It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in mid-November. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and both Sunshine and I had time to spare. It was glaringly obvious that it was the perfect opportunity to spend a couple of hours in a fantastic area of Chicago, the Lincoln Park Zoo.
The Lincoln Park Zoo is a FREE 35-acre zoo located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park area. It’s one of the oldest zoos in North America, having been founded back in 1868. I’m not sure when it was last “modernized”, but it certainly is located in one of the more beautiful sections of the Chicago area.
As Sunshine and I began walking around, it almost seemed like an oasis smack dab in the middle of an urban jungle. All around us were skyscrapers and apartment buildings, yet we were in the midst of a park with water and greenery at every corner.
We grabbed a quick bite at the Park Place Cafe before heading over to the Kovler Lion House. It was very cool to see the outdoor exhibits as the lions and tigers had the ability to go inside or outside. The only concern was that, if angered, either big cat could seriously take a running leap over the pit if they wanted to get to somebody. Of course, that wasn’t going to happen…but we did kind of joke about it. The cats were beautiful, though.
We went into the zoo’s gift shop (called Wild Things) and looked around at everything. Between the toys and the clothing and the various knick-knacks available, we were quite impressed. Sunshine wasn’t impressed with everything, even though I was a big fan of the sock monkey winter hat…
I wanted to show Sunshine some of the animals that she hadn’t seen in person yet, so I was eager to head to the Regenstein African Journey exhibit. Where I’ve been fortunate to have visited zoos in Toronto and Houston, I had seen giraffes and rhinos up close already…but was anxious to share the experience with her.
The giraffes were majestic…
The black rhino was imposing…
And the polar bear was hiding inside. Bastard.
We continued to wander around and did our best to take in the sights. We made our way to the Regenstein Center for African Apes, which was a huge deal for Sunshine. Y’see, for years Sunshine has been a massive fan of chimpanzees and an even bigger fan of Jane Goodall and her books. Having never seen a chimp in person, going here was a really special moment for her.
We walked inside and realized that two chimps were hanging out in the corner of a massive indoor exhibit. Sunshine was awestruck and while I continued to walk around and view the rest of the chimps and gorillas, she stayed to watch these two chimps up close and in person. I stood back for the next ten minutes and let her take it all in…standing in awe of this almost mythical creature that she had only read about in books and watched in movies.
As we left the exhibit, tears came to her eyes…HAPPY tears. She was as happy as I’d ever seen her…a moment she’ll never forget. Of course, I decided to act like an ass…
The more we walked around the zoo, the more we thought that the place must look absolutely incredible in the summertime. Heck, we even thought it must look fantastic in the winter, as well…with snow covering the area and lights strung from exhibit to exhibit (they were beginning to set-up the lights when we were there). Still…we were really happy to have shown up when we did on this awesome fall afternoon.
One more animal was left to see before we called it a day: the camels. This is another animal that, funny enough, isn’t native to Canada…so to see these incredible creatures in person was a sight to behold. It’s just another one of those things that many people who live in large cities take for granted. If you’ve never been to a large zoo that housed camels before, how cool would it be to see one in person? Exactly.
At the end of the afternoon, we found a location that offered the most incredible view of the city from the zoo grounds (photo below). It was here that we truly appreciated just how lucky Chicago was to have this amazing FREE zoo so close for everybody to enjoy and appreciate.
Needless to say, this is one tourist attraction that I would highly recommend to anybody visiting the city.