple project for making a birdfeeder from anempty milk carton.

Build a birdfeeder

Backyard Birdfeeder


Thanks to some fun, free programs for children and families,fishing is catching on in Chicago as a modern urban sport.

The Chicago River Fishing Festival, run by the Chicago ParkDistrict, hits the water June 20 and runs through Aug. 19 atColumbus and Wacker Aves. Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3p.m., you’ll find rods, bait, and fishing experts ready to get yourkids’ feet wet, all at no cost. More information

The Trailside Museum of Natural History in River Forest isoffering a fishing camp for kids ages 8-12 on July19-20.Advanced registration is required and the camp costs $8per child. Moreinformation

For northwest suburbanites, Crabtree Nature Center offers atwo-day hands-on programto introduce kids to the basics offishing. Day 1 (either June 14 or June 16) is a close look atnative fish through activities and investigations, and Day 2(either June 15 or 17), kids head out to a local lake.Moreinformation

Get Hooked


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