12 Fun Ways to Connect With Nature at the Zoo This Spring

March 10, 2023

Spring is a great time to visit the zoo! Flowers are coming up, lion cubs will hopefully soon be playing outside, and animals that enjoy warmer weather are starting to choose to be outside more. Besides coming to see favorite animals like sloths, zebras, giraffes, rhinos, and big cats, or attending events like Spring Egg-Stravaganza, make the most out of your zoo trip with these activities:

1. Bird Watching

As the spring migration takes place, bringing many different flighted creatures through the Chicago area, wild birds of all kinds can be seen around the zoo, from red-winged blackbirds protecting nests (we recommend wearing hats and keeping an eye out) to different species of ducks. If we’re lucky, the black-crowned night herons will also make an appearance. Be sure to keep an eye out for the more than 200 species that have been seen in this area! Of course, you can also view some birds that are zoo residents, like the Chilean flamingos.

2. View the Chicago Skyline

One great spot to take a gorgeous panoramic shot of the city of Chicago is from the Lester E. Fisher Bridge, south of the main zoo grounds. Look past Nature Boardwalk to see some of the Second City’s iconic skyscrapers stretching into the vast blue sky. For guidelines on getting permits for formal portraits for weddings and other special occasions, check out our Photography Policy.

3. Get a Ticket to Ride

The animals, of course, are the main draw of Lincoln Park Zoo, but families can also enjoy some exciting child-friendly activities to enhance their zoo experience. The AT&T Endangered Carousel, near the East Gate, is festive and fun and will be open on select weekends throughout the season. And Lionel Train Adventure, by the West Gate, takes kids by Regenstein Macaque Forest while offering parents a bit of a break. Tickets are $4 each, but you can get discounts if you buy 10 or 20.

4. ID Some Animals for the Urban Wildlife Institute

Rainy days are par for the course during spring in Chicago, but that doesn’t mean you can’t connect to wildlife with Lincoln Park Zoo. If you’re looking for something to do on those inevitable bad-weather days, go to chicagowildlifewatch.org and help the scientists at our Urban Wildlife Institute identity animals they’ve spotted on motion-sensitive cameras monitoring city green spaces.

5. Take Part in a BioBlitz

From April 28-May 1, join in the City Nature Challenge 2023, either from your own neighborhood or at a local natural site you love, like Lincoln Park Zoo. This four-day event asks Chicagoland residents to gather observations of nature and share images to the iNaturalist app, with the goal of helping scientists understand and protect nature.

6. Don’t Overlook the Small But Mighty

Charismatic mammals like polar bears and lions generally get a lot of attention from zoo-goers. But animal lovers know that smaller creatures, like the naked mole rats in Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House or the klipspringers in Regenstein African Journey can be just as fascinating and amazing. Don’t miss out on some of these wonders as you make your way through the zoo.

7. Play Pokemon Go

Are you still playing Niantic’s augmented reality game featuring those adorable pocket monsters? Lincoln Park Zoo is chock-full of PokeStops where you can grab Poke Balls, berries, and other items that’ll help you catch ‘em all. And there are a number of Gyms on site, including several of the entrances and one at Farm-in-the-Zoo. The zoo is a great place to encounter virtual Pokemon—and Pokemon Go is a great way to discover things you might have overlooked otherwise at Chicago’s free zoo.

8. Read the Signs

You may not think to read the signs around the zoo—but if you have time, you should! At Pepper Family Wildlife Center, for example, you can read about the Ilchokuti (lion guardians) in the Lion Loop. Outside the building, you’ll find an interactive sign shaped like a lion that will explains some of the adaptations of African lions. Take the time to learn about the amazing world of animals, how people are caring for them, and what you can do.

9. Take In a Zoo Demonstration

The zoo’s Guest Engagement team can be found on grounds every day narrating training sessions, explaining the science that takes place here, and helping you connect with nature. Here are some current opportunities, but please note programs are subject to cancellation based on animal needs and weather.

  • Seal Training and Feeding, Kovler Seal Pool, 11:30 a.m and 2 p.m. daily: View a session with the grey seals, Charles and Jersey, and the harbor seals, Slater and Storm.
  • Ape Cognition and Care, Regenstein Center for African Apes, 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday: Learn about the research being done with chimpanzees and western lowland gorillas at Lincoln Park Zoo.
  • Free Flight Feed, McCormick Bird House, 2:45 p.m. daily: At the Free Flight area in McCormick Bird House, you can get a closer look at many beautiful bird species.

10. Ask a Volunteer

Lincoln Park Zoo would not be what it is without its dedicated volunteers, who help monitor animals, assist the Horticulture department, teach guests about animals, and more. They can explain how to tell the chimpanzees apart, help you get from place to place, and generally help you get more out of your zoo visit. If you see one while you’re visiting, ask them a question and prepare to receive knowledge. Spring is a great time to interact with zoo volunteers!

11. Enjoy Wildlife Awareness Days

Wildlife Awareness Days at Lincoln Park Zoo are special; they give us an opportunity to recognize important environmental causes and animals. On these days, you’ll find more chats, more chances to see animals enjoying enrichment, and special activities for every member of the family. This spring, come for:

  • Earth Day, April 22
  • Arbor Day, April 28
  • Endangered Species Day, May 19

And check the website for additional days throughout the year.

12. Explore Significant Trees

Did you know that Lincoln Park Zoo is also an accredited arboretum? The zoo is home to more than 1,200 plant species on its 49 acres, including important trees like bur oaks, bald cypresses, flowering dogwoods, and more. Check out the Trees of Interest Map and see if you can find them all! And even if that’s not up your alley, you’ll see so many beautiful flower displays on grounds this spring; make sure to take notice of work done by the zoo’s skilled Horticulture team next time you visit.

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