Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo

Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo

This space marries expert animal care and interactive learning elements to teach visitors about North American wildlife.

Get lost in the woods and discover North American wildlife along the way at Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo! Take the tucked away path winding through four large wooded habitats, featuring North American black bears, red wolves, beavers, and river otters and learn about the importance of understanding and protecting the wildlife close to home. Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo marries expert animal care, interactive learning elements, and tactile experiences, teaching visitors of all ages about the interdependency of living things. This area also features an indoor space, which encourages learning and play with the 20-foot Treetop Canopy Climbing Adventure. Children will get a feel for the arboreal lifestyle, ascending this stylized, climbable forest canopy. In this whimsical setting, visitors will also get close to native Illinois amphibians and reptiles and learn about how Lincoln Park Zoo works to conserve them in the wild.

Wild Sapling Play Forest, completed in spring 2017, is tucked away in a secluded, woodsy corner of Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo next to the black bear exhibit. Unlike traditional playgrounds, it doesn’t feature a swing set, slides, or monkey bars. Its unique design is more organic and variable, informed by nature play, a surging movement in early-childhood education that helps kids connect with the outdoors through self-directed exploration.

Fast Facts

OPENED: 2005
COST: $13.9 million
SIZE: 105,220 square feet
LOCATION: South of the West Gate next to Kovler Seal Pool

Exhibit Features

  • Four expansive outdoor exhibit spaces for endangered red wolves, North American black bears, river otters and beavers.
  • An indoor area with native Illinois amphibians, reptiles and birds, such as American toads, eastern box turtles and American kestrels.

Viewing Area Features

  • There are many immersive, glass viewing areas enabling guests to get close to animals and observe their species-specific terrestrial and aquatic behaviors.
  • The indoor area features many tactile learning experiences, including the Polk Brothers Treetop Canopy Climbing Adventure, which children can scale two stories into the air.
  • Split-level views of terrestrial and aquatic spaces.
  • Wild Saplings Play Forest, an accessible nature play space where children can immerse themselves in a natural, tactile experience and connect with wildlife.


  • The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and DesignAmerican Architecture Award – 2007
  • Arkansas Society of Landscape Architects, Honor Award for Built Design – 2005
  • AIA ChicagoDistinguished Building Award, Interior Architecture Award  – 2007; Divine Detail Award 2006 

Featured Wildlife

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