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

75756A5E-120A-4932-810C-2FD980DB785E
By WBBM Newsradio 780 AM & 105.9 FM

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.”

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 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

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.

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

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. 

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.