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Things to Do

Safari Train

Take a Ride

Deep in the heart of the Zoo is the small Safari train for kids.

Open when staffing and weather permits Admission is free 

Observation Tower

View Michigan City and the shorline
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The observation tower sits on top of a sand dune east of the Zoo and overlooks Lake Michigan. A Works Progress Administration project from the 1930s, the stone lookout tower was designed by Fred Ahlgrim in an Art Deco style. The tower is a creation of a steel-faced with limestone and the roof is topped with a spherical ornament reported to be a compression chamber from the city's first fire engine.


The tower can be visited through the Washington Park Zoo entrance during regular zoo hours. From the top balconies, there is a spectacular view, which is about 220 steps above street level.

The Observation Tower is open April 1st - Oct 31st at 10:00 a.m. and closes one hour prior to the Zoo's closing time.

Peacock Café

Limited hours in the spring and fall
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Are you as hungry as a lion? Then be sure to stop by our concession stand, located at the Northwest corner of the zoo. Whether you're looking for a quick lunch or just a snack.

  • Hot Dogs

  • Walking Nacho

  • Nachos

  • Turkey Wrap

  • Popcorn

  • Ice Cold Drinks

  • Candy

  • Ice cream Bars

  • Pretzels

Tree House Gift Shop

Stop by our gift shop to bring a bit of the zoo home
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Conveniently located at the admission/exit gate for your first or last stop of the day, Tree House gift shop.


The Giftshop is open daily from April 1st - Oct 31st at 10:30 a.m. and closes a half hour before closing time each day.  

The shop offers a wide variety of merchandise that appeals to all ages, including T-shirts, home decor, jewelry, plush toys, and much more.

Your purchase helps support the zoo and our animals.

Guest Services & Amenities

  • First Aid: Please ask employees for assistance.  

  • Credit Cards and Banking Services: VISA, Mastercard, and Discover are accepted for park admission, Gift shop, and at the Peacock Concession Cafe.  An ATM is located in the Gift Shop.

  • Baby Changing/Nursing: Changing facilities are in all restrooms. Nursing mothers can find privacy at the Zoo Office.

  • Lost and Found: All items are kept for 10 days before they are donated or discarded. The Washington Park Zoo is not responsible for any lost or stolen items.

  • Lost Children: Please report lost children to any staff member or volunteer. We will respond and initiate protocols. If you are separated from your child, experience has shown most are found in the same area where the child was lost in minutes. The Zoo is prepared to involve law enforcement whenever the situation dictates.

  • Lost Persons If you are separated from someone, please ask an employee for assistance. 

  • Wheelchairs/ Wagon and Stroller Rental: Push wheelchairs are available for use at no charge for those in need.  The Zoo does not have electric chairs for guests' use. 

  • Wagons or strollers are $7.00 to rent and an ID is required.

  • Guests are also welcome to bring their own stroller, wagon, manual or electric wheelchair. The Zoo has ramp access to all areas, except the Observation Tower. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Will all the animals be out when I visit? Why are some not out when I visit?

The Washington Park Zoo strives to have all of our animals on exhibit while the Zoo is open, but at times for the health and comfort of the animals, this is not always possible.   There are a number of reasons why some animals may not be on public exhibits when you visit: regular maintenance on exhibits; new exhibit construction; health issues and exams or training; bedrooms are often left open so animals have the important choices they need to go in and out of their bedroom/off-exhibit spaces, especially when weather conditions are an issue; if there are babies or breeding protocols; and if darkness is involved, to name just a few. Priority is given to the safety and well-being of the animals at all times. Thank you for understanding. 

Do you charge for parking?

Yes. There is a separate parking fee since the Zoo shares a lot with the beach, splash park, and Washington Park.  The Park District charges $20 for all-day parking if you do not have a pass. 

Can I bring food and beverages to the zoo?

No. Outside food, drinks, and coolers are NOT allowed in the Zoo for the safety of the animals. We do have picnic areas located just outside the zoo in Washington Park, and we have concession areas within the zoo.

Can I smoke at the zoo?

There is no smoking or vaping permitted on zoo grounds. You may leave zoo grounds to smoke through the exit gate but must stop at the Admission window to get a stamp for re-entry. You must be 15-feet away from all zoo buildings, exits and entrances while smoking. 

Can I bring my service dog or other pet to the Zoo?

Only ADA-compliant service dogs are permitted in all areas except the free-flight aviary. Emotional support, comfort, and companion animals are NOT permitted for the safety of our collection.  Please check in at the Zoo’s Reception area with a service dog.

Do you offer a military or senior discount?

Yes, we offer active military and senior citizen discounts with a valid ID. 

Does the zoo close due to the weather?

The zoo is open rain or shine unless the severity of the weather is so severe it poses a threat to our guests, staff, or animals. If we close for a major weather event, we will post the news on our website and our Facebook account. We do not offer rain checks or refunds to due inclement weather.

What items are not allowed on zoo grounds?

For the safety of our guests, staff, and animals we ask that the following items NOT be brought on zoo grounds:

  • Camera tripods and selfie sticks 

  • Alcoholic beverages

  • Glass containers

  • Straws

  • Balloons, balls, or similar

  • Laser pointers

  • Skateboards, rollerblades, bicycles, or similar

  • Radios/stereos

  • Firearms/Knives

  • Pets 

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