Animal Encounters at Brookfield Zoo

My children (all children?) love animals. Zoo trips are some of their favorite outings ever. Brookfield Zoo has always been a family favorite for viewing animals in naturally inspired habitats, and the zoo has been adding more and more up close and personal animal encounters throughout. We were invited to visit a few times this summer and I wanted to share with you all the ways your children can interact up close and personal with the Brookfield Zoo animals.

brookfield zoo animal encounters

Gone is the big red barn and children’s zoo of my youth. In it’s place is the new Hamil Family Wild Encounters. Located on the south side of the east mall, the Hamil Family Wild Encounters is designed so that the youngest visitors can get up close and personal with recognizable animals in a playful environment. The exhibit features alpacas, wallabies, llamas, goats, parakeets, reindeer and a red panda. Children and their caregiver can enter the goat area and pet, interact with and brush the goats. As typically expected, when goats are involved they can be a little curious and grasp maps, shoelaces, ribbons, etc. Only take into this exhibit what you need, and keep toddlers and little ones in arms reach. (Please note the video below was taken during the evening — during the day the goats are not this mellow.)

brookfield zoo animal encounters

The llamas and reindeer are not in an interactive exhibit like the goats but when we were there the reindeer were right up against the fence and easy to see. You can also see what you would like with reindeer antlers, great for selfies! Note: there is also a misting station in front of their cages – fair warning to those trying to keep your kids dry!

The red panda was a highlight of our visit. When we were there in the late afternoon he was sitting out on a branch munching away on leaves and my daughter could have watched him all day. It was fun to see an animal that is not common close up.

Brookfield Zoo Animal Encounters

The wallabies are my preschoolers most favorite part. Once you enter their fenced in enclosure, they are just hopping all over the place. There is also an emu who was eyeing the door with a surprising look of thoughtfulness when we were there. You are allowed to pet the wallaby if they come up to you, or you can reach them without leaving the path.

brookfield zoo animal encounters

If I knew when I was a kid visiting the Budgie’s and Woolworth (oops, did I just age myself!) that they would become such a popular attraction I may have become a breeder. If my kids see a parakeet room there is no stopping them we have to go in and we have to buy the $3 sticks to feed them, it’s just a given.

Watch our quick tour of the animal experiences:

Wild Encounters requires an additional ticket and is $5 per adult and $3 per child ages 3-11.

In addition to Wild Encounters, Brookfield Zoo has begun to offer several other Animal Encounters throughout the park. During regular zoo hours The Living Coast offers Penguin Encounters at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. During the 45-minute program, penguins roam free and waddle up to anyone they choose. Participants must be at least five years old and accompanied by an adult; space is limited to 20. Tickets for the encounter are available in the Coast Gift shop for $40 per person.

animal encouners at brookfield zoo
Photo provided by Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo is also packed with fun family events all fall and winter long — so plan your visit soon!

  • Boo! At the Zoo
    October 21-22 and 28-29

    This is a family tradition in our house as a way to celebrate Halloween with grandma and grandpa without missing out on the neighborhood trick or treating. The weekend includes a corn maze, professional pumpkin carvers, haunted hayride, costume parade and contest, special Zoo Chats, and more. Some activities require additional fees
  • Holiday Magic
    December 2-3, 9-10, 16-17 and 26-31

    Celebrate the holiday season at Chicagoland’s longest-running light displays. The 36th Annual event includes caroling, ice carving demonstrations, magic shows, a 41-foot talking tree and special visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus. The zoo will stay open late and be lit with more than one million twinkling LED lights. See website for full schedule of events.

Brookfield Zoo
8400 31st St., Brookfield
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Save on admission with Groupon or grab a museum pass from your library.


Disclosure: We received admission to Brookfield Zoo for an event.  No further compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own. Some links provided are affiliate links. We will earn a small commission on purchases made through these links to support the site. Thank you for clicking!


About Melissa Haak 626 Articles
Melissa is mom to 4. She used to dream of traveling the world, now she dreams of a clean kitchen. She can be found on most social media sites as @PBinmyHair because with this much hair and four kids, you're bound to find something in it.

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