After an unprecedented hiatus of more than three months due to the COVID-19 crisis and its shutdown of popular attractions statewide, Brookfield Zoo will reopen its gates on a reservation-only basis beginning July 1 for members and on July 8 for the general public.
Visitors are welcome to enjoy the outdoor areas of the zoological park, but all indoor spaces, including gift shops, restaurants and indoor animal exhibits will remain closed for now.
“Brookfield Zoo has been closed for nearly four months and we are eagerly looking forward to welcoming guests back to reconnect with animals and nature,” said Stuart Strahl, president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo. “We have been following guidelines set forth by local, state and federal government and health agencies to ensure the well-being of our zoo guests, staff, volunteers and the animals.”
Anyone wishing to review the new protocols and procedures for visiting Brookfield Zoo can visit online at CZS.org/KnowBeforeYouGo. People who were already Brookfield Zoo members when the park closed its doors due to the pandemic have had their memberships extended to account for that closure.
Perhaps the biggest single change in planning your visit to Brookfield Zoo, is that there will limits on guest capacity and anyone visiting must purchase admission and parking tickets in advance at CZS.org. Ticket sales will be begin soon at that website.
Limited numbers of reservations will be available in 20-minute increments. No tickets will be sold onsite, and the zoo will offer no refunds or rain dates once tickets are purchased. You will be asked to indicate which gate you prefer to enter from, north or south.
Inside the park, face coverings will be required for anyone age 2 or older. In addition to indoor restaurants, gift shops and animal exhibits, a number of other attractions and areas will also remain closed, including splash pads, water misters, drinking fountains, the carousel, Motor Safari rides, the butterfly exhibit and the goat yard at Hamill Family Play Zoo, although visitors will still be able to feed the goats.
Food, drinks and gifts will be available for purchase from stands and carts that will be located throughout Brookfield Zoo, but vendors will not be accepting cash. All transactions will be via debit or credit cards.
Visitors will also notice hand-sanitizing stations throughout the zoo, as well as signage reminding them to maintain physical distance from other visitors. Indoor restrooms will be open and staff will be sanitizing those spaces and other high-touch surfaces frequently, using hospital-grade cleaners.
If you’re new to the zoo and need a map to get around, you will need to download and print a map from the zoo’s website or take a photo of the large maps at either of the zoo’s entrance gates.
Zoo employees will also be wearing face coverings and will have their temperatures checked at the start of each shift. Those handling food and merchandise will be wearing gloves.
Visitors for the first time will be able to see the two new African lions, Brutus and Titus, and get reacquainted with their old favorites.
They’ll also be able to enjoy a special summer exhibit “Dinos Everywhere!” on the West Mall of the zoo. The interactive exhibit features more than 40 animatronic dinosaurs, including the massive Argentinosaurus, which measures more than 100 feet in length and stands 30-feet tall.
Brookfield Zoo, which has been open 365 days a year – with a couple of exceptions due to extreme weather events – since it first opened in 1934 has been closed to the public since March 19.
The loss of revenue during a time when the zoo normally sees a resurgence of visitors resulted in about a third of its employees being furloughed as of April 5. In early June, the zoo announced that it was permanently eliminating the equivalent of more than 50 full-time employees.
Some of the furloughed staff, particularly grounds crew workers, began returning to work at the end of last week, said zoo spokeswoman Sondra Katzen in order to prepare for the reopening.
“Many of those furloughed will be coming back throughout [the weeks ahead].” Katzen said.