Visitors love interacting with the animals at the Washington Park Zoo, located along the shores of Lake Michigan right next to the city’s Washington Park and its expansive public beach. The zoo houses more than 90 species from all over the world, exhibited in natural settings lush with botanical plantings. Almost any wild animal imaginable finds a home here, from Bengal Tigers, Grey Wolves, and Grizzly Bears to American Alligators, Bald Eagles, and Cotton Top Tamarins.
Visitors especially enjoy a see-through tunnel where they can watch otters swim and a petting barn with donkeys, pigs, goats and domestic horses. Other popular features include The Australian Adventure, a walk-through aviary where some 250 colorful parakeets fly, and a Safari Train ride for kids. See lizards, snakes and frogs and other cold-blooded creatures up close in the Discovery Center.
Along with its wide-ranging menagerie, the zoo also has a compelling history. Founded in 1928, it contains many unique, historical WPA walkways and buildings. The Works Progress Administration employed millions of people from 1935 t0 1945 to construct public buildings like those at the zoo. These sturdy projects remain as icons today and a historic reminder of the past. One of the most interesting WPA buildings at the zoo is Observation Tower, a stone lookout that rises 220 steps above street level for far-reaching views of Lake Michigan. Another classic building is Rotary Castle, which houses educational exhibits.
The zoo also offers lunches and snacks at the Peacock Cafe, and plush toys, tee shirts and other souvenirs at the Tree House Gift Shop. The zoo is open April 1 – Oct 31, and hosts several special events, including Brew at the Zoo for grownups in the summer and Boo at the Zoo for kids at Halloween time.
$8 for adults 12 & up; $7 for seniors 62 & up; $6 for children 3-11; 2 & under free
Apr 1-Oct 31, 10am-4pm; last admission 3pm