Going to the zoo is a great idea for children and adults alike, and Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo is no exception.
Opened in 1934, Brookfield Zoo has about 450 different animal species across 216 beautiful acres.
Reservations are not required for Brookfield Zoo, so you can walk up and purchase tickets on the day of your visit.
If you’re interested in seeing tigers, giraffes, rhinos, seals, monkeys, and more, then definitely put Brookfield Zoo on your bucket list.
Here’s what you should know before your visit.
Table of Contents
- Can you book tickets in advance for Brookfield Zoo?
- How much is Brookfield Zoo admission?
- Where is Brookfield Zoo?
- What animals are at Brookfield Zoo?
- How much is Brookfield Zoo membership?
- What are Brookfield Zoo Animal Ambassadors?
- Does Brookfield Zoo have dolphins?
- What are other Brookfield Zoo attractions?
While some zoos require reservations or advanced ticket purchases, Brookfield Zoo just has walk-up ticket sales so there’s not much you need to do beforehand.
All admission and parking tickets can be purchased onsite, although zoo officials have flagged the potential of an online booking system in the future.
When Brookfield Zoo first reopened after the initial COVID shutdown in the summer of 2020, there was a reservation system in place to monitor attendance numbers in line with local restrictions, however, the zoo has since shifted back to its in-person normal ticket sales.
The zoo is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. during the week and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekends, so you can just show up in the morning and buy tickets for your group, no reservations necessary.
Brookfield Zoo admission is $24.95 for adults, $19.95 for seniors 65 and up, and $17.95 for kids ages 3 to 11.
Children two years and under receive free admission, while there are discounted tickets for groups of 20 visitors or more.
Brookfield Zoo, or the Chicago Zoological Park as it’s sometimes called, offers free admission for military personnel, too.
This includes active, reservist, and retired military members with valid military IDs.
Parking fees are $15 per car and $21 per bus, with free parking for members at the north gate and $5.00 member parking at the south gate.
Brookfield Zoo is located at 8400 W 31st St, Brookfield, IL 60513. Operated by a private nonprofit called the Chicago Zoological Society, the zoo is situated on land belonging to the Forest Preserves of Cook County.
Brookfield is a beautiful suburb of Chicago, just 13 miles west of downtown with a population of just under 20,000.
It’s arguably most well-known as the home of Brookfield Zoo, which is one of two major zoos in the Windy City.
There’s also Lincoln Park Zoo, which is located in the heart of downtown, although it’s much smaller than Brookfield with 35 acres total.
Brookfield Zoo is the biggest zoo in Illinois, with over 2,300 animals and numerous habitats from around the world.
It’s in the northeast corner of the Brookfield suburb, near Salt Creek and McCormick Woods Park.
Brookfield Zoo is the proud home of more than 2,300 animals, including 45 species belonging to the Species Survival Plan which includes several critically endangered animals such as orangutans and leopards.
There are 20 major exhibits at Brookfield Zoo, with animals living in spaces designed to resemble their native environment.
For example, the big cats exhibit has the African lion, Amur leopard, Amur tiger, and snow leopard, while the hoofed animals section has zebras and camels.
Some of the many other popular animals at Brookfield Zoo include wallaby, otter, sea lion, rhino, crocodile, tortoise, lemur, and rattlesnake.
All in all, there’s something for everyone at Brookfield Zoo, and because no reservations are required, it’s easily accessible for families and anyone who just wants to stop by and check out some of the most unique zoo animals in Chicago.
Many regular visitors and Chicago locals choose to invest in a Brookfield Zoo membership, which offers free admission and parking for a full year, as well as guest passes and discounts on the zoo’s biggest and best special attractions.
Membership prices start at $80 for individuals and go up from there, with three different tiers depending on how much you want to pay and your desired level of benefits.
A Basic membership gives you zoo admission and main entrance parking, while the Plus membership offers additional attraction tickets on top of the base benefits.
Unlimited Brookfield Zoo memberships are the most expensive but come with admission to all the attractions for each visit, plus convenient parking in both the north and south lots.
One of the cool things about Brookfield Zoo is the Animal Ambassador Program, the first of its kind in Chicago, as it offers exciting guest experiences to get up-close and personal with many of the zoo’s animals.
Pop-up demonstrations and zoo chats happen throughout the year, so visitors may come across zookeepers and the zoo’s residents outside their normal habitats during presentations and special events.
A wide variety of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds feature as Ambassador Animals, with the zoo using this program to further educate and inspire visitors on how to best appreciate and respect all sorts of animals.
The ball python, bearded dragon, bird-eating spider, domestic rabbit, and great horned owl are often brought out for ambassador sessions.
Spin-tailed lizard, reindeer, sloth, red-tailed hawk, porcupine, cockatoo, hedgehog, and boa constrictor are a few more examples of Brookfield Zoo Animal Ambassadors.
Dolphins and related marine creatures are in high demand for zoo visitors, and Brookfield Zoo delivers with its Seven Seas exhibit featuring beautiful bottlenose dolphins.
The Dolphins in Action program is a special show designed to educate and inspire visitors on the wonders of dolphin social interactions and adaptions.
It’s an aerial display of dolphin agility and intelligence, with daily shows at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
Dolphins in Action is not included in standard zoo admission, with tickets priced at $6.00 for adults, $4.00 for seniors 65 and older, and $3.00 for children ages 3 to 11.
Brookfield Zoo members can see Dolphins in Action and other attractions with discounts from their membership.
In addition to the Dolphins in Action show, Brookfield Zoo also has a butterfly exhibit, which brings guests closer to bright and beautiful butterflies that flutter around, landing on flowers and even people sometimes.
This zoo exhibit has a pupa room where you can watch the circle of life as pupa transform into caterpillars and then butterflies.
Another popular Brookfield Zoo attraction is the carousel, one of the biggest hand-carved wooden carousels in the U.S.
There are 72 animals for riders to pick from, including some of the world’s most endangered species, plus three stationary chariots for younger families.
Tickets are as low as $1.50 for members and $3.00 for kids 3–11, with adults paying $4.00 to take a spin on the carousel.
The Hamill Family Wild Encounters Exhibit is one other major attraction at Brookfield Zoo, spanning three acres and offering hands-on experiences for guests to touch and feed different animals.
Goats and parakeets nibble straight from guests’ hands while llamas, reindeer, wallabies, and red pandas are just a few other animals that make regular appearances in this exhibit.
The Wild Encounters exhibit is $3.00 for children 3–11, $4.00 for seniors, and $6.00 for adults with 50% discounts for members.