This holiday season, give a gift that can’t be wrapped

This holiday season give your child the gift of cute creature encounters. You’re sure to surprise them with a gift that’s not only educational, but one they’ll remember a lot longer than the latest hot toy.

Shedd Aquarium

Instead of a stuffed penguin, give your child a face-to-face time with a real one. Shedd offers a penguin encounter for the 4-and-up crowd for $25, one of the cheaper animal encounters we found.

Another kid-friendly experience is the Behind-the-Scenes Tour. “It really is a learning experience, not just about the animals, but about the environment and conservation,” says Melissa Kruth, spokesperson at Shedd.

Lincoln Park Zoo

For an after-hours animal encounter, check out Bedtime Buddies in the Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo after the zoo closes. “Kids are invited to wear their favorite PJs and say good night to their favorite animals, or sometimes good morning to the nocturnal animals,” says Jaclyn Peterson, manager of public programs.

Brookfield Zoo

The 12 and older crowd will like Flippers and Fins program, featuring Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, seals and sea lions.

Younger kids, age 7-12, will have to wait until summer to take part in the zoo’s newest offering, Junior Zookeeper.

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