March of the Chicago penguins

If your tiny human wants to be a penguin when they grow up, the new African penguin exhibit at Lincoln Park Zoo is just about as close as they can get.

If you go

Lincoln Park Zoo

2001 N. Clark St., Chicago

Hours: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. November-March

Admission: Free


With rocks for climbin’ and squishy flooring for waddlin’ that mimic the penguins’ habitat, kids will be immediately transported into the exciting world of the zoo’s newest buddies. The glass water-viewing area allows kids to get nose-to-nose with the penguins and follow every graceful glide through the water or awkward shuffle on land. According to Curator Dave Bernier, these little birds are just as curious about us as we are about them, which means they get energetically interactive the minute they see people, making them absolutely hypnotizing to watch.

The exhibit itself is so light and airy that it fits right in with the rest of the zoo’s African Journey exhibits and feels nothing like the typical dark, damp Antarctic penguin exhibits you might be used to.

Because these penguins hail from southern Africa, they’re more comfortable with all four of Chicago’s seasons, meaning the outdoor exhibit can stay open year-round.

Bernier says the closeness with the animals is something that Lincoln Park Zoo tries to foster with every exhibit it creates. “We want people to connect with nature and the animals so that they develop even more of an understanding and empathy with them,” he says.

That’s especially true with the African penguins exhibit because these cuties are one of 10 animals on the SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction) list. To find out how you can help this endangered species, visit

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