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ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

While spending the weekend before Christmas in the heart of downtown Chicago, Greg, my parents and I made sure to take in all of the beautiful holiday decorations that the city drapes itself in. And because you really can’t get enough Christmas lights, we also headed north to Lincoln Park Zoo to experience their annual ZooLights event.

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo runs November through January and is completely free, as is the entire zoo itself. That’s right, the Lincoln Park Zoo is open 365 days a year and costs absolutely nothing to visit!

I just love that anyone can take their kids to the zoo and give them a fun learning experience no matter what their income level may be. And when you visit during ZooLights the experience is that much more special, with the entire zoo draped in glittering Christmas lights.

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights really goes all out in celebrating the season. During your visit it’s easy to stumble upon strolling carolers, musical light shows, and even live ice-sculpture carving!

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Kids (and I suppose adults!) can take pictures with Santa.

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

All while sipping on hot chocolate, beer or warm spiced wine.

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

I loved walking around and seeing all of the Christmas lights and displays. It really gets you into the holiday spirit.

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

What we didn’t see much of though were animals. There were no large animals in the outdoor areas, like lions, tigers and bears (oh my)! I’m not sure if they were just hiding, or if they’re brought inside in the evening.

But the indoor zoo areas did have their small animals on display, so at least we got to see something.

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

We had fun at ZooLights, and enjoyed the experience. That being said, I’ve gone to something similar at nearby Brookfield Zoo and it was much more elaborately done (and featured large animals). Which makes sense because Brookfield Zoo itself is larger and has more to offer, and thus not surprisingly it isn’t free.

So it’s a tradeoff, really. I love that Lincoln Park Zoo is free and closer to downtown Chicago, and they did do a nice job. We enjoyed it, and if you have younger kids they would love it even more than we did.

But if you’re willing to spend money and travel a little bit further, Brookfield Zoo has more to offer. It’s up to you which is more important! Regardless you’ll definitely be able to experience the magic of the holidays while taking in some beautiful Christmas lights.

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo - Chicago travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo is over for this year, but you can keep up to date on next year’s ZooLights here. For information on visiting Lincoln Park Zoo all year round, click here.

~A

P.S. Everyone has been asking about my coat! It’s by Unreal Fur (because even I wouldn’t wear real fur to a zoo!) and you can buy it here.

For all of my Chicago travel posts, click here.

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