It is hard to believe that one of the oldest zoological gardens in the country can be found just mere minutes from the downtown area of Chicago. Lincoln Park Zoo, an essential element of the historic Lincoln Park neighborhood, has remained a popular Chicago attraction for its astounding range of animals but most importantly because it is one of the last free admission zoos remaining in the country. Founded in 1868, this 1,200 acre zoo welcomes more than 3 million visitors each year looking to marvel at the world-class animals. The intimate atmosphere is the perfect place to spend an afternoon walking along the tree-lined paths, visiting the lovely flowering gardens and, of course, stimulating those calf muscles with a scenic paddle boat ride on beautiful waters. But we can’t forget about the animals, of course! With about 80 different mammals, ranging from polar bears and lions to African Apes, all furry friends can be found at the famous Regenstein Center. If you’re a fan of the cold-blooded creatures, don’t miss the reptiles, amphibians and 70 different species of snakes as they crawl and slither behind glass barricades. And if you simply relish in the sweet sounds of a summertime chirp, the McCormick Bird house won’t disappoint as it houses over 75 different species of birds. Want something more down to earth? The Blum-Kovler Penguin-Seabird House is the haven for the vast array of aquatic birds. Needless to say, if you’re an animal lover you’ll be able to make a day of this Real Chicago spot. If you love nature, the park’s trails provide a fine escape from the human filled sidewalks of the downtown area. A short twenty minute leisurely walk from The Drake, down the historic street of Inner Lakeshore Drive, this oasis is a must-see when you’re staying downtown. Lincoln Park Zoo is open 365 days a year and hours vary depending on the season. This a prime place to spend an afternoon and starting this Friday, today, Lincoln Park Zoo is hosting their annual “Jammin’ at the Zoo”. OneRepublic and Jason Reeves will be performing at the “wildest concert in town” and all proceeds will be used to support the programs and animals at the zoo. Lincoln Park Zoo is located at 2200 North Cannon Drive Chicago, IL 60614 Be sure to read our blog for other great Real Chicago ideas from the Drake Hotel. Ready to come? Book your hotel room in Chicago at the Drake Hotel.