May 7, 2012

It's Free and It's a Zoo (What's not to like?)

If you live in Chicago, you choose sides at an early age.  You are a Cubs fan or you root for that other team because you are no good at finding street parking on the north side.  You shop at Jewel or the chain that charges 20% more (10% if you have their key tag).  You go to the free, smack-in-the-middle-of-the-city zoo or you pay forty-six dollars (for a family of 3) to visit a highly commercialized zoo in the suburbs.

I made a lot of mistakes in my youth but fortunately I chose correctly when it came to the important stuff.  Cubs, Jewel and Lincoln Park Zoo.  Because these big decisions have already been made for them, my children can relax and enjoy the benefits of watching a consistent ball team, eating take 'n bake pizza and discovering exotic animals along the lakefront.

I won't lie to you--I've been to that other zoo.  It's just okay.  It may cover more acres, boast several "shows"  and a tram ride (at an additional ticket cost of course) but it's really nothing special.  It's definitely not 46 dollars special.  In my experience, your family spends the entire day trying to feel like the trip was worth it.  I think that's how they end up selling tickets to the butterfuly, dolphin, and bear exhibits.  Who wants to admit that you came all that way and spent all that money just to see a giraffe and the behind of a great ape?

The beauty of a free zoo is that whatever animals you see are a bonus as you walk leafy paths, smell lilacs and watch a cross section of the city's population do the same.  You don't mind if your little ones don't get excited about the frolicking wolves because, hey, you didn't spend any money to be here.  If your sons want to climb on the indoor pirate ship for an hour, it's okay.  You can come back next week to see the bears.

There's breathtaking flora and fauna around each corner of the zoo.  You spend the day marveling at how clean everything is (not Disney clean but hey, even Disney isn't Disney clean anymore and they charge $75 to walk around their park).  The employees and volunteers are distinctly friendly.  You get the feeling that they like their jobs and that they want to be there; even the ones who spend fifteen minutes showing your five year old how to distinguish different kinds of animal poo. 

I'll be the first to tell you--it's possible to have a priceless experience without paying admission.  I think my sons would agree but they fell asleep as soon as we got home.

thoughtfully placed puddles in the children's zoo

thoughtfully placed climbing structure in the children's zoo

yes, that is what you think it is

Train ride:  not free--but very safe thanks to Henry



  1. Now that looks like a great day!!!

  2. The much better zoo for sure! We did the *other* one and I was very unimpressed! I'll stick to the zoo I grew up going to...the awesome free one!

  3. Looks like you all had a great time.

  4. I want a free zoo near me! Looks like a blast!

  5. I love free, fun stuff! Looks like a perfect day.