One of the things we love best about Chicago is all of the free activities from concerts to museums and, one of my favorites, the Lincoln Park Zoo which is free 365 days a year.  Yep, that’s right – you can even take the little ones on New Year’s Day if you want to start a new tradition.  It’s also a perfect activity for out of town visitors.

Besides the normal zoo animals they have African Wild Dogs, bears, sea lions and zebras.  While you’re there, be sure to stop by The Patio at Cafe Brauer for lunch or dinner as it overlooks a beautiful pond and the Chicago skyline (and they have gluten free options – woot woot!).  If you have time, visit The Farm in the Zoo which is next door, just don’t stick your hands through the fences.  And be prepared for some *funky* smells.

Don’t forget to sign up for the Zoo’s newsletter, ZooMail, so you can be alerted to their upcoming events. They have a plethora of unusual and fun activities from adults only concerts and parties (just don’t try to get the animals drunk) to kid friendly events such as their incredibly popular overnight Outdoor Campout.  At their Outdoor Campouts you pitch a tent, enjoy a campfire complete with s’mores, tuck into your tent for the night then wake up to the calls of gibbons and flamingos. Sounds like a great family memory to me, although I think my husband might beg to differ.

Parking tip:  Street parking around Lincoln Park can be very difficult to find unless you go early in the morning so your best bet is one of the official Zoo parking lots or taking public transportation.  And Chicago does not mess around when it comes to tickets (I swear they hide and then ticket your meter the second it expires) so be sure to feed the meter.

Kid tip: There is a playground right down the street if your kids need to burn off some energy before heading into the zoo!  There’s also a large green space right outside the Zoo if you want to bring a lunch and have a little picnic and make a day of it before heading into the Zoo.

Dog friendly: Nope, afraid not.  Although you can see many of the farm animals from the Nature Boardwalk path on the other side of the Farm in the Zoo and the green space outside the Zoo is a great place for dog walking and hanging out (just don’t let your dog get too close to the fountain or he might jump in and take a swim like my two beasts did).

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