Know Before You Go: A Guide To Returning To Brookfield Zoo Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Brookfield Zoo opens to the public Wednesday, July 8.

Shannon Blum
July 07, 2020 - 12:52 pm
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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Brookfield Zoo reopens to the public Wednesday, July 8 after being temporarily closed to guests since March 19 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“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 CZS, in a statement. “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.”

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RELATED: Brookfield Zoo To Reopen July 8 - Reservations Required

Brookfield Zoo Safety Protocols
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Before retuning to the zoo, there is a few things the zoo would like guests to know. First and foremost, Brookfield Zoo will require guests to make a reservation in order to visit to limit guest capacity and ensure safe, social distancing. Reservation times are available in 20-minute increments. All admission and parking tickets must be secured by both members and guests prior to arriving. No tickets will be sold on site, and all tickets are non-refundable and no rain checks will made.

Second, face coverings are required for guests age 2 and over. Masks are only required for entry and when guests cannot maintain a six-foot distance between themselves and others. 

Brookfield Zoo Face Mask Requirement
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Additional safety measures include signage and visual markers located throughout the zoo to remind guests to maintain adequate social distancing; the sanitation of high-touch areas and restrooms with hospital-grade cleaners; and hand-sanitizing stations located throughout the 216-acre zoo. 

The zoo will also be instituting a cashless environment, to minimize person-to-person contact. Only credit card transactions will be accepted at outdoor food and beverage carts and merchandise kiosks.

Brookfield Zoo Social Distancing Signage
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Also, at this time, all indoor spaces, including animal buildings, restaurants, and gift shops, are temporarily closed. Seasonal food stands and outdoor souvenir carts will be open throughout the zoo. Other areas temporarily closed include play areas, splash pads, water misters, drinking fountains, The Carousel, Motor Safari tram rides, and Butterflies! (seasonal exhibit).

The goat yard at Hamill Family Play Zoo will also be closed, but guests will still be able to feed the goats from a designated area. Guests will also be able to feed the giraffes. Face coverings are required for all animal feeds. 

Think you are ready to see the animals, including the zoo’s two male African lions, Amur leopards, bears, giraffes, rhinos, grey seals, wallabies, African painted dogs, and Mexican wolves, in their outdoor habitats? Ready to get out of the house and make some summer memories that you will never forget? How about checking out the cool souvenirs like a Mold-A-Rama or one of the new animal face masks?

Here’s everything you need to know about returning to Brookfield Zoo.

Advanced Tickets, Reservations, And Parking Are Required For All Guests, Including Members

According to Brookfield Zoo, guest capacity will be limited to ensure safe, social distancing within the 216-acre park. Reservation times will be available in 20-minute increments. Everyone must reserve and secure a ticket online before visiting. No tickets will be sold onsite, and all tickets are non-refundable and no rain checks will be made. 

All non-member guests who drive to the zoo are required to pay for parking online and will need to indicate location—either the Main Gate (north) or South Gate lots during the checkout process. 

All members receive free parking in the north lot. Members only need to pay for parking if they choose to park in the south lot and are not eligible for free parking in the south lot.

Note: guests who arrive on foot or via public transportation are not required to pay for parking. 

Cashless Zoo

In order to limit person-to-person contact, card payments will need to be used for food, beverage, and gift shop transactions, the zoo said.

Dinos Everywhere! at Brookfield Zoo
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Attractions

In order for Brookfield Zoo to provide adequate social distancing, at this time, all indoor spaces are temporarily closed.

Guests are asked to view animals in their outdoor habitats.

In addition to the animals, guests can go back in time—way back to a prehistoric period.

Over 40 life-like, animatronic dinosaurs that are "bigger and badder" than ever before have descended on Brookfield Zoo as part of a temporary exhibit—Dinos Everywhere!. Through October, guests will be able to search for these amazing life-like animatronics located throughout the park. The exhibit is free with zoo admission.

RELATED: PHOTOS: Dinosaurs Roar Into Brookfield Zoo -- Bigger And Badder Than Ever

"Dinos Everywhere! is an exhibit that we are going to have from now through Nov. 1. It's over 40 life-sized, anamatronic dinosaurs, including the largest, which you will see on West Mall, which is 110-foot long, Argentinosaurus - three-stories tall. He is our showstopper and not to be missed," said Leah Rippe, Vice President of Marketing & Communications at Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo.

Attractions including Dolphins in Action, The Carousel, Butterflies!, Hamill Family Play Zoo, Motor Safari, all playgrounds, splash pads, and water misters are not currently operating.

Goat Feeding is open at Hamill Family Wild Encounters and requires 2 quarters. Guests are asked to remember to bring quarters with them, as the zoo is unable to provide change. Face coverings are required for goat feeding.

Giraffe Feeding is also offered during this time and costs $10. The feeding is a cashless operation and guests are asked to pay with a credit card. Face coverings are also required.

"If you want to come and feed the goats, that is a fun opportunity. You can still do that. You will need to bring your two quarters to make that happen. And then if you want to come feed the giraffes, you are able to do that, as well. But we do ask, when you are feeding the animals, whether its the giraffes or goats, that you do wear that face covering. Card payments are required for the giraffes," Rippe said.

Dining and Shops

According to Brookfield Zoo, seasonal food stands and walk-up carts are open.

Note: drinking fountains are turned off.

Outdoor souvenir carts will be open throughout the zoo.

Help Stop the Spread

If you or a family member is sick, Brookfield Zoo asks that you respect the safety of others and stay home.

Brookfield Zoo Face Mask Requirement
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Face Covering Requirement

According to the zoo, all guests ages 2 and over must wear face coverings when entering the zoo. Once inside, face coverings should be worn if you are not able to maintain a social distance of at least six feet from staff and other guests who are not members of the same family.  This includes when making transactions at food, beverage, and merchandise kiosks and while inside bathrooms.

Brookfield Zoo Social Distancing Signage
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Social Distancing

All guests must maintain at least six feet of space from others while at the zoo. Signage and visual markers will be located throughout the park as a reminder.

"We have made sure that we allocate social distance signs all throughout the park. You will notice that there are not only visual signage, but visual markings on our pavements. During this Phase 4 reopening, none of our indoor buildings are able to be open to the public, so all the of the animals will be viewed in their outdoor habitats," Rippe said. "The restaurants and gift shops are also closed, but you can purchase those at the kiosks. We are also a cashless zoo, so you will need to bring your cards for payment."

Brookfield Zoo Hand Sanitizing Stations
Brookfield Zoo

Sanitation 

High touch areas and restrooms will be sanitized with hospital-grade cleaners and conducted on an increased cleaning schedule, the zoo said.

Hand sanitizing stations will also be located throughout the park. 

Brookfield Zoo Hand Sanitizing Station
WBBM Newsradio/Shannon Blum

Employees

All employees are required to wear face coverings at work. If exchanging food or product with a guest, gloves will be worn.

Employees will also have their temperatures checked at the start of each workday.

According to the zoo, all employees are required to maintain a distance of at least six feet away from guests, volunteers, and fellow employees.

All employees are instructed to follow the CDC guidelines in proper hand-washing. All workspaces and high touch surfaces will be cleaned frequently. 

"We are checking the temperatures of all staff coming in. We have enhanced cleaning schedules. I know if you [employees] are interacting with guests, with food, gloves have to be worn. So we are taking those additional safety precautions just to keep everyone safe," Rippe said.

Accessibility

For Wheelchair or Electronic Convenience Vehicle (“ECV”) rentals, the zoo asks that you call (708) 688-8347 to reserve one in advance of your visit. If you call and leave a message before 5 p.m., someone will get back to you the same day.

An advanced reservation for a stroller or wagon is not needed.

Same-day reservations for wheelchairs and ECVs are not accepted. 

You can view Brookfield Zoo's full list of Know Before You Go protocols here.

Brookfield Zoo Social Distancing Signage
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Brookfield Zoo said they look forward to welcoming guests back.

According to CZS, limiting guests to only outdoor areas is the first phase of Brookfield Zoo’s reopening plan. Staff is continuously monitoring local, state, and federal guidelines, including appropriate social distancing and group size, to determine when to increase attendance and allow guests access to indoor animal buildings, as well as restaurants and gift shops at reduced capacities.

Admission to Brookfield Zoo, which includes access to Dinos Everywhere!, is $24.95 for adults, $17.95 for children ages 3-11 and $19.95 for seniors 65 and over. Parking is $15.