Being a native of Chicago I like to think that I know all the secret places and the best places to go and for the most part I do however some things are still a secret to me. You have read often that I love going to the zoo with the kids. The infamous zoo from my posts is Brookfield Zoo. It’s located in Brookfield Illinois and a short drive from the city or hop on public transit. We are lucky enough to have a membership there and I highly recommend getting one if you are local for the summer. It pays for itself in 2 trips and gives you great discounts.
If you are first timer in Chicago this zoo is outside Chicago but well worth it, if you have been to Brookfield before but years ago it is worth the trip back because a lot has changed. We always park in the North Gate lot which is off of 1st Ave, it’s easy, convenient and much less hassle then the South lot.
Chicago Zoo Brookfield
Tip 1: If you are not a member and are purchasing tickets go for one of the packages because they are less expensive then.
Things you can bypass, well, there is only one thing that never thrilled the kids or me much and that is the butterflies’ exhibit. It’s a greenhouse with butterflies; while gorgeous it would be more for my mom then me. The rest and it might seem like a lot is a must see.
The kids always like to head to the Savannah first which is Habitat Africa Savannah, to see the wombats and they get a real thrill out of the free flying bat area and mommy ducking. I am not fond of bats landing on my head however my fiancée feels the need to scare me whenever we go in there. One would think I would expect it after a while but he always manages to catch me off guard and the kids get a kick out of it. After we see the Australia house which is in the Savannah we stop by and see the camels, zebras, and ibex, then it’s off to see the giraffes which the kids love. They are outside most of the time and are just gorgeous! This is one attraction that people will stand around for hours because they are very active.
Once the kids have had their giraffe fun we checked out the little house of the Savannah and met up with these little guys. Who the kids have nicknamed shorty because they are a bit short, and they get a kick out of them. However I will warn you there are a couple of birds in here and the one never shuts up. He is a bit annoying but pretty. Don’t forget to check out the dogs too!
Then it was off to the kids favorite the Great Bear Wilderness which houses the bison, eagles, and bear oh my! This is the new exhibit and don’t rush to see it. Take your time throughout the zoo because everyone goes here first so it’s always crowded upon the zoo opening and the first hour or so after. Also located in here is the wolf exhibit to see the Mexican wolves although you can never really see them except on the cameras. If you go toward the end of the day they tend to be around the windows instead of in the morning, afternoon.
The bears are the favorite of the bunch especially the polar bear Hudson who was born at the zoo. He’s very active and can be found playing in the water a lot. There is an underwater viewing area for the bears as well which the kids love and is a real treat if they are in the water.
This is about the time that we stop and have something to eat. Normally we pack a lunch and bring it with us. There is an amazing area to eat right outside the great bear wilderness near tropic world that has a playground and is great for eating. There are also varying restaurants in the wilderness as well as just outside to eat.
Lunch was over and we headed over to the living coast, this can be bypassed sometimes unless you are really into penguins and jellyfish. This time the kids ran through the exhibit to get to the penguins. They were on a mission to see them.
Once they finished the boys were all about seeing the reptiles. I can’t blame them because some of them are just huge while others are cute!
Now for the extreme and semi cute little guy.
The Alligator is in the swamp house and not the reptile house and here he is. He really never does much during the day and I have heard people say he needs a bigger space but he doesn’t do anything during the day but rest so his space is big enough.
If you are lucky enough in the summer you will see the peacocks walking freely around the zoo. They don’t bother people but are gorgeous!
You might also catch a glimpse while walking by the pond of the pretty pelicans all in a row. Maybe not in a row when you see them but they were when we saw them and how many times can you claim you saw that?
Since my kids act like monkeys all the time we had to check out Tropic World which is my oldest daughter’s favorite place. She could spend hours in this place. Tropic World houses all the monkeys from spider monkeys to the lowland gorilla pack. There is a new male gorilla that is coming too. Most of the times if you can’t find the big guy look in the corner; he is normally there sitting or lying and looks grumpy. The gorillas are the main attraction here and sometimes it gets crowded but no need to fight your way through you can go up higher to look at them too. As of 2012, the male is being switched out with another male from the other zoo in Chicago so he might not be on exhibit all the time since he is older and retired.
After about an hour we were headed over to the Children’s Zoo for their petting part of the zoo. This part has all the farm animals along with some extra little treats and surprises like reindeer. They are hidden in the back but check them out.
The must see, which I did not get pictures of so this is from their site, is Sting Ray Bay. If you can only afford one thing extra to do in the zoo during the summer this is it. The kids love touching the rays and interacting with them.
We normally save our two favorite exhibits for last first is Seven sea’s for the dolphin show which is a must see. They change it up once in a while and it’s really fun to watch. After head down to the underwater viewing area and watch them swim around.
Pinniped point was our next stop to the seals, they are California sea lions and they even have a little one who loves to mimic the mom. Going below to check them out is a treat because they often play by the window with the guests and the kids freak out.
Our last stop was the Fragile Kingdom, the Big Cats and the Pachyderm House . We always save this for last because closer to dusk you will hear the male lion roar, it’s a real treat and I have yet to get a picture of it. I think he knows when I have the camera up because he stops and then I put it down and he starts. There is also a female there as well.
Head down the line and see the tiger and snow leopards and don’t forget the Amur leopard at the end. She is normally walking around at that time so you can get her up close.
There are no elephants at the zoo as of 2011, they lost their older elephant and the elephant Joyce, who was on loan from another zoo went back to that zoo because they are pack animals. They have said that they will be getting more over the next couple of years.
If you are local to the Chicago area and go to the zoo at least twice a year it’s worth getting a membership because it’s cheaper. All in all this is our favorite place in the world and I highly recommend visiting.