Lincoln Park Zoo is a free 35-acre (14 ha) zoo located in Lincoln Park in Chicago, Illinois. The zoo was founded in 1868, making it among the oldest of zoos in North America. It is also one of a few free admission zoos in the United States. The zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
Lincoln Park Zoo is home to a wide variety of animals. The zoo’s exhibits include big cats, polar bears, penguins, gorillas, reptiles, monkeys, and other species totalling about 1,100 animals from some 200 species. Also located in Lincoln Park Zoo is a burr oak tree which dates to 1830, three years before the city was founded.
The zoo was founded in 1868, when the Lincoln Park Commissioners were given a gift of a pair of swans by Central Park‘s Board of Commissioners in New York City. In 1874, the swans were joined by a bear cub from the Philadelphia Zoo: the first animal purchased for the zoo. The bear became quite adept at escaping from its home and could frequently be found roaming Lincoln Park at night. The first bison ever born in captivity was born in the Lincoln Park Zoo. A new Lion House opened in 1912. It was later renovated and reopened in 1990. The Primate House opened in 1927, and was known for housing a popular gorilla named Bushman (1931–1951), one of the only gorillas in a U. S. zoo at the time. The zoo’s great apes were moved to the Lester E. Fisher Great Ape House in 1976, named for the zoo’s outgoing director, and the original Primate House was later renovated and reopened in 1992 as the Helen Brach Primate House, featuring more naturalistic settings.
Marlin Perkins, who gained fame as the host of the television program Zoo Parade and later, Wild Kingdom, was director of the zoo from 1944 until 1962. He created and recruited a citizens group to support the Zoo’s mission, the Lincoln Park Zoological Society. The facility underwent a dramatic transformation in the 1970s and 1980s, with the additions of many new, naturalistic exhibits. In 1995, the Zoological Society assumed management of the zoo from the Chicago Park District, which remains the owner. Zoo administration is currently housed in the nearby building previously used by the Chicago Academy of Sciences, which moved to a new facility in 1999. The Kovler Sea Lion Pool opened the same year after an extensive renovation, and is now home to the zoo’s harbor seals.
Regenstein African Journey, a renovation of the zoo’s former Large Mammal House, opened in 2003, turning the zoo’s largest building from concrete showcases for a few large mammals into a series of naturalistic settings that tell the story of the wildlife of the African continent, welcoming the return of the zoo’s African elephants and giraffes as well as new additions such as the aardvark, ostrich, and African wild dog. Two years later, the zoo renovated its Great Ape House, opening the Regenstein Center for African Apes, which focused on the zoo’s troops of common chimpanzees and western lowland gorillas, putting a special emphasis on researching the behaviors of both species and creating new, naturalistic habitats.
Celebrate Fall Fest at the Zoo!
“Enjoy harvest-themed family fun across the zoo—including a corn maze, Ferris wheel, giant fun slide, bounce house, pumpkin patch and strolling entertainers—at this new seasonal festival.”
Fridays–Sundays, October 2–18 and Monday, October 12
Find Out More About Fall Fest
Sleepover at the Zoo
Saturday–Sunday, October 17–18
Nature in Motion
Through October 31