Brookfield Zoo is Open Every Day – It’s Tradition!

Photo credit: Chicago Zoological Society

Brookfield Zoo is open to the public 365 days a year. Our typical operating hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sometimes we are open longer. We are never open shorter.

Brookfield Zoo’s operating hours were determined way back in the day before the zoo was even open to the public! In May of 1934, the zoo’s Executive Committee agreed that the zoo would be open seven days a week. The reasoning, as explained in Andrea Friederici Ross’s 1997 book, Let the Lions Roar, was to be available to for the general public on weekends, but also available to “students or scientists who come to the Zoo for serious study” during the week.

Continuing Traditions

We still honor that vision set forth by the founders of the zoo. Not just of being open to the public every day, but also to be a place where the study and innovation of animal welfare standards would be set and advanced, and a place where people from all over the world could connect to animals and nature.

Brookfield Zoo has gone through many changes in our 85-year history, including the development of the Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare and the Center for Conservation Leadership. These two centers have allowed Brookfield Zoo go to from being a host to scientists to a home for science. The “Centers of Excellence” are where scientists and students can study both animals and people in the search for the most updated, scientifically informed standards in animal care, as well as best practices in connecting people to wildlife both at the zoo and in the wild.

Even our operating hours have changed, as we’ve added special events and activities to do at the zoo! But, the tradition of being open for the public and accessible for science every day remains the same.

Y tho?

“Why not?” says our Vice President of Guest Services. The animals, animal care specialists, grounds crew, and the rest of the staff are here every day. Why not invite the public in, too?

In all seasons, on every holiday, in any type of weather, a zoo is staffed. One of the main reasons is because animals always need care – food, fresh water, clean habitat, enrichment, and healthcare. There is no “overfill the food bowl so they can be left alone for a few days,” so there are always animal care specialists on grounds.

But, where does the food come from? Well, that comes from our commissary, or animal nutrition team. They divvy and deliver fresh food to each building every morning, prepared specially for every single individual animal. So, we have animal care specialists and animal nutrition staff in the park every day.

How does the commissary make their deliveries? In pick-up trucks on the zoo’s roads. We need mechanics to maintain the trucks for dependable delivery and grounds crews to ensure the roads are safe and passable. That adds the maintenance crew to the list of essential daily staff.

Then there are the folks who make sure the temperatures are just right in the buildings, the water is clean and flowing, the power is reliable, the network and phone lines are up and running, the park is safe, and of course, someone to make sure everyone gets paid!

When you add it all up, the park is pretty much fully staffed every day of the year, which leads us back to our VP’s original question – “If everyone else is here, why not invite the public in, too?” And there you have it.

Have we ever closed?

Yes, we have closed at least eight times in our 85-year history…so about once a decade. Each time we’ve kept our gates closed were due to weather-related issues. Extreme conditions, like this year’s record-setting cold, call for putting the safety of the guests first and keeping the park closed. Of course, in those instances, there is still a skeleton crew on grounds to weather the storm and make sure all the animals are cozy and safe.

Is Brookfield Zoo open during the winter?

Yep, we’re open to the public seven days a week, twelve months a year, winter, spring, summer, and fall, rain, shine, or snow!

Yes, but are you open on holidays?



We are open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

How about Memorial Day?

Yes, we are open on Memorial Day and Labor Day, Lunar New Year, President’s Day, Easter Sunday, Tax Day, Eid al-Adha, Yom Kippur, Diwali, and your birthday.

So come on out and see us! Brookfield Zoo is a great place to visit before fireworks on the Fourth of July or before Thanksgiving dinner. Spend your day off with us for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day or Veteran’s Day – with special events on both days! Walk off the previous night’s partying on New Year’s Day, or walk to make room for more paczki’s on Fat Tuesday. Whatever the day or occasion, Brookfield Zoo is open!

Written by Yvette Méndez, CIG, CIGT, CIT, Interpretive Services Social Media Coordinator, Chicago Zoological Society

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Posted: 10/22/2019 12:43:32 PM by Sean Keeley

CZS & Brookfield Zoo

Since the opening of Brookfield Zoo in 1934, the Chicago Zoological Society has had an international reputation for taking a cutting-edge role in animal care and conservation of the natural world. Learn more about the animals, people, and research that make up CZS here at our blog.


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