Chicago: Brookfield or Lincoln Park?

Taking the family to Chicago in early May for a weekend getaway. We have a 2.5 y/o boy who likes animals and has seemed to enjoy zoos in the past (Indy, Cincy, Nashville), and he really liked the huge climbing-jungle gym-playground area in Tenn.

I think LP is free, but I’m sure there’s gotta be high parking costs and admission won’t really make or break us.

Which Chicago zoo would you prefer/recommend, and why?

This is a matter of opinion, so I’ll move it to IMHO.

I would say the Brookfield Zoo is a better overall zoo. The facilities are nicer (probably because there’s revenue) and the ambience is just better.

That said, Lincoln Park Zoo is also fairly nice for what it’s worth, and since its pretty much in the middle of the city, there’s a lot of things you can do before and after. Its usually pretty crowded on a nice day.


IThe lincoln park zoo is decent, but small. Like souperchckn said, theres a lot of other things to do in the immediate area of lincoln park, but if its a big zoo you want to go to I would say Brookfield.

Brookfield is the better zoo among the two.

Lincoln Park Zoo has a much better location.

For a visit to Chicago I would probably choose Lincoln Park Zoo since, as SouprChckn mentioned, there is simply more to do around it before and after visiting the animals. It is by no means a bad zoo but it is rather small as these things go and doesn’t have stuff like Dolphins that Brookfield does. The Lincoln Park Zoo is next to the lake and just minutes (10 minute cab ride if that) from downtown Chicago. Brookfield Zoo is a ways out and there is basically nothing else to do around there.

Lincoln Park Zoo. 'Cause I think it’s the one that has the koalas…

…though I pretty much hate zoos anyway, so shrugs

I think we’ll try Brookfield if it is a bit bigger and offers more to see and do. Thanks for the replies so far.

We have other specific things we want to see/do afterward and the next day, so LP’s being close to other attractions doesn’t matter much.

If you decide on Brookfield, you can take the Metra (suburban train line) out from Union Station in the city, near Sears Tower, right to Brookfield Zoo’s door… it’s a stop on the line. Likewise, you can take it right back into the city. Or you can drive there, but your son might enjoy the train ride and there’s no annoying walk back to your car in the back 40 of the parking lot at the end of the day.

Gotta go with Brookfield. It’s by far the better zoo.

/Parentcentric view to follow/
While Brookfield is a great zoo, I would take a 2-1/2 year old to LP.

Why? Because they will have just as good a time whether they are at one or the other, they are not critiquing the zoological arts or getting pissed that the rare elusive _________ that only Brookfield has is there or not. They are looking to see some animals, walk around with mommy and daddy, eat some yummy popcorn/lemon chill/ice cream by the lagoon/ etc.

While Brookfield is larger and nicer, it is larger! A tired, footsore, cranky parent will not a happy camper make. After seeing LP Zoo, you will still be rested enough to deal with the rest of the day.

I’ve taken my kids to both numerous times and they enjoyed both as well. Plus we took the money we saved on entrance fees, bought some bread and fed the ducks at the S end of the park Lagoon, or rented a paddle boat and went around the little islands.

The Childrens Zoo and the Farm in the Zoo are also Huge hits with the wee ones - they can relate to cows that go Moo, piggies, and horses more than the esoteric animals that interest us big’uns so much.

There is also the Arboreteum at the NW corner of the Zoo which is really cool as well. Actually, its sweltering, for coolness zones, the underwater viewing area at the seal tank has great A/C vents and the Regenstein small mammal house is quite chilly - plus the bats area is rockin and the new addition to the entire house is really cool with little vignettes of rainforests, Australian sandy bits and the like.

Hope this helps.

As I kid, I’ve always far preferred Brookfield to Lincoln Park.

Lincoln Park Zoo just seems tiny compared with Brookfield. Stick with Brookfield.

What MikeG said.
With kids at Brookfield, it can be a mighty long haul from the lions to the giraffes.
If going to Brookfield - get there early, or wait until a couple of hours before close. Early afternoon on a nice weekend day is a madhouse.

Just the other day LPZ had a big press conference on what sounded like some major planned construction. So you might want to check that out so as to avoid potential disappointment.

Besides, Ray Rayner only went to one zoo for the Ark in the Park.
“You’ll see green alligators, and long-necked geese…”

I admit, Mike’s got a point here.

We took Baby Kate (now just 2) to the National Zoo a few weeks ago. When we asked her on the way there what animal she wanted to see her answer was, invariably, ‘sheep’.

Then again she was disappointed that she didn’t see an octopus at the circus, too.

Now that you got me thinking about Chicago zoos, anyone else out there remember the merry-go-round, pony rides, and chimp’s tea at LPZ?

Or the elephant seal at Brookfield?

If going to LPZ, be sure to check out the rookery to get your Jens Jensen fix.

A definite plus if you go to Brookfield:

Monkey Island!

When I was little, Monkey Island was the impetus for my dad to explain some Very Shocking Things a la young Homer at the zoo.

“That monkey is hurting himself!”:eek:

For just a zoo, do Brookfield. If you want to do anything else with your day (including eat something besides Apeburgers) go to LP.


LPZ is going to undergo major construction and rennovation this season if it hasn’t started already. We did a landscape bid on it last summer and the plans for it were huge and included everything from the elephant habitat to the great cats (my favorite part of the specifications manual was “cheetah barrier”). Unfortunately, since we lost the bid I heaved the manuals into the trash this past winter when cleaning house.

I’d still say Brookfield anyway. You want something interesting to look at as well and Brookfield is just more interesting (IMHO) than Lincoln Park. I’ve been to the Indy Zoo and, honestly, after about an hour or so just felt like “Ummm… that was interesting. I guess” after using Brookfield as my measuring stick. I never had any problem bringing my son (now three) there for a day last summer. If he does get tired, that’s what wagons and strollers are for.