Brookfield Zoo Guide

May 28, 2011 7:00 AM

credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

bears kiss Brookfield Zoo Guide

credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Brookfield Zoo
8400 31st St., Brookfield, Ill.
Monday – Saturday: 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Sunday: 9:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Indoor Animal Exhibits close one half hour before the zoo closes.

General Admission
Adults: $13.50

Seniors 65 and Over: $9.50

Children 3 to 11: $9.50

All-in-One-Tickets (Includes zoo admission)

Includes Dolphin Show, Butterflies!, Children’s Zoo, Hamill Family Play Zoo, Motor Safari, The Carousel, and Stingray Bay.

Adults: $26.50

Seniors 65 and Over: $20.50

Children 3 to 11: $20.50

Admission +3 Tickets

Includes zoo admission and any three of the above:

Adults $20.50

Seniors 65 and Over: $15.50

Children 3 to 11: $15.50

bear cooling off Brookfield Zoo Guide

credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

A Guide to Exploring Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo is one of the nation’s top zoos, and has been one of the area’s most popular family attractions since opening its gates in 1934. Covering more than 200 acres, the zoo grounds are vast, and a day trip can seem daunting. Make it easier on yourself: visit the zoo’s web site, check out the online zoo map, print this guide and go!

Get there. The zoo is west of downtown Chicago, and not as far as you might think. Taking I-55 from the city will usually get you there in under 30 minutes. Consider taking the Metra if that’s an option from where you live, since the “Zoo Stop” is just a short walk from the zoo’s south gates. Once you’re in, grab a map and get going!

Visit the Children’s Zoo. If you’ve got tots in tow, stop first at the Children’s Zoo. Kids love getting up close to these barnyard favorites like cows, ducks, sheep and ponies, and other animals like hawks, reindeer and groundhogs. Kids can even go into the goat exhibit to feed, brush and pet the goats. Milking demonstrations take place daily during summer months at 11am and 1pm. Children’s Zoo admission is $2 adults, 12-64, $1 kids 3-11 and seniors 65+, under 3 free.

Ride the tram. Board the Motor Safari just east of the Children’s Zoo so you can get your bearings, check a few animals off your list, and determine where you want to spend more of your time. Tickets are $4 adults, $2.50 kids 3-11 and $2.50 seniors 65+, kids under 3 are free.

See the dolphin show. The Dolphin Show at Seven Seas is a fast-paced show that’s just the right length to thrill the kids but not take away too much time from the rest of your day at the zoo. Show times during the summer are Monday – Friday 11:30, 2:30; and Saturday and Sunday 11:30, 2:30 and 4:00 p.m. Purchase tickets at Seven Seas for $4 Adults, $2.50 kids 3-11, and $2.50 for seniors 65+. Kids under 3 are free.

Eat Lunch. There are lots of dining options at the zoo, and one simple option is the cafeteria-style BZ Red Hots. It’s got a kid-friendly menu including Italian beef and Vienna Beef Chicago-style hot dogs. Bonus: All zoo food is trans-fat-free! BZ Red Hots is located right next to Seven Seas, so it’s a perfect lunchtime stop after the 11:30am dolphin show.

Visit Tropic World. After lunch, head west and walk past the big cats on your way to Tropic World. Step into this indoor exhibit and find yourself transported to other continents where primates roam free. Walk through three exhibit areas, and from your high vantage point you’ll see spider monkeys, golden lion tamarins, gibbons, orangutans and gorillas. This is one of the largest indoor animal exhibits that you’ll find anywhere in the world.

Habitat Africa. After Tropic World, head to the Habitat Africa Savannah to see giraffes, ostrich, klipspringers, wild dogs and aardvark. Then check out the forest area, which will make you feel like you’ve accidentally stepped outside zoo boundaries into the animals’ actual habitat. Here you may easily find okapi, but you’ll need to look closer to find rats, duiker (small antelope), a chameleon or other quiet forest animals.

Great Bear Wilderness.
This exhibit opened just last summer, and is an expansive habitat featuring Grizzly Bears, Polar Bears, Bison, Eagles and Mexican Gray Wolves. If you’ve seen the old bear grottos, you’ll be amazed at the size of the bears’ new digs. You’ll even find a restaurant and gift shop in here!

Stroll. Once you’ve hit these major areas, feel free to stroll along some of the zoo paths and find your favorite areas. One of the most beautiful walks is along the Australia and Pachyderm areas. Some other fantastic animal houses to check out are Fragile Desert, Australia House and the Swamp.

Hamill Family Play Zoo. Caution: Your child may not want to leave this area! This building, for kids through age 10, is an amazing place to interact with some small animals like lemur and hedgehog, and to have hands-on fun exploring, touching and building. It’s a great place to end your day after you’ve seen all the things you need to see.

This is just a small sampling of the many exhibits and animal houses that you can see at the zoo. The web site offers detailed information and a map to help you plan your day in advance. Visit for more information.

Sue Zeiler is the founder of, which launched in 2001 and is the Chicago area’s leading online resource for local parents. Her mission is to find the best family events, activities and destinations for Chicago area families.

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