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A Complete Guide to Visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo

Hey humans! Are you ready to learn all about Chicago’s best free attraction? Of course you are!

Welcome to the Lincoln Park Zoo. This beautiful place is located near the lake in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood (obvs). And for an inner-city zoo, it covers a truly incredible amount of space and exhibits hundreds of different animals. And did I mention it’s free?! Yes, this entire zoo is available to the public with no admission fee!

Here's everything you need to know!

What kind of creatures will I see?

The Lincoln Park Zoo has everything. Giraffes, zebras, rhinos, camels, penguins, gorillas, flamingos, wild dogs, kangaroos, and lions (including three small lion cubs at the time of writing!) are just a few of the amazing critters that call the zoo home. There are also exhibit houses hosting birds, primates, reptiles, small mammals, big cats, and African animals. It’s truly an incredible amount of critters.

Are there other attractions besides the animals?

the Chicago skyline viewed from Lincoln Park

You betcha! The grounds are dotted with small carnival rides and playground spaces for the young kiddos. For an extra treat for all ages, take a ride on the Endangered Species Carousel! ($4 per ticket)

If you enjoy nature and gardens, there are three beautiful options right at the zoo gates. An expansive garden with a boardwalk spreads out at the south end of the zoo. The views of the downtown skyline from this area are incredible. Near the north gate, you can find the Lincoln Park Conservatory, a small covered botanical garden that is also free to enter. And behind the Conservatory building, around the north side and toward the lake, you can find the Alfred Caldwell Lily Garden. In the summer, the Lily Garden is often closed on weekends for private events (it’s a popular Chicago wedding spot). But if you catch it when it’s open, it’s a wonderfully tranquil place.

What’s the food situation like?

Like any good zoo, it’s dotted with food stands, concessions carts, and a nice cafeteria. It’s pretty standard attraction food: not necessarily a meal to write home about, but more than enough to satisfy. Plus, being a free zoo, concessions is a big portion of how they make their money. The fact that there’s no ticket change definitely helps me justify that slightly overpriced giant pretzel. (Or that stuffed snow leopard that I touched in the gift shop and immediately pack bonded with.)

You’re technically not supposed to bring in your own food, but it’s not like there’s someone at the gate checking your bags for snacks. You can definitely smuggle in your own as long as you’re not telegraphing what you’re carrying by putting it in a cooler.

How do I get there?

a small child pointing up at a monkey at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago

The best way to get to the Lincoln Park Zoo is via public transit. The 151 and 156 bus lines both stop right outside the zoo gates. If you’re on the train, you can take the red line and get off at Fullerton. It’s a little bit of a walk from the train station to the zoo, but it’s a nice walking street. Plus if you walk from the train you can stop for a coffee at the Bourgeois Pig Café on the way! (738 W Fullerton Ave) It’s my favorite coffee pit stop in the area. I recommend the Café Miel (a honey-sweetened latte with cinnamon.) And if you’re looking for lunch to smuggle in, you can order one of their many, delicious, literary-themed sandwiches to go.

If you choose to arrive via car, the zoo does have a designated parking lot on its northeast side. It’s not cheap (it’s another way the zoo makes money sans admission fee), but sometimes the convenience of parking right next door is worth it.

Is the Lincoln Park Zoo admission actually free?


So what are you waiting for!? Prepare to be amazed at Chicago’s best free attraction.

Visiting Chicago and looking for a full itinerary that happens to include this amazing zoo!? Good thing I made one for you: Three-Day Chicago Itinerary

Need more guides to Chicago, all written by a Windy City native? Check them out Here!

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Love and Shenanigans,


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