Hamill Family Nature Plaza Offers Relaxation, Discovery, & Sustainability


Access to outdoor spaces, parks, and greenspaces can be a challenge for many Americans, especially those living in urban areas. That's a major reason why the Chicago Zoological Society has spent the last few years investing in a new learning, fun, and exploration space at Brookfield Zoo. Whether guests are looking for a space to relax, a chance to explore, or a way to reconnect with nature, they will find those opportunities at the new Hamill Family Nature Plaza.

Longtime zoo guests will know the space as the former home of Baboon Island as well as Scoops cafe. Now, Hamill Family Nature Plaza boasts more than 10,000 perennial plants and 8,200 square feet of perennial seeds as well as nearly 670 deciduous, evergreen, and flowering trees and shrubs throughout the 1.5-acre space. The great part about this brand-new area is that guests can use it for a multitude of experiences, depending on what they're looking to do. 


On the east side, guests will find space to relax in a serene, natural environment with winding pathways that feature opportunities for nature play. Fun stations include oversized chimes and flower-shaped percussion instruments where you can create sounds that integrate into the natural setting around them. There's also a "nest" where kids can climb inside and pretend to live like a bird. 

In the middle of the plaza, guests will find a open-sided, three-season pavilion, the ideal setting for seasonal chats with Brookfield Zoo staff as well as our Animal Ambassadors. It's also a space that will be home to education programs such as Family Fun Saturdays and teachers’ courses. It's also an ideal spot for private functions such as weddings, receptions, and corporate events in the evenings.


Over on the west side, guests who want to discover all that nature has to offer will be excited to spend time here. There's a science exploration garden for structured zoo education programming, a water interpretation garden where guests can learn about water issues and the importance of having green space for responsible drainage, and a sensory garden full of raised beds where you can learn about flowers and vegetables that can be planted at home as well as the importance of pollinators.

There is plenty of seating available in Hamill Family Nature Plaza. The best part is that benches are fabricated from an eco-friendly polypropylene plastic made from 90 percent recycled materials and are themselves 100 percent recyclable.

Another cool features in the plaza is the council ring, a space used for structured educational offerings or just large gatherings. It is dedicated to Danish-American landscape architect Jens Jensen, who played a prominent role in the creation of the prairie-style architecture found in many gardens and urban landscapes and who also played a role in the foundation of the Forest Preserves of Cook County.


You're bound to work up an appetite while exploring Hamill Family Nature Plaza and guests will be able to find food and drink options right there at the Peacock Café and Grill. In keeping with the foward-looking nature of the plaza, the menu here is themed around sustainable dining. All of the produce is locally grown and they serve grass-fed beef burgers, antibiotic-free chicken, and sustainably harvested Antarctic salmon. The ice cream is made with sustainably sourced palm oil, a critical way to help orangutan populations around the world. There is also the Impossible™ burger for those who prefer a plant-based option.

CZS thanks the Hamill Family Foundation for their generous donation is helping to make this plaza become a reality and it is sure to be a favorite spot for Brookfield Zoo guests for years to come.

Posted: 9/20/2019 12:49:43 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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