July 20, 2017

Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo, Caldwell Lily Pond and Waterfowl Lagoon at Lincoln Park Zoo

Having lived across the street from the Lincoln Park Zoo for ten years, I got in the habit of frequently visiting the country’s oldest free urban zoo, sometimes daily.  New exhibits, refreshed settings and old favorites were the draw.

Kids playing around nature forms and next to a glass barrier with a black bear on the other side

New to me was the Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo, featuring North American animals to the right of you as you enter from Stockton. One is immediately struck by the visual layers in the exhibit. Tree tops with nesting herons are in the foreground. Red wolves can be seen in the next layer, behind a barrier, of course. A service dog-in-training in the people zone was being intently stared at by one wolf as I reconfirmed that there were at least two fences between them. A few steps more and one can see lumbering black bears with one snoozing in a glass observation portal the day we visited. Other creatures featured in the exhibit are the American beaver, the American kestrel, the American toad, Blanding’s and Eastern Box turtles along with the Eastern screech owl and the Hooded merganser. Inventive play structures add still another layer of interest for families. Any child would love this engaging area, but I can attest that adults will be charmed as well.


The Lincoln Park Zoo Waterfowl Lagoon also appears to be newly landscaped with Chilean flamingos matching the orange tiger lilies surrounding their area. A bridge and an overlook allow the viewer to admire the swan geese and a pair of snow white trumpeter swans. In 1868, New York’s Central Park Commissioners sent the Lincoln Park Zoo two swans and those graceful birds continue to be a big draw in the zoo. Native Illinois wildflowers and grasses complete the idyllic scene along with Ruddy ducks, Baikal teals and red-breasted mergansers. 

One of my favorite areas continues to be the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond. While you may exit into the zoo from the pond area, for entrance, you must go to Fullerton, south of the zoo. The Lincoln Park Conservancy is responsible for this serene setting with its Prairie-style rock structures, birds and diverse native plantings. If you meander upon the path that circles the pond, or sit in one of the pavilions to listen to birdsong and gaze at lily pads, you can forget that you are in the middle of a bustling big city. We were lucky enough to hear the big croak of a resident bull frog when exiting, as if he were giving us an exclamation point to our bucolic visit.

I frequent the Zoo less often since I moved out of that neighborhood but the occasional stop to the environs always introduces me to some new view of nature. A big thank you to the Auxillary Board of the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Lincoln Park Zoological Society for keeping this experience free to all!

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