As soon as I decided to attend Northwestern, I set the goal to take advantage of Chicago as much as possible. I think I’ve done a fairly good job of that: I usually will go to the city multiple times each quarter. I especially like going to the museums, the Shedd Aquarium, and the general downtown Loop area. But one of my favorite sites is the Lincoln Park Zoo, and I’m very much looking forward to their upcoming Zoolights event.

I’ve been to the zoo several times since coming to Northwestern. I was actually able to take an Environmental Policy and Culture class taught by two professors who also work at the zoo. For one of our assignments we went to the zoo to study animal behaviors. My girlfriend Allison was in the class with me, and we compared two different otter species (I wish every assignment was based on watching otters). But I also like to go there just to have fun. The zoo is free and just a short walk from the nearest L stop, making it pretty accessible.

Back to Zoolights: One Winter day during my sophomore year I went with Allison down to the Lincoln Park Zoo. I especially liked going to the Nature Boardwalk, a natural wetlands area for local animals, and the Small Mammal and Reptile House. We then decided to get dinner in Lincoln Park, which is a neighborhood full of great restaurants, and then headed back to the zoo for Zoolights.

During Zoolights, the zoo puts up magnificent light displays and has special events. Allison and I made ornaments in the Small Primate House and got hot chocolate near the train ride. We then headed over to watch the musical display, which has lights going off in time with various holiday songs. It was really great to see the zoo in that new light (sorry for the pun, I couldn’t help myself) and I’m excited to go back this year.

I think it’s fantastic to have Chicago so close to our Evanston campus and to be able to take advantage of the city. I’m interested in wildlife conservation, so places like museums, zoos, and aquariums are right up my alley. However regardless of your interests there are plenty of great opportunities like exploring different cultural communities, admiring art and architecture, taking in a concert or ballgame, or shopping. It’s entirely at your own discretion. I think it’s great that we can choose how we interact with the global city right next door.

–Jason Smith

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