Operating Under COVID-19 Safety Guidelines
Lincoln Park Zoo is committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all. While we operate under COVID-19 safety guidelines, we will do our best to fulfill accommodations requests within these guidelines and with consideration to the health of staff, volunteers, and other guests. To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, all tactile interactives, sensory bags, quiet rooms, and sensory tours inside animal buildings are temporarily unavailable. The zoo’s one-way path is mostly flat with some slopes, so wheelchairs, ECVs, and strollers will still be available and sanitized before and after each use.
The below information reflects the zoo’s resources, accommodations, and offerings prior to March 2020. For questions or assistance planning your visit, please email email@example.com.
A Zoo for Everyone
Our mission is to connect people with nature. We strive to remove barriers and ensure everyone can fully experience the zoo, and are committed to an environment that is inclusive and welcoming. We celebrate the diverse qualities, perspectives, values, and experiences of all people.
Where to Get Help While at the Zoo
If you have a question, concern, or need while visiting the zoo, you can get assistance by visiting Searle Visitor Center, calling 312-742-2000, or finding a nearby staff member or volunteer wearing a green polo marked with our logo.
For first aid, go to Searle Visitor Center or find a nearby staff member. For questions or feedback regarding accessibility, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paid Parking Reserved for People with Disabilities:
The paid parking lot is located on Cannon Drive along the east side of the zoo. This lot includes 19 accessible parking spaces, but does fill up on summer weekends and during popular events.
Free Parking Reserved for People with Disabilities:
There are reserved areas on northbound Stockton Drive for vehicles displaying accessibility placards:
- Near the service gate for Farm-in-the-Zoo (three parking spaces)
- Just south of the Café Brauer driveway (three parking spaces)
- Next to Lincoln Park Conservatory (two parking spaces)
ADA Paratransit Services
Guests using ADA paratransit services can use Searle Visitor Center as a drop-off and pick-up location. Be sure to use 2150 N. Cannon Drive as the address for this service.
Wheelchairs & Personal Mobility Devices
Wheelchairs Available for Lending:
Wheelchairs are available at Searle Visitor Center for temporary use by guests. Availability is first come, first served. Guests must deposit a picture ID or refundable $20.
All public buildings at the zoo have at least one wheelchair-accessible entrance. All the animal encounter programs at Farm-in-the-Zoo are accessible by wheelchair.
Accessible restrooms are available at:
- Searle Visitor Center
- Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House
- Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo
- Park Place Café
- Farm-in-the-Zoo’s Main Barn
- Foreman Pavilion (open seasonally)
- Bird’s Eye Bar & Grill (open seasonally)
Buildings open at 10 a.m.
Foreman Pavilion opens at 9 a.m.
- Near Regenstein Macaque Forest
- Near East Gate
A child-sized changing table is available in every public restroom. We don’t have adult-sized changing tables.
All of our food-service areas have ample space for mobility devices.
- Park Place Café
- The Patio at Café Brauer
- Safari Café
- Bird’s Eye Bar & Grill
Drinks are served without straws or lids to help encourage sustainability practices by our guests. Since we recognize that these items are necessary aids for many of our guests, paper straws and single-use plastic lids are available upon request. We don’t supply single-use plastic straws on grounds.
Check the Gift Shop for reusable straw options available for purchase.
Staff at the Gift Shop are available for reaching, reading, describing, or otherwise assisting during your time in the store.
The gift shops sell apparel; snacks; beverages; and personal care items, like bandaids, tissues, and ibuprofen.
Service Animals at the Zoo
Service animals are welcome at Lincoln Park Zoo. Our facility is home to around 200 species, some of which have natural predatory instincts. To ensure the safety of our guests, service animals, and the zoo’s animal population, all guests must adhere to our service animal policy. This policy is in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as national, state, and local ordinances and applicable laws.
Service Animals Allowed:
In accordance with the ADA, the zoo allows service animals* on grounds, along with service animals-in-training with a handler/trainer presuming they have met the requirements outlined in the Illinois Service Animal Access Act, Illinois Guide Dog Access Act, and Illinois White Cane Law.
* According to the ADA, a service animal is defined by the ADA as “a dog* that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.” Pets, therapy animals, and emotional support animals are not considered service animals under the ADA and therefore are not permitted within the gated perimeter of Lincoln Park Zoo. (They are allowed at Nature Boardwalk.)
* The ADA also has a provision about miniature horses being recognized under the law as animals that can perform a work or tasks for people with disabilities. Miniature horses are not permitted within Lincoln Park Zoo because of the natural predator-prey relationships with carnivores, which could cause zoo animals to behave aggressively or become agitated. Additionally, miniature horses pose a health/safety concern due to the biosecurity of equids, which can spread equine herpesvirus and/or equine infectious anemia.
Guidelines & Policies:
- Service animals must be on duty and serving in their official capacity and under the control of a handler at all times.
- The owner of the service animal is solely responsible for its care and supervision.
- Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices.
It is advised that guests with service animals start their zoo visit at Searle Visitor Center, where staff are trained in facilitating a safe and excellent visit for guests with service animals.
Service animals may accompany guests in all outdoor areas and in most indoor public areas. Service animals may also accompany guests into all dining and retail areas, in accordance with ADA.
Due to the natural predator/prey instinct of animals, as well as health and disease transmission concerns, there are a few areas of the zoo where service animals are not permitted to accompany their handlers. However, since we want all guests to enjoy all areas of the zoo, if any guest with a service animal would like to visit an area where service animals are not permitted, the zoo is happy to provide a guided walk-through of the area by a volunteer while another member of the guest’s party supervises the service animal. Guests can complete the Accommodation Request Form to request this service.
For the safety of our guests, service animals, and zoo animals, service animals may not accompany guests inside Helen Brach Primate House and at the following areas/activities at Farm-in-the-Zoo: cow feeding, goat yard, and pony demonstration.
Special Circumstance Restrictions:
Due to the natural predator/prey instinct of animals, some zoo animals may react quickly or violently to the presence of a service animal. Service animals may be temporarily restricted from specific public areas due to zoo animal concerns regarding new births, hatchings, nesting, or breeding. If at any time the presence of a service animal upsets zoo animals—causing them to become distressed, aggressive, or dangerous to themselves or others—the service animal must be removed from that area. In that event, the zoo will offer a guided walk-through of the area as specified above. Staff at Searle Visitor Center can arrange this service.
Guests should direct questions about service animals to Guest Services at Searle Visitor Center. For more information about service animals and the ADA, visit the Illinois Attorney General’s statement about service animals.
Many exhibits have tactile elements to enhance the guest experience. Examples include:
Regenstein African Journey
- Life-sized rhino sign
- Hippo statues
- Bronze Madagascar hissing cockroach model
- Polar bear outline and paw
Kovler Seal Pool
- Relief artwork of seal to sea lion comparison
Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo
- Wolf cutouts
- Wild Sapling Play Forest
Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House
- Baobab tree
Regenstein Center for African Apes
- Gorilla statues along outdoor path
- Ape face sculptures inside building
- Rubber dirt activity
- Edible Garden (when in season)
- Tornado and bee interpretives
Sensory Information for Zoo Buildings
The zoo is an exciting, stimulating place with unique opportunities to hear, see, and maybe even smell wildlife. Sometimes these experiences occur much closer than guests may anticipate. For a less hectic visit with possibly better animal viewing, early mornings, weekdays, and the fall and winter seasons are good times to visit the zoo.
Here, we highlight sensory elements to identify areas that offer high or low visual and auditory stimulation.
McCormick Bird House:
- The free-flight exhibit is warm and noisy, and has birds that might fly close to guests. This space is lit with natural light.
- When guests are standing on the bridge in the free-flight exhibit, they can be surrounded by birds on all sides. Birds may use that area as a flight path between the two ends of the habitat.
- Because of open ceiling space between habitats, birds that may not be visible to guests can be heard throughout the building.
- The hallways are dark, quiet, spacious, and less crowded. Lighting is intermittent and creates alternating dark and light areas.
Regenstein African Journey:
- Lighting and noise vary throughout the building. Open spaces use natural lighting.
- There is often the sound of running water from waterfalls.
- The building is warm and humid.
- The building includes narrow pathways that open into spaces with seating and areas to rest.
- Some of the floors are squishy.
- Some exhibits in this building include stairs, open air elements, water elements, and red lighting.
- There are spaces where guests may have animals behind them while viewing other exhibits.
- Replica trees have roots slightly protruding into walkways.
Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House:
- This building tends to be quiet.
- The front room is dark and features animal habitats behind glass. There are pillars positioned throughout the space.
- There is a small theater with chairs that can be moved. In the theater, a recurring video explains Lincoln Park Zoo’s work.
- There are no loud noises or strong smells except at a small alcove near the bat habitat, where guests can hear the sounds and sights of a thunderstorm.
- As guests progress through the building, a second area is very bright with open-air habitats where animals are behind glass and mesh. These exhibits are viewable from overhead via the second-floor balcony.
- There are spaces where guests may have animals behind them while viewing other exhibits.
- This building tends to be hot year-round.
Helen Brach Primate House:
- This building is dark. Lighting comes from habitats and intermittent overhead lighting that creates alternating dark and light areas.
- This building is fairly quiet and has wide passageways. and large viewing windows.
- All the animals are behind large glass viewing windows.
- This space is warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Regenstein Center for African Apes:
- The primate-face sculptures have buttons that make unexpected, loud noises when touched by guests.
- This building has a lot of natural light and large viewing windows. Some species may behave in ways that may be surprising, including pounding on the glass, chasing each other, making loud noises, or displaying fecal matter on the windows.
- A great place for guests to greet the animals up close
- Scheduled cow feeding times (seasonal) and a yard for guests to greet the goats
- There are odors at the farm.
- Goats will approach guests in the yard.
Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo
This building can get very loud and hectic. There are children play areas, and children can climb on equipment over guests’ heads and exhibits.
- The zoo is typically busy from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. during the summer, especially on weekends. For a less hectic visit with possibly better animal viewing, early mornings, weekdays, and the fall and winter seasons are good times to visit the zoo.
- Special events at the zoo, like ZooLights, feature additional lights and sounds.
- In the winter months, the zoo can be very dark during the last hours of operations.
Lincoln Park Zoo is dedicated to improving our ability to assist and accommodate guests with sensory processing needs, in the loud, colorful, and sometimes smelly zoo environment. Sensory bags are available for check-out at Searle Visitor Center. Items in the bags include a tangle toy, a stress ball, a pair of yellow tinted sunglasses, a lighted magnifier, and a pair noise-cancelling headphones. Wobble cushions are also available upon request.
- The zoo’s designated quiet room is located in the Member Lounge, located inside the Member Center nearby the Searle Visitor Center.
- The quiet room is available for guests—simply ask an employee at the welcome desk. It is commonly used for breastfeeding, sensory relief, and prayer.
- It has a closeable, lockable door, but is also located in a public area and can be left open based on the guests’ discretion.
A Step-by-step Preview of a Typical Zoo Visit
Preparing for Your Visit
- Wear comfortable shoes. The zoo covers 35 acres and exhibits are spread across the grounds.
- Dress for outdoor weather. The zoo has some indoor spaces, but a majority of the exhibits are outside.
- Food and beverages are available for purchase at the zoo.
Arriving at the Zoo
- The zoo has six entrances and guests can enter through each of them during the zoo’s open hours.
- Because the zoo is free and there is no barrier to entry, you can simply walk through the gates and start your visit.
- Optional donations are welcome at the entrances. If you choose to donate, a staff member or volunteer will be available to accept your generosity.
Experiencing the Zoo
- Paper zoo guides, which include a map of the zoo and accessibility information, are available at the donation carts. We encourage you to use our interactive zoo map on your mobile device to help minimize paper waste.
- Lincoln Park Zoo is home to around 200 species. During your visit, some animals might choose to go to the behind-the-scene part of their habitat for their own health or enrichment, but there are always many visible animals.
Guests with Personal Mobility Devices
- Lincoln Park Zoo permits the use of wheelchairs and other power-driven mobility devices by individuals with disabilities.
- The zoo requires power-driven mobility devices to be set on the lowest setting (typically the “walk” setting) due to the volume of pedestrian traffic and for the safety of all guests and staff at the zoo.
- Power-driven mobility devices with combustible engines, such as golf carts and ATV vehicles, are not allowed on zoo grounds due to the health and safety of zoo guests and staff and the nature of the facility.
- All public buildings at the zoo have at least one wheelchair-accessible entrance. All the animal encounter programs at Farm-in-the-Zoo are accessible by wheelchair.
- The zoo has a variety of surfaces and uneven terrain, including brick, concrete, tile, carpet, dirt paths, and aggregate.
- Many zoo buildings feature automatic doors, but some buildings and habitats, like the free-flight area in McCormick Bird House, cannot have automatic doors to ensure the safety of animals and guests.
- Elevators and ramps are available to second floors, like inside Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House, Park Place Café, and Bird’s Eye Bar & Grill.
Many areas of the zoo contain narrow walkways and doorways, hanging tree branches, and/or uneven terrain. Please use caution at all times when operating electronic mobility devices, wheelchairs, walkers, support canes, forearm-crutches, handle-crutches, strollers, etc.
Guests Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
- American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters and open-captioning are available upon request for zoo events, classes, and programs.
- For these services, please complete and send the Accommodation Request Form to the zoo at least 14 business days in advance of your visit. If you need any assistance completing the form, need it in another format, or have questions regarding accommodations, please contact email@example.com.
- Printed scripts for daily Guest Engagement demonstrations are available at Searle Visitor Center and from staff at each presentation. Activities with scripts include our Seal Training & Feeding, Up Close with Polar Bears, Ape Cognition & Care, and Free-flight Feeding. No advance notice is necessary to obtain these scripts.
Guests Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision
- Guided Description Tours, led by zoo staff, are available for every area of the zoo.
- A 30-minute guided sensory tour, using tactile objects, sounds, and smells, is available for Regenstein African Journey.
- For these services, please complete the Accommodation Request Form and send it to the zoo at least 14 business days in advance of your visit. If you need any assistance completing the form, need it in another format, or have questions regarding accommodations, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
An Accessible Zoo Needs an Accessible Website
Our website is an extension of the zoo experience. Therefore, we are committed to making it as accessible as possible for all visitors. To help make our website inclusive of everyone, we adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1.
- Zoos Go Blue
- Special Olympics
Questions & Feedback
We’re committed to improving the zoo experience for everyone. If you have experienced or are currently experiencing a problem at the zoo or on this website, please let us know by calling, emailing, or filling out our online contact form. Someone will respond as soon as possible.