Lincoln Park Zoo: Ideal Time to Go + 5 Amazing Animal Exhibits to See

Written by Marisa Higgins
Published: November 29, 2023
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Lincoln Park Zoo -entrance

This free zoo is a great way to experience Chicago.

©chascarper from Chicago, U.S.A., CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons – License

The Lincoln Park Zoo is nestled in the heart of Chicago, Illinois, and it is dedicated to connecting people with nature. Admission to the zoo is completely free, and the zoo prioritizes caring for its animals, providing quality education, and emphasizing conservation efforts. Since 1868, the Lincoln Park Zoo has provided the city of Chicago an immersive experience with an array of animals. Let’s dive into the ideal time to visit the Lincoln Park Zoo and the five amazing animals you must see. 

History of the Lincoln Park Zoo

Overview of Chicago from Lincoln Park

The skyline of Chicago is a lovely focal point from different spots around the zoo.

©Jose Carlos Castro Antelo/iStock via Getty Images

The Lincoln Park Zoo opened in Chicago in 1868. The very first animals to arrive at Lincoln Park were two pairs of swans. The swans were a gift from New York’s Central Park, and the birds marked the origins of Chicago’s free zoo. By 1870, the park had bison, foxes, wolves, and eagles, to name a few, all of which were donations. In 1878, the Lincoln Park commissioners declared that the zoo must always remain free. To this day, the zoo is still free, all thanks to the partners and donors who support the community. 

The early twentieth century ushered in immense development and expansion at the Lincoln Park Zoo. With cafes, a birdhouse, a lion house, and other exhibits, the zoo welcomed various buildings and installations that established it as a popular cultural destination. The Lincoln Park Zoo is open year-round and welcomes more than two million guests annually. 

When is the Best Time to Visit the Lincoln Park Zoo?

Before checking out the Lincoln Park Zoo, you might want to consider the best time of year to ensure that your experience is optimal, engaging, and fun. Although you can visit the zoo year-round, you might want to visit it during a particular season, holiday, or experience. 

Spring (March – May)

With blossoming flowers and trees, springtime is a lovely time to visit the zoo. After a freezing winter, the spring months are a great time to walk around the zoo and encounter the many animals that are slowly becoming lively after the winter months. It’s also a great time of year to visit the Conservatory Garden as the flora offers bright colors after the darkness of winter.

Summer (June – August)

The summer months, with their long days, warm temperatures, and thriving outdoor activities, are a great time to visit the Lincoln Park Zoo. In the summertime, numerous special events and activities are scheduled. For example, on Saturdays during the summer, you can stay overnight for a campout at the zoo. How cool is that?

Fall (September – November)

As the vibrant fall foliage surrounds the zoo and the crisp fall temperatures descend, the fall months can be a lovely time to stroll through the Lincoln Park Zoo. Even more, the zoo hosts Fall Fest on Saturdays during September and October. Check out the pumpkin patch, live music, or harvest maze.

Winter (December – February)

The winter months at the zoo offer a magical atmosphere. The zoo is adorned with holiday lights, adding to the festive spirit of the season. Some animals, like snow leopards and polar bears, might even be more active during this time of the year. 

5 Amazing Animal Exhibits to See

Each season has a variety of opportunities, exhibits, or events that can make your visit to the Lincoln Park Zoo memorable. It ultimately comes down to your preferences and what you want to see during your visit. However, no matter when you visit, there are five amazing animal exhibits you must definitely see!

pensive lioness

Don’t forget to visit the lions at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

©jason krac/iStock via Getty Images

1. Regenstein African Journey

Encounter the diverse ecosystem of Africa and see giraffes, zebras, and interesting African penguins.

2. Penguins at the Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove

Check out the adorable tuxedoed birds as they waddle and swim in their habitat. 

3. Farm-in-the-Zoo

This exhibit is perfect for families with children. You can interact with domesticated animals and connect with different species from the animal kingdom.

4. Polar Bear and Sea Lion Exhibit

You can experience the Arctic from the heart of Chicago by observing these playful polar bears and sea lions.

5. Helen Branch Primate House

Get up close and personal with our closest relatives, and see gorillas, monkeys, and lemurs as they swing from vines and trees.

Check out the Lincoln Park Zoo

Summer Garden Scene in Lincoln Park Chicago with the Skyline

The Lincoln Park Zoo is a vibrant part of the heart of Chicago.

©James Andrews/iStock via Getty Images

The Lincoln Park Zoo offers a wonderful journey through exhibits and unique habitats right in the heart of Chicago. By timing your visit to the zoo, you can explore various exhibits while also experiencing the best offerings of a particular season. Whether you visit during the festivities of winter or in the heat of summer, you’ll undoubtedly have unforgettable experiences. Grab your camera and get ready for an incredible day at the Lincoln Park Zoo!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © alisafarov/

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About the Author

Dr. Marisa Higgins is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on travel, places to visit, and fun activities. Marisa holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and French, a Master of Arts in English, and a Ph.D. in English, and she's spent the past decade teaching, writing, and researching. She lives in Knoxville, TN with her husband, and their Beagle-Chihuahua, Rumi, and cat, Rory.

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