Chicago Zoos Are Open! Get the When, What, How of a Zoo Visit!

Chicago is slowing emerging from its COVID slumber and we’re loving this newfound ease-back-into-it freedom phase 4 is bringing. While things aren’t quite back to normal, Lincoln Park Zoo and Brookfield Zoo are both welcoming guests. . . with some new guidelines in place. Read on to find out what to expect when you’re expecting the kids to ask for a zoo visit.

photo: Lincoln Park Zoo, credit Maria Chambers


Opening Date
Lincoln Park Zoo members have access to the zoo Jun. 26-28 and the general public can pay a visit beginning Jun. 29.

Cost of Admission
Per the usual, Lincoln Park Zoo remains a free public institution. One of the few remaining in the U.S. Parking along Stockton Dr. is free and parking in the lot at Cannon Dr. & Fullerton Pkwy. ranges between $20-40 depending on length of stay.


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Admission Procedures
Although admission is free, visitors must make reservations online using Eventbrite or via telephone at 312-742-2000. Walk-ins without a reservation will not be allowed. Reservations can be made daily every hour, on the hour, 10 a.m.-4 p.m, for two-hour zoo sessions. Zoo members can enter the first three digits of their member ID to unlock access to members-only days and timeslots.

New Safety Procedures

  • Guests are asked to keep their visit to 2 hours or less in order to maintain low capacity numbers that keep the experience safer for all.
  • If you are medically able, guests over the age of 2 are required to wear a face covering.
  • You will see new signage promoting social distancing, restricted access to touchpoints and increased handwashing stations and sanitation.
  • Hand sanitizer stations will be available at the East and West Gates. Guest may also wash their hands at the restrooms at Regenstein Macaque Forest and the East Gate.
  • The East and West Gate entrances will be open to the public, but all other gates will be closed to help with traffic flow.
  • Please note the one-way paths that will help facilitate flow and allow for distancing.
  • You can purchase food and gifts via outdoor kiosks using minimum or no-contact transactions.
  • Paper copies of the zoo map will not be available onsite, so if you want a paper copy, please print one at home or save the image on your mobile device.
  • Strollers are still available for rent and are sanitized between uses.

photo: Lincoln Park Zoo WILD Marshall Square sculpture project

What is Open, and Not Open

  • Outdoor exhibits will be available for viewing along the one-way paths, but indoor exhibits will remain closed until it’s deemed safe to reopen.
  • Daily activities like Zoo Chats and Penguin Encounters have been temporarily suspended.
  • The Lionel Train Adventure and AT&T Endangered Species Carousel are not open at this time.

2001 N. Clark St., Lincoln Park
Online: lpzoo.org

photo: Brookfield Zoo, credit Jim Schultz


Opening Date
Brookfield Zoo is hosting a special member preview week Jul. 1-Jul. 7, and opening to the general public Jul. 8.

Cost of Admission
Admission is $24.95/adults, $17.95/ages 3-11 & $19.95/ages 65 & over. Parking is $15.

Admission Procedures
Like Lincoln Park Zoo, Brookfield Zoo is not allowing walk-in guests at this time—all admission and parking tickets must be secured prior to visiting. Reservations must be made using the reserved time-ticketing system that helps maintain low capacity numbers. Reservation times will be available in 20-minute increments. Tickets are non-refundable and rainchecks are not available, so be sure to check weather before booking.


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New Safety Procedures

  • All visitors over the age of 2 who are medically able must wear a face covering at all times.
  • The zoo is a cashless environment—only credit card transactions will be accepted at outdoor food & beverage carts and merchandise kiosks.
  • High-touch areas and restrooms will be sanitized with hospital-grade cleaners on a frequent basis.
  • Hand-sanitizing stations have been placed throughout the 216-acre park.
  • Please note the signage and visual markers located throughout the zoo that remind guests to socially distance and assist with flow.
  • Paper maps will not be available, so please download a map from the zoo’s website or use a phone to take a photo of the large map on display at the north and south entrances.
  • All staff will have their temperatures checked at the start of each workday, will wear face coverings and gloves if handling food or product.

Read more about what Brookfield Zoo is doing to keep visitors safe by reading their page Brookfield Zoo: What To Know Before You Go

photo: Brookfield Zoo’s Dinos Everywhere

What is Open, and Not Open

  • Planned before Covid-19, guests will be treated to a new temporary exhibit, Dinos Everywhere, which includes more than 40 life-like, earth-shaking animatronic dinosaurs.
  • Food and merchandise are available for purchase via outdoor kiosks using a credit card.
  • All indoor spaces—animal habitats, restaurants and gift shops—are temporarily closed.
  • Seasonal food stands and outdoor souvenir carts will be open throughout the zoo.
  • Play areas, splash pads, water misters, drinking fountains, The Carousel, Motor Safari tram rides and Butterflies! are closed.
  • The goat yard at Hamill Family Play Zoo is closed, but you can still feed the goats from a designated area.
  • Be sure to note the two new male African lions the zoo welcomed during the shutdown. They’ve been waiting a long time to greet the kids!

If you’re not quite ready to have an in-person zoo visit, check out Brookfield Zoo’s YouTube channel for content created during the closure to get your cuteness fix.

3300 Golf Rd., Brookfield & 8400 31st St., Brookfield
Online: czs.org/Brookfield-ZOO

photo: Brookfield Zoo’s Lions

How to Support Our Zoos

Both Lincoln Park Zoo and Brookfield Zoo, like many places, remained closed for an extended period during Covid-19 shutdowns. Both rely heavily on memberships, donations and daily visitors in order to maintain the high level of care they provide the animals. Now would be a great time to purchase a family membership to help support these institutions. Use the below links, if interested:

Lincoln Park Zoo Donations

Lincoln Park Zoo Membership

Brookfield Zoo Donations

Brookfield Zoo Membership

Brookfield Zoo is also hosting a virtual Zoo Run beginning Jul. 15. Go online and register and you have until Sep. 6 to complete your 5K walk or run and log your time on their website. They even have a 1-mile Kid’s Dash!

— Maria Chambers