Lions, Tigers, Penguins, and Gorillas...oh my! (note, all images (c) www.lpzoo.org)
One of my favorite places to take out of town guests is the Lincoln Park Zoo. It is nestled just north of the city's main downtown area, in the neighborhood of Lincoln Park and is one of the oldest zoos in our country. One of the best parts about this zoo is that it is free 356 days of the year.
Since it is a free zoo, it has a feeling of a park with animals. The animals are in cages, but the zoo itself is completely open for visitors to pop into whenever they want (during zoo hours, of course). Sometimes when coming home from work during the summer I will ride my bike through the LP Zoo and enjoy the fresh air and fun.
The zoo is best enjoyed during the summer hours when you can rent a paddle boat, view the sea lions and ride the carousel, but even during the winter there are many animals to see. The big cats and small mammals are inside their own building. Actually, last semester I did a project for a biology class that I was taking where I went to the zoo every other Saturday to document the actions of the collection of Dwarf Mongeese. Through out the whole semester, from the late summer heat of September to the pre-Christmas excitement of late November, children of all ages were able to look at the animals.
One of the most humorous exhibits, to me, at least since I grew up in a rural-ish area, is the John Deere tractor. Since most Chicago kids have never gotten stuck behind one of these on a narrow country road, their appeal, and the magical work they do on parcels of land called "farms" is near legendary. Many of these kids have never been outside the concrete jungle that is Chicago so the "Farm at the Zoo" is fascinating. I'm sure even visitors from all over would find this fun because it is in the middle of the petting zoo section. The "Farm at the Zoo" also includes live cow milking daily.
The grounds and the park area around the zoo allow for ample picnicking area where you can gaze at the skyscraper while listening to the roar of the lions in the background.
In 1868, when the Lincoln Park Commissioners were given a gift of a pair of swans and then in 1874, the swans were joined by a bear cub, the first animal purchased for the zoo. Rumor has it that the bear became very adept at escaping from his cage and could be found roaming the Lincoln Park neighborhood at night. The cage solutions have become much more sophisticated in the past century.
Parking is available at the zoo for a fee, but the more adventurous should drive around the neighborhood to try and find some free parking. It might take a few minutes, but the saved parking money is worth it. Also, the CTA offers several transportation options to the zoo. Go to the trip advisor for more information.
Monday, January 26, 2009
at 7:08 AM