Located west of Chicago in the Brookfield area, the zoo is set on more than 200 acres with over 2,000 animals for visitors to enjoy! Everything from monkeys to lions, from dolphins to penguins, the Brookfield Zoo is run by the Chicago Zoological society and has fun times for people of all ages.
Not to Miss at the Brookfield Zoo
Just a few of the many exciting exhibits that are free with admission to Brookfield Zoo:
Meet primates from three continents in this large exhibit, including spider monkeys, orangutans, colobus monkeys and even gorillas. Observe these active, intelligent creatures in one of the largest indoor primate habitats in the world.
This impressive display contains incredibly beautiful Snow leopards as well as Amur leopards, Amur tigers and African lions. Some of these are highly endangered in the wild, but you can see them up close as they prowl around on their rocks or play in the water.
If you’ve decided not to include Shedd Aquarium in your trip to Chicago, then you can still get a small taste of underwater adventure by visiting the Living Coast at the zoo. Enjoy coral, fish and even sharks through the glass of large and small tanks.
Brookfield Zoo Amenities
Since you’ll probably want to spend the whole day at the zoo, you’ll be happy with several eating options. Restaurants are scattered throughout the park offering grill food, Chicago style hot dogs, salads, kids’ meals and more.
Visiting any large, outdoor facility like the Brookfield Zoo can mean that it’s difficult to find bathrooms for the family. There’s one located by the ticket booth at the North parking lot entrance, which is a perfect start to your visit. Other bathrooms are spread throughout the park and can be found using the zoo map.
Brookfield Zoo staff and volunteers are pleased to welcome those with accessibility concerns, including wheelchairs. Wheelchair rentals can be arranged ahead of time by calling (708) 688-8347. An accessibility guide is also available (https://www.czs.org/custom.czs/media/BZ_Accessibility/Accessibility-Guide-2015.pdf).
Of course, a trip to the zoo wouldn’t be complete without some animal-themed souvenirs. Gift shops and stands are scattered throughout the zoo.
Nearby the Brookfield Zoo
Because of its location several miles out from the city, only a few attractions are found nearby. The Riverside Historical Museum (http://www.riversidemuseum.net/) is a designated National Historic Landmark, but has limited opening hours on Saturdays. Several parks and woods can also be found nearby, for a nice afternoon or hiking or walking around trails.
Getting to the Brookfield Zoo
Located several miles out from downtown Chicago, you’ll want to either drive or take public transportation (the train) to get there.
One fantastic aspect of Brookfield Zoo is that it is not located immediately in Chicago, which means that visitors will likely miss some of the traffic that might otherwise be inconvenient. If you’re going by car, you’ll be going in the opposite direction of the heavy traffic.
Parking is available in the north or south parking lots, but the north one is much easier to access and bigger, so it’s recommended. There is a fee for standard parking (check the website https://www.czs.org/Directions ) but members get free parking in the north lot. This lot is a bit further away from the zoo entrance so it’s a longer walk, via a tunnel under the road.
Taking the train to Brookfield Zoo is a convenient way to avoid traffic and parking issues by using Metra’s Burlington Northern Line. The Zoo Stop is several blocks from the zoo entrance, but you’ll probably already be wearing your walking shoes anyway!
When to go to the Brookfield Zoo
Open 10am-5pm seven days a week, going to Brookfield Zoo can be fairly busy any time the weather is nice. School days when the weather is warmer often bring out field trips, while summer time typically reveals families trying to make the most of their vacations. Holiday weekends such as Memorial Day and Labor Day will be especially crowded.
Most indoor animal exhibits close 30 minutes prior to the park closing time.
Brookfield Zoo Insider Tips
- Since the dolphins typically perform their routines at 11:30am and 2:30pm, scheduling your time around this activity may be a great idea! (Plan to spend about $5 or so per person on this event.)
- If you like the idea of feeling a giraffe tongue as you feed it, then plan to participate in the giraffe feedings (for around $10 or so) during peak season (June through September, plus weekends in October). This typically happens from 10:30am-12noon and then from 1-2:30pm.
- Brookfield Zoo has an App that rewards you for taking photos inside different areas of the park! Check it out on Google Play or in the iTunes App store.
- Strollers and/or wagons are recommended for families with children as the park is very large. If you can’t bring your own, then you can rent one. Designated stroller parking is available outside of special exhibits.
- Brookfield Zoo admission is included in the Chicago Go Card and Chicago Explorer Pass.