At this urban enclave near Lake Michigan, you can face off with a lion (separated by a window, of course) outside the Kovler Lion House; watch snow monkeys unwind in the hot springs of the Regenstein Macaque Forest; or ogle gorillas and chimpanzees in the sprawling Regenstein Center for African Apes, which has three separate habitats complete with bamboo stands, termite mounds, and 5,000 feet of swinging vines. Animals both slithery (pythons) and strange (sloths) reside in the glass-domed Regenstein Small Mammal and Reptile House, while the big guys (hippos, giraffes, and black rhinos) are in the Regenstein Animal Journey. More captivating critters will be on view when a new polar bear and penguin exhibit opens in late 2016.
Bird lovers should make a beeline to the McCormick Bird House, which contains extremely rare species—including the Bali mynah, Guam rail, and Guam Micronesian kingfisher, some of which are extinct in the wild. Families with little ones in tow will also want to see Farm-in-the-Zoo (with its barnyard animals and learning centers), and the LPZoo Children's Train Ride. Be sure to leave time for a ride (or two) on the Endangered Species Carousel, featuring a menagerie of 48 rare and endangered animals.