One of 2 zoos in the Chicago area I grew up only about 5 miles from this one and my parents have pictures and videos of me as a little kid enjoying the zoo. Fast forward about 25 years from my days as an infant to when my wife and I started having kids and started taking our kids to the zoo and taking their pictures and videos. Fast forward another 25 years and now getting ready for the next generation. But for now I'm content with practicing my photography skills so I just bought a yearly pass which will get me through the gates at any time this entire year.
The zoo has changed a lot of the years since I first went. As of this writing they do not having any elephants as the former enclosure was too confined a space for an animal that large. They have expanded other areas for tigers and lions and have a nice exhibit for the apes and gorillas.
I'm kind of torn between the needs for zoos and keeping wild animals in cages. On the negative side I believe no animal should be taken out of its natural environment and put in cages of any sort. On the positive side hopefully it will introduce and instruct future generations on the plight of animals in our fragile environment. I know the animals in today's modern zoos are so much better taken care of then when I was a kid. Hopefully we can continue to learn and protect all earth's species.
I find it kind of interesting to walk through towns and discover a little bit about each area. On my couple of hour self walking tour of Brookfield I walked from the zoo's southern edge, across Salt Creek, along Salt Creek, through an alley, through a residential neighborhood, into downtown, along the railroad tracks, to the Little League Field and finally back to my parked car.
Along the way I took pictures of everything that looked interesting to me: Salt Creek and its abandoned and torn down bridge, the "Keep Out of Zoo" property signs (you don't want to mess with that and get eaten by a lion), flowers, porches, backyards, signs on garage doors and a potpourri of others.
I will post some of these pictures of my walk here and I think I'll also create a Photography page in things to do as well.
Well, the only reason I've had to step foot into Brookfield is for the zoo. I like this zoo better than Lincoln Park-it's larger, the exhibits seem much more animal friendly and there's lots of interactive things for kids to do. Oh, and did I mention that the polar bears here actually come out and put on a show? On the other hand, Lincoln Park Zoo is free every day and is closer to downtown Chicago.
It's an easy day trip from Chicago, I always drive but the train station is just a couple of blocks away for those of you staying downtown without a vehicle.
You can pay general admission or get an upgraded package that includes the dolphin show, butterfly garden, and children's zoo or each of those activities can be purchased separately.
Should you visit in the off season, there is free general admission on Tuesdays and Thursdays in January, February, March, October, November, and December.
I happened to find a coupon in the Friday Chicago Tribune for a free adult admission, they've run it several weeks in a row now.
One of the suburbs, that if you are visiting downtown Chicago and want to do a day trip away from the city you can hop on a Burlington Northern commuter train out of Union Station toward the direction of Aurora (which is the terminus about 40 miles away). The trip itself will take about 25 minutes as you will be on a local train that makes numerous stops along the way.
You can buy a round trip ticket the day of travel at Union Station and if you are going to the zoo getting off at the Hollywood Stop. If you miss that stop the main Brookfield Stop is just a few blocks further west.
Here is a link to the entire Burlington Northern METRA Schedule for all the stations served from Chicago to Aurora.
From downtown Chicago you can take the train, go to Union Station and take Metra's Burlington Northern line to the Zoo Stop (Hollywood Station) and then walk two blocks northeast. The area around the zoo is perfectly safe.
Union Station is the main train station in Chicago but there are several others so make sure you go to the right one on Canal St. between Adams & Jackson Blvd.
Driving to Brookfield is pretty easy, it is very well marked off the expressways and you can get there by either taking 55 or 290.
You have to pay to park, I think it was $8 per car, and walk from the lot to the zoo.
On my photography tour of Brookfield I eventually got to the downtown area which I had really only seen before out the window of the train as it sped by on the way to my home in Naperville. The downtown is really not very lively, although it does have a few restaurants, a thrift shop and this very unique antique shop.
I took a couple of pictures outside only, as I wanted to see what the shop was all about and didn't want the owner, Jason (who started this business when he was 16 years old according to a newspaper article I saw in the shop), to think I was scoping out the place.
What makes this place interesting compared to most antique places I've been into is that the main collection are toys and games from the 1920's through the 1980's. Although you may find these items in other similar types of shops you won't find as many as were here.
I browsed through the store for about 10 minutes or so, talked to Jason and his little daughter and told him I would be back with my wife in the near future so we could pick out a few things for our future grandchildren to play with to get them away from the electronics which I'm sure they will be bombarded with.
I remember going to my grandparents houses and playing with some old things they had when I was a kid and now that we're eventually (hopefully) going to be grandparents sometime in the near future I would like to offer the same opportunities for my grandchildren.
Besides the toys and games the shop also has a number of other antiques along with a number of old posters, signs and other types of graphic arts.
What to buy: Games and Toys
What to pay: Depends what you buy