Spotlight On: Brookfield Zoo

elephant at Brookfield ZooHousing more than 450 different species of animals and covering nearly 216 acres of land is Chicago’s largest zoo, Brookfield Zoo. Located in Brookfield, the zoo opened on July 1, 1934 and became widely known for its unique way of separating the exhibits. Instead of strictly using cages, the zoo used moats and ditches to separate animals from each other and from the visitors. Overall, there are 2,300 animals in this wonderful place.
This zoo has experienced many firsts, including the first giant panda exhibit in America. One of these pandas, Su Lin, was actually taxidermied and is now on display in Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. In 1960, Brookfield Zoo had another first, when it opened the nation’s first fully indoor dolphin exhibit. Again, in the 1980s, the zoo introduced Tropic World, which was the first indoor rain forest simulation and the then-largest indoor zoo exhibit in the world.
Over the years, Brookfield Zoo has hosted many different spectacular exhibits that have now closed or changed. These have included the Bear Grottos, the Ibex Island, The Reptile House, the Be A Bird and Baboon Island. Bear Grottos was the home of brown, sloth, spectacled, and polar bears. The brown bears and polar bears were transferred to the Great Bear Wilderness exhibit in 2010, while the sloth bears were relocated into Fragile Hunters. Ibex Island was the home of a Siberian ibex, and it was later replaced with the Great Bear Wilderness’ Bison exhibit. The Reptile House was the home of all the zoo’s reptiles, which have since been transferred into either the Feathers and Scales habitat or the Perching Bird House. Be A Bird was once the home of most of the zoo’s bird collection, but it was renovated into Feathers and Scales. This is now the new home for most of the birds, while the rest were moved to the Perching Bird House. Lastly, Baboon Island housed a large troop of Guinea baboons, but after the last three of them were euthanized due to old age, it closed in 2013.
lion at Brookfield ZooBeginning in 2007, the zoo has offered seasonal exhibits that run from April through September or October. This year, the zoo is featuring the new butterfly interactive exhibit. This is a huge mesh dome filled with a ton of butterflies that allows visitors to walk in and have butterflies land on them! There is also a pupa room with a window so you can watch them transform from the pupa to a caterpillar and then into a beautiful butterfly!
Other exhibits at the zoo include Stingray Bay, Salt Creek Wilderness, Austraila House, Regenstein Wolf Woods, Reptiles and Birds, Fragile Rain Forest, Pinniped Point, Big Cats, Habitat Africa! The Forest, Habitat Africa! The Savannah, Seven Seas, Living Coast, The Swamp, Tropic World and the Hamill Family Play Zoo.
Brookfield Zoo is open from 9:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Sundays. Zoo members receive free admission and parking year-round, and non-members can enjoy special summer nights admission, which includes access to one special exhibit, for just $14.95 for adults and $9.95 for children after 4 p.m. The Zooper Fun Pass is $29.95 per adult and $22.95 for children ages 3 through 11, which includes unlimited free general zoo admission during 2014, as well as a free one-time admission to each of the zoo’s six attractions. Other general admission tickets and packages are available; rates can be found here.
There are plenty of cool adventures that can be taken at the Brookfield Zoo! For more information on this extraordinary attraction, visit the website at