Even the sanest of families can catch a case of the crazies this time of year.
When holiday cookie-baking, gift-purchasing, house-decorating and party-hopping have you forgetting what day it is, pack the kids and spouse in the car and head south to Lincoln Park for an evening of ZooLights.
See: The lights, the lights, the lights. We arrived about 15 minutes before the lights came on, making the transformation pretty impressive. Don’t miss the “dripping” lights hanging from trees near the carousel.
Toward the south end of the zoo, you can watch a light show choreographed to classic holiday tunes. It’s not the fountains at the Bellagio, but your kids will be entertained.
Find Santa inside the Kovler Lion House. And if you get there earlier in the evening, you may witness animal behaviors not always on display during daylight hours, such as a tiger chomping on dinner. We were lucky enough to discover that even big cats like cuddling up in large cardboard boxes.
Don’t miss the Regenstein Center for African Apes. The lowland gorilla exhibit seems surreal in the darkened atmosphere, and while most are sleeping, some bed down right up against the glass for an up close view (and quite the anatomy lesson!).
Ice carving in action. Grab a hot chocolate and take a few minutes to watch the masters of the chain saw.
Skip: The Animal Meet and Greet in the gift shop. You won’t miss much if you decide to pass this up. The wait to hold a pet turtle and then go through the anti-bacterial scrub down was anti-climatic.
Tips: Skip the endless drive along Stockton waiting for a free space to open. Instead, think about heading downtown earlier in the afternoon and parking along Clark. You can get some shopping done, feed the meter, then walk 2 blocks east to the zoo entrance at Stockton and Webster.
Or, you can use the zoo lot. It does come with a $19 price tag if you plan to stay a few hours. However, there are two things to be said for parking at the zoo—one is convenience (a huge factor in the cold!), and the second is the warm and fuzzy feeling you get supporting the zoo, which counts on parking revenue as a source of funding.
Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 N. Clark St.
Looking for other light-tastic opportunities? Try the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Wonderland Express or the drive-through lights at Cuneo Museum in Vernon Hills.