Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, Illinois offers more than 200 acres of landscaped zoo grounds and animal habitats to explore with dolphin shows, ape encounters, and many shopping and dining options on site. The zoo is home to nearly 450 different species and is involved in many captive breeding programs for endangered and rare species.


The Brookfield Zoo began as a zoological garden in 1919 after Edith Rockefeller McCormick donated land to the Cook County Forest Preserve who added an additional 98 acres and formed the Chicago Zoological Society two years later. A zoo tax was not approved until 1926 and the Great Depression greatly slowed construction of the zoo. In 1931 however, demand for the zoo grew and construction picked back up with the public opening happening on July 1, 1934. By the end of the summer, more than one million visitors had been welcomes at the zoo and four million more guests visited over the next two years.

The veterinary hospital, the famous central fountain named after President Theodore Roosevelt, and the children’s zoo were added in the 1950’s and a bond from the Forest Preserve enabled the zoo to expand in the 1960’s with the addition of Tropic World which was the largest Indoor zoo exhibit at the time in the entire world. Over the next two decades, the Africa, Asia, and South American habitats would be built as well.

In recent decades, the Brookfield Zoo has become involved with many conservation and breeding programs, established the Regenstein Wolf Woods and saw the addition of the Hamill Play Zoo, public pavilions, the largest hand carved carousel in the United States, and several more habitats. While some of the great exhibits of the Brookfield Zoo no longer exist such as the Children’s Zoo and Reptile House, the zoo is constantly evolving and bringing new, immersive exhibits to families.

Zoo Animals

There are more than 450 species represented in 20 distinct habitats at Brookfield Zoo. Some of the favorites animals include Eagles, Zebras, Seals, Rhinoceros, Kangaroos, Giraffes, dolphins, polar bears, lions, tigers, leopards, wolves, bison, and many species of primates. The zoo habitats include:

· Australia House

· Big Cats

· Feathers and Scales

· Fragile Desert

· Clouded Leopard Rain Forest

· Great Bear Wilderness

· Habitat Africa! The Forest

· Habitat Africa! The Savana

· Hamill Family Play Zoo

· Hamill Family Wildlife Encounters

· Hoofed Animals

· Living Coast

· Pachyderm House

· Pinniped Point

· Regenstein Wolf Woods

· Reptiles and Birds

· Salt Creek Wilderness

· Seven Seas

· The Swamp

· Tropic World

The Chicago Zoological Society established the Center for the Science of Animal Care to meet the challenges of evaluating animal wellbeing in a zoo that provides high quality animal care. The Brookfield Zoo also participates in Species Survival Plans in cooperation with other North American zoos and aquariums. The Brookfield Zoo currently participates in 87 of these plans which covers 116 different species at the zoo. Some of the animals in the program are the African Lion, Amur tiger, California sealion, Clouded Leopards, Eastern black rhinos and Gorillas.


In addition to the habitats that guests can explore at the Brookfield Zoo, there are many other attractions to be enjoyed. Many special attractions are just seasonal, or offered for a short time. These events are detailed on the Brookfield Zoo website. Special Attractions usually require additional ticketing outside of general admission.

Dolphins IN Actions- This show is an exciting way for visitors to learn about dolphins. The animals captivate audiences with their acrobatics and tricks that demonstrate both intelligence and agility in and out of the water.

Hamill Family Wild Encounters- This exhibit allows visitors to visit with animals in a hands-on capacity with opportunities to interact with and feed many different animals.

Hamill Family Play Zoo- This experience brings nature to life and allows children an interactive and imaginative play area where they can connect with the environment.

The Carousel- This hand carved Carousel is one of the largest in the country and features 72 animals and chariots on board.

Motor Safari- This guided tour is a comfortable way to get off your feet and catch a breeze. The open-air motor coaches drive between four stations located throughout the zoo and a ticket is good for unlimited rides all day.

Educational Opportunities

The Chicago Zoological Society believes they have a responsibility to change the world and has designed several educational programs to foster conservation leadership and establish a link to nature for everyone in the Chicago area and beyond. There are several classes and camps at the zoo for children, Adult Classes and lectures, educator resources available to connect classrooms to the zoo, and backstage adventures available. Detailed information on the Brookfield Zoo educational offerings can be found on their website.

8400 31st street, Brookfield, Illinois 60513, website, Phone: 708-688-8000

More: Things to Do in Illinois, Places to Visit in Illinois, wedding venues in Illinois, Illinois Breweries, attractions, Things to Do in Schaumburg, Things to Do in Champaign, romantic getaways VT, Things to Do in Naperville, Things to Do in Rockford, romantic restaurants in Chicago, Things to Do in Chicagoweather, Chicago wedding venues, Chicago to Indianapolis