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Brookfield Zoo

July 1, 2012

  • 3300 Golf Road
  • Brookfield, IL 60513
  • (708) 485-0263
  • Website

Our last day in Chicago was probably the one we had been looking forward to the most.  We had planned a trip to Brookfield Zoo with J’s mom and my parents.

Growing up less than 40 minutes from the zoo, J has spent quite a bit of time there.  I can vaguely remember a few trips when my brother and I were pretty little, but my family grew about 70 miles from the suburban Brookfield Zoo.

The plan was to get there as the zoo was opening at 9:30.  Since we would take surface streets from J’s parents, my parents, who would take Interstates most of the way, decided they would just meet us there.

Our plan worked pretty well as we pulled in to the south gate of zoo just after 9:30.  I don’t know why, but it was kind of surprising to me just how “urban” the zoo was.  It’s a 216 acre zoo in the middle of suburban Chicago.  In fact, just to get to the south gate, you drive right through the Riverside Brookfield High School campus.

The first gate you come to is for the parking lot.  Without a zoo membership, parking is $10/car.  After parking the car and loading up the stroller, we then headed for the admission gate.  Zoo admission is $15 for adults.  L is still well under the age that we have to pay so it was just the three adults who had to pay to get in. 

Outside the South Gate

Inside the South Gate

My parents ran in to a little construction on the Tri-State on their way, so they were a little bit behind.  Once they got to the zoo, they ended up at the north gate.  Since we were already inside, we walked to meet them after making a stop to take a few pictures at the Roosevelt Fountain right near where we were hanging out on the south side of the zoo.

Roosevelt Fountain

After meeting up with my parents, we headed off to start taking in the exhibits.  We didn’t really have much of a plan as far as seeing everything.  J and her mom used to know where all of the exhibits were but it’s been probably 15-20 years since any of us (other than my dad who has gone with my brother’s family a few times) had even been to the zoo.  We finally just picked a path to see what we could see.

The size of Brookfield Zoo is the first thing that hits you.  It can actually be kind of overwhelming because you don’t think there’s any way you could see everything in one day.

The first I really wanted to see was the Great Bear Wilderness.  I’m a sucker for bears for some reason.  This is actually a new exhibit.  The bears were moved to a much bigger habitat on the other side of the zoo.  The neat thing about the zoo is that even though this is a “bear exhibit” there are other animals mixed in.  They’re not actually in the same habitat, but there is a method to the madness at Brookfield Zoo.  Animals are grouped sort of how they would be found in the wild.

Entrance to the Great Bear Wilderness

Polar Bear Exhibit

American Bison Exhibit in The Great Bear Wilderness

After making our way through the exhibit, we, conveniently, ended up at a gift shop area.  Instead of one gift shop near the entrance, there are gift shops at almost every major exhibit. We were lucky because L can’t beg yet, but that didn’t stop me from grabbing everything in the store, turning to my dad and saying “I want this.”  It didn’t work.  He didn’t buy me anything.

That didn’t stop me from buying something for myself though.  The thing I always remembered about Brookfield Zoo was the “Mold-A-Rama’s”  All throughout the park, they have these machines that make molded plastic animals.  When I was a kid, the toys were $0.50 a piece.  They’re $2.00 now.  I ended up with three before the day was over.  The first was a bear.  The second was a the dolphin exhibit.  The third was a lion.

The Dolphin Mold-A-Rama Machine

We continued walking with not much in mind as far as what we wanted to see.  As we came across something that looked interesting, we stopped by.  A lot of the exhibits are indoors which is nice on a hot day, but kind of a pain because strollers aren’t allowed in any of the exhibition buildings.  There are stroller parking areas outside, but our problem was what to do with the diaper bag.  J didn’t want to be putting L in and out of the stroller all day, so we did some picking and choosing as far as what exhibition buildings we went in.

One we couldn’t avoid was the Seven Seas which includes the dolphin show.  The show itself is a separate admission, but you can watch from underneath the arena for free.  In order to get to this underneath view, you have to go through the Seven Seas gift shop.  Again, my dad bought me nothing.

Underwater Viewing Area at Dolphin Arena

Dolphins from the underwater viewing area of the Dolphin Arena

After watching the dolphins for a few minutes, we headed to Pinniped Point where you can also watch the seals and sea lions from an underwater viewing area.

Underwater viewing at Pinniped Point

Above the water exhibit at Pinniped Point

L was asleep by this point, so we took advantage to just relax a little bit and get something to drink.  As you can imagine, there are carts and kiosks all over the park with overpriced drinks.  My parents have always packed coolers when going on trips like this, but the car was so far away from where we were.  J and I decided to pay the price and got a couple drinks and some popcorn to snack on.

As we continued on, L woke up so we took her out of the stroller to see the penguins at the Living Coast exhibit.  From there, we finally found the Big Cats, but the lions all looked hot and were hiding in the shade.

Our last exhibit was Tropic World.  This is another indoor exhibit, so J’s mom actually stayed with the stroller outside.  Tropic World was saving the best for last.  It’s a huge indoor exhibit that houses the monkey’s and baboons and gorillas and all the animals that swing from trees.  We were actually there on a special day as they were introducing a new male gorilla to the exhibit.

Tropic World

Western Lowland Gorillas

When we emerged on the other on, L was ready for a quick snack and a diaper change, so we plopped ourselves down at a picnic table in the shade.  We had been at the zoo for about four hours at this point and had seen all of the exhibits that are included with admission.  There was still a number of things that would have cost us more money to do, but was nothing that was that interesting to any of us other than the carousel.

Our final stop before parting ways with Brookfield Zoo was the carousel near the north gate.  There was actually a line to buy tickets when we got back to it.  The price was $2.50 and L was free because she had to ride with one of us.

We had so much success at The Silver Beach Carousel a few weeks ago, so we were both excited to get her on another one.  We put her right on to a giraffe where she proceeded to try to eat the bar holding the giraffe up and anything else she could get her mouth around.  I didn’t figure that was a good idea, so we instead opted for one of the bench seats and just enjoyed the ride as L was transfixed on the moving lights and people around her.



Once the carousel came to a stop, we parted ways with Grandma and Papa and headed back to the south gate.  L was getting sleepy again and fell asleep in my arms as J picked up another bottle of water and Pepsi for the road.

Brookfield Zoo was exactly what we all remember from our childhood.  I know L is too young to remember this trip, but we will be making many memories at this zoo in the years to come.


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