When we have special “family fun days,” we constantly debate between two places to spend our day: a zoo or a museum. Luckily, at Brookfield Zoo, we don’t have this problem. That’s because of the amazingly interactive and educational Hamill Family Play Zoo. It combines two of our favorite things—the zoo and a museum all in one! So what makes the Hamill Family Play Zoo so fantastic?
Unique Indoor Fun
Well, first of all, let’s talk logistics. In Chicago, there are unfortunately more days to hide from the elements (whether it is freezing, snowing, raining, or blazingly hot) than not, so the play zoo provides indoor fun in a fun and unique environment. Yes, I know there are awesome play spaces such as Adventure Playland, Kids’ Island, The Sod Room, and the Museum of Science and Industry, but sometimes we are looking for something just a little bit DIFFERENT.
With the theme of appreciating nature and animals running throughout all of its exhibits, the Hamill Family Play Zoo is a great place to get your little ones acclimated to animals on a smaller scale than what you come across in the larger zoo attractions. There is also a great family bathroom and nursing room for all zoo patrons to take advantage of, free of charge.
For example, there is always at least one animal on display for kids to pet, talk to, feed, and learn about. You see this little furball? He was a hit with his audience and was soaking up all of the attention. When they took out a snake for “show and tell,” most of us moms went running in the opposite direction!
Another great exhibit to see animals up close and personal is in the “Lemur Leap” space. There are floor to ceiling glass walls separating you from these adorable creatures, so your little one can truly get eye to eye with the active lemurs.
If your little one is more interested in the stuffed variety of animals, there is the Animal Hospital exhibit, where little ones can role play, using real veterinary tools and supplies, such as authentic animal x rays.
There is even an exhibit devoted to helping you bring the zoo into your home. In this faux house, there are displays of pets that are great for homes, such as fish, gerbils, bunnies, birds, etc. During our visit there was even a cat to cuddle with. Many kiddos used this as a ploy to try and get a furry friend for home, so be prepared, parents!
The exhibit that we spend the most time in is the greenhouse. In this warm and lush space, there are plants EVERYWHERE. The best part? Kids can use spray bottles to help keep the plants watered. While some older kids might go a little crazy spraying each other instead of the plants, it is a huge hit with the toddler set. Just be sure to bring an extra change of clothes just in case they get soaked.
There are also nature themed blocks and sensory toys to play with if all of the water bottles are taken, ensuring fun for everyone.
After reading about all of these exhibits, don’t worry that babies are left out. There is a space designed especially for those who aren’t mobile yet or are crawling. This safe and creative space allows them to interact with wonderful animals and nature themed toys, ensuring that they will be zoo lovers as well.
Finally, a trip to the Hamill Family Play Zoo isn’t complete without hanging out in the giant tree! Not only are there tunnels to go through to find different animals and insects that live in trees, but there are also fun interactive and educational activities set up. My boys had a blast using the face paint to decorate themselves as their favorite animals. Apparently, this is what a red dolphin looks like.
There is also a great outdoor playground for your kids to use as part of the Hamill Family Play Zoo. Lots of the structures are made out of natural products, so it is a great way for your kids to see recycling in action.
If you are a Brookfield Zoo member, admission to the Hamill Family Play Zoo is either free or discounted. If you are a “basic level” member, your admission is half price, but if you are a “plus” or “unlimited” level member, admission is free. I HIGHLY encourage you to get a membership to get discounts on food and all other zoo purchases, as well as cover the cost of your regular admission, parking, and some special attractions.
Like I said before, it is a great place to spend a gross day, so you could even spend the entire day just at the Hamill Family Play Zoo (the zoo is open 365 days a year, by the way).
For information on pricing, check out this page.
Looking for other ways to appreciate nature? Simply search “nature centers” or “zoo” in the side bar.