10 Tips for an Awesome Zoo Trip

Chicago boasts some of the best zoos in the country to be sure! A little bit of planning will take you a long way. Whether you have one perfect little angel or a brood of daring devils, we all know that a trip to the zoo can go downhill faster than a cheetah chasing a squirrel (pretend that could happen) so let me share a few of my strategies for survival.

Check out a list of Chicagoland Zoo’s we put together!

1. Go during the week

Let’s face it – you aren’t there to see the people. You are there to see the animals! Picking a week day will lessen the crowds and make it easier to maneuver.

2. Get there early

Zoos are big with lots of things to take in so get there early! If you are trying to jockey around nap schedules and such it will hamper your flow but the earlier the better. They also feed the animals earlier in the day so if you want to see what a Polar Bear eats (answer – anything he wants) the morning is the best time.

3. Make a plan

Now I love a list. Mine always start with “Make List” so I can check at least one thing off right away.  If Timmy has a serious thing for snakes and Molly just MUST see the unicorns then it will benefit you to check out the online maps so that you can get in the important stuff.

Brookfield Zoo Map

Cosley Zoo Map

Lincoln Park Zoo Map

4. Use the lockers

If you have children you have a bajillion things to schlep. You don’t need to add that extra stress to your shoulders and maneuverability when every zoo has lockers to help you offset the load.

5. Bring two pairs of shoes

As a retail work survivor I can tell you that this tip really works.  Changing your shoes allows your feet to hurt in different places and can make all the difference.  You have the locker already so you can shove them in there and change half way through your visit.  You can also kick the slacking baby out of the stroller and make them push you while you whine, enjoy a bottle and scream for no reason.  Children love this.

6. Pack your own food

Meals at the zoo are notoriously expensive, and they aren’t even serving fresh llama steaks or anything (just a joke, please don’t send angry letters from your ‘love my llama’ club).  Packing your meals can really make a difference. Then you can spring for an ice cream or hot pretzel without breaking the bank.

7. Get Photo Phunny

No one likes a picture of a pouty teen hugging a panda. (don’t hug the pandas, they are bears and they will eat your face. Oaklee’s Family Guide does not endorse the hugging of pandas or any bears in general) Get the kids to walk like the monkey or slither like the snake for the camera! You will get some truly facebook-able moments.

8. Find the Interactive Areas

While staring at the animals is tons of fun the kids are going to want to DO something. Make sure that you are mixing in the petting zoo, the mountain they can actually climb and other fun features.

9. Know your limits

And by that I mean, know their limits.  Even the most charming child can tilt into full scale meltdown when they are just exhausted and hot/cold and overwhelmed by the smell of the elephants.

10. Buy one cool thing

Let the kids know that at the end of the visit they will get to pick one item at the store (if they behave) and give them a dollar amount if they are old enough to understand.  It gives them something that they can hold that will bring them back to the magic that you shared that day.  And get something for yourself, too. Diamond earrings are a really great way for Mommy to remember the zoo!