From the moment those colorful “Brookfield Zoo – Turn Left” signs begin appearing along the road, you see your child’s mind start to wander into the wildly surprising world of animals, outdoors, and play.
The looks of excitement, imagination and pure bliss on children’s faces are as frequent at Brookfield Zoo as you’ll see anywhere else in Illinois, and it’s a feeling that’s infectious to all that pass through the gates.
Take a ride aboard the iconic Motor Safari trams and receive a personalized, narrated tour of the 216-acre zoo. Seeing bears and tigers, feeding giraffes, and hands-on interactions with parakeets are just some of what makes visiting Brookfield Zoo so exciting and unique.
A regular main attraction are the zoo’s newborn animals. One of the latest is an adorable female gorilla, Ali, who can be seen in the Tropic World: Africa habitat. Ali’s mode of transportation for the next several months will be mom, Koola, who will be her sole support before she begins her surroundings on her own. After visiting Ali and the rest of the gorilla group, be sure to stop by Habitat Africa! The Savannah to feed some of the zoo’s tallest, most magnificent animals, the giraffes.
At Hamill Family Play Zoo, youngsters get hands-on experience with all kinds of animal-themed activities. There they can build animal homes, track animal prints and even have up-close experiences with some of the zoo’s animal ambassadors.
But Hamill Family Play Zoo isn’t the only opportunity kiddos have to get up close and personal with the animals. During the zoo’s Penguin Encounter at The Living Coast, zoogoers can mingle and get to know and learn about Humboldt penguins. Like people, each penguin has its own unique personality, which makes the whole experience extra fun as kids bond with their new friendly penguin friends!
During the summer, animal care specialists share their knowledge and interesting facts about the animals in their care. These Zoo Chats are scheduled throughout the day and feature information about the animals’ habitats, eating habits, welfare and management, while also focusing on the zoo’s mission of conservation.
Another can’t-miss is Seven Seas, where you can dive into the ocean and see the zoo’s bottlenose dolphins in the underwater viewing gallery. You can also attend daily Dolphins in Action presentations where animal care staff demonstrate the relationship they have developed with these amazing marine mammals. From natural behaviors that demonstrate the dolphins’ strength, grace, and even playfulness, to educating guests about conservation, to audience participation for some lucky youngsters, the presentation is a must-see for your first visit to Brookfield.
On any weekend during the summer, you can enjoy some of Chicagoland’s most popular live bands on the zoo grounds, summer sunset as the backdrop, and a cold beverage in your hand from the zoo’s beer and wine garden.
And if that isn’t appealing enough, each Friday and Saturday night comes to a close with a spectacular laser light show that will most definitely have the audience “oooing” and “ahhhing.” The zoo’s Summer Nights Concerts will have something for everyone, whether it’s families, friends or couples on a date night.
Over the course of the day at Brookfield, it’s remarkable how each child’s imagination blossoms – you see it in their eyes, on their face, in their words (and the same even goes for adults!).
As you share some quality time with the residents at Brookfield Zoo, don’t forget to share with the rest of us! Put your stories, your snaps, and your top tips on the Enjoy Illinois Facebook page. Hashtag #EnjoyIllinois and we’ll all be inspired by your adventures!
This article was written as part of the Illinois Bicentennial 200 Years, 200 Stories project. Read more stories from the project.