Looking for something to do this weekend? How about visiting a zoo.
Typically everyone thinks of the bigger ones like Brookfield, Lincoln Park or Milwaukee Zoos. But we are surrounded with so many other smaller farms and animal parks in the Chicago-land area.
Let’s take a look!
I love Brookfield zoo and so do the kids. The park is designed so you could walk around all day, see some amazing creatures, play in the park, have a picnic and more. But I also love animals and sometimes those two things don’t go hand in hand. I am constantly conflicted with thoughts about zoo cruelty and appreciating the institutions. UGH!!
But this blog is all about the fun side and two smaller zoos that you may not know about.
1000 Ray Moses Drive
Aurora, IL 60505
We always hear about Philips Zoo and the grounds surrounding it so we took a trip with some friends last week. If you enter from Smith St, the entrance to the park is beautiful. I would have never thought there was a zoo hidden in there. The little waterfall and the roundabout was very cute and welcoming. This takes you to one of the parking lots and entrance to the play park as well as the zoo.
If you come from the other side on Ray Moses Drive you will be greeted by his wonderful and lush Sunken garden. He designed and developed this beauty in 1930s.
The garden is hand planted in the fall for every year, with over 10,000 tulips in preparation of the coming spring. By mid May, each year, these tulips are removed, and replaced with flowering annuals for the garden’s summertime display.
Along with the zoo, this park offers many pavilions for parties and a park that is friendly for all ages. When you come in through the main entrance you can learn about the history of the grounds and about some mammals that used to roam around years ago. Pass that and you will enter the zoo. While we only saw about 10 animals and most of them at the reptile room, the park is nice to walk around. Especially since it is free.
I expected to see a lot more but most of the animals were either not there or away for the day. The kids were a tad disappointed but made up for it in the park. There are no cafes or lunch options, so bring your own. But I did see some snack carts right by the front of the zoo in case you run out of water, chips or just need an ice cream break.
I liked that they had a small splash pad area. That would be perfect for a really hot day so bring your summer bag just in case.
While I thought the garden was beautiful and there are a lot of walking paths, we won’t be back. Both of the kids said they were not interested in coming back either.
1356 North Gary Ave.
Wheaton, IL 60187
We ended up driving from Philips to Cosley Zoo in the same day and the kids had a blast. It is not close by any means and it is in opposite directions but I had to make up for the lack of animals at Philips. We have been to this zoo before and always thought it was cute so I knew what to expect.
Cosley is free to residents of Wheaton but all kids are free and non resident adults only pay $7! I think that is a sweet deal for such a lovely zoo. Not only do they have picnic areas and party options but they offer a store, a cafe, tons of events and definitely animals.
Nestled on 5 acres, Cosley Zoo is home to farm animals and native Illinois wildlife. Visitors will discover exhibits that immerse them in natural habitats for White-tailed Deer, Red Fox, Blanding’s Turtles, bobcats, a coyote, a Black-crowned Night Heron, and more.
The kids enjoyed watching the animals, zookeepers, and loved the Nature Play Area. This allowed them to just be kids and play in the dirt. Working together with other children and creating something out of nothing.
Overall, I would pick Cosley over Philips any day. But if you are in the area both are fun to explore. Also here is a list of other small zoos in our area:
Randall Oaks Zoo – 1180 Randall Rd, West Dundee, IL 60118
Lords Park Zoo – 325 Hiawatha Dr, Elgin, IL 60120
Lincoln Park – 2001 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614
Bison Barn – Pine St, Batavia, IL 60510
Summerfield Zoo – 3088 Flora Rd, Belvidere, IL 61008
Country Yard Critters – 10413 248th Ave, Naperville, IL 60564
Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo – 2119-, 2197 N Stockton Dr, Chicago, IL 60614
Lambs Farm – 14245 W Rockland Rd, Libertyville, IL 60048
Safari Lake Geneva – W1612 Litchfield Rd, Lake Geneva, WI 53147
Animal Gardens – 5065 WI-50, Delavan, WI 53115