11 Best Zoos in Illinois You Might Visit [Update 2024]

zoos in Illinois

Searching for an incredible family outdoor adventure? As warm air rises, and you desire to unwind from the wearisome routine of life, head to the zoos.

Seeing the various animals and birds will undoubtedly lift your spirits. You and your children will enjoy interacting with various animals, and the entire family can have a good time without breaking the bank.

The best zoos in Illinois for family visits or adventure outings with friends are listed below.

1. Lincoln Park Zoo

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Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the best zoos in Illinois

Founded in 1868, Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in America and is celebrated for its commitment to providing free admission. With over 1,000 animals representing over 200 species, it’s easy to see why the zoo is popular among Chicago visitors and natives alike.

While it does have a strong family focus, the well-kept landscaping and prime location in the heart of Chicago make visiting this zoo a lovely daytime activity for anyone. The zoo also hosts cultural and educational events.

2. Willowbrook Wildlife Center

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The Willowbrook Wildlife Center is quite a popular spot to visit and see animals in their habitats It is located in the Willowbrook Forest Preserve, which is in the Glen Ellyn. It is predominantly a native wildlife rehabilitation center, which mainly focuses on providing the injured and hurt wild animals with the necessary care and treatment for their speedy recovery.

Not just that, it also serves as an effective resource to be able to teach the common residents of DuPage County to live in harmony with wildlife.

3. Brookfield Zoo

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Brookfield Zoo

The second in the list of the popular zoos around Illinois is the Brookfield Zoo. It is also alternatively known as the Chicago Zoological Park. The zoo is located in the Chicago suburb of Brookfield from where it derives its name.

It is spread over an area of 216 acres and is home to over 450 species of animals from different kingdoms, which definitely mark it as one of the most popular ones in the lot. Some popular exhibits in the zoo include that of the Pinniped Point, Big Cats, and even the Salt Creek Wilderness.

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4. Scales and Tales Travelling Zoo

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Just as the name suggests, the scales and tales travelling zoo is exactly what it sounds like. The zoo and the animals on exhibit aren’t constrained to just one single place, but the same wanders around. The zoo is primarily based around S Racine Avenue but is on the constant move. Also known as the Chicago Travelling Zoo, this has been playing shows for the common crowd for 20 years.

The entire crew of animals is led by Beth, who nurtures and takes care of all the animals. They are known to put up one of the friendliest shows around and are considered as one of the petting zoos in Chicago.

5. Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary

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Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary

If birds and tranquil nature entice you, visiting the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary would be everything you would need while in Chicago. This is one of the biggest migratory bird sanctuaries around and is believed to be home to thousands of species of such migratory birds.

The entire place is spread around an area of 7.84 acres that has nature tracks, viewing paths and platforms. It attracts every kind of bird lovers who love to simply sit down and enjoy the magical environment that they are blessed with.

6. North Pond Nature Sanctuary

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Located in Lincoln Park itself, the North Pond Nature Sanctuary is yet another one of the animal exhibits that is loved and adored not just by the locals but by the tourists alike. It is believed that the same is around 130-year-old pond nature sanctuary, which in itself is an amazing thing to witness. Visitors claim that the walk by the pond is tranquil and if you are visiting during spring, look out for the ducks.

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7. Regenstein Center for African Apes

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The Regenstein Center for African Apes is also part or rather an extension of the Lincoln Park Zoo, where the visitors can come close to the apes, chimpanzees and the gorillas that have found their home there. It is home to some endangered species of western lowland gorillas as well as chimpanzees and exists to provide with the most realistic looking environment for them to live in comfortably.

8. Helen Brach Primate House

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The Helen Brach Primate House is yet another extension of the Lincoln Park Zoo and is home to primates of varying shapes, sizes and color. The area is made in a way to imitate the natural habitat for the primates to make them feel safe and familiar at the place that they are residing in.

It was opened back in 1927 which finally underwent an extensive renovation in the year 1992. It also has a larger outdoor setting which is perfect for the gibbons to play around in during the summer months.

9. Miller Park Zoo

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Miller Park Zoo offers many exhibits and Zookeeper interaction opportunities that are enjoyed by the whole family. Some highlights include: reindeer, Sumatran tiger, greater flamingos, river otters, red pandas, lemurs, Galapagos tortoise, bald eagles, Pallas’ cat, snow leopards, gibbons, and red wolves.

The Zoo features many large indoor and outdoor exhibits such as a Tropical America Rainforest, Zoo Lab, Katthoefer Animal Building, Wallaby Walk About, Children’s Zoo, and Animals of Asia.

10. The Peoria Zoo

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The Peoria Zoo is home to over 100 species of animals from around the world. From giraffes and rhinoceros to spider monkeys and sea lions, the Zoo is the wildest family place in town. The Peoria Zoo is open year round. The Education Department offers programs for ages 2 and up. These include Home School classes, Zoo Tots, Jungle Jamboree, summer Zoo Camp and Zoo Teens volunteer program.

During summer months this zoo offers Giraffe Feeding in Africa and Budgie Feeding in the Aussie Walk About. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, scheduled Keeper Chats take place every day. Its two biggest events are the Easter Egg Hunt and Howl-Zoo-Ween. We offer a variety of birthday parties and Zoo Snoozes.

11. Cosley Zoo

Cosley Zoo is an AZA-accredited zoo located in Wheaton, Illinois. It is a facility of the Wheaton Park District and open year-round. The zoo, which is situated on 5 acres of land, is built on the site of a historic train station and consists of domestic animals, as well as wildlife that is native to Illinois.

People will undoubtedly appreciate its stunning natural surroundings, which are full of fascinating and amazing state parks and zoos that are home to a wide variety of diverse animal species.

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