Chicago Sights to See
The Brookfield Zoo
is hugely popular among tourists for great buildings,
restaurants and shopping. But one of the chief attractions, for both
locals and visitors, has long been, and still remains, the Brookfield Zoo. Opened in 1934, the
zoo is located on 216 acres about 14 miles west of downtown. The sights
and the location are perfect for someone looking for something just
outside the metropolis in the suburb of Brookfield.
An innovator from its beginnings, the Brookfield Zoo was among the
first to use moats,
and other forms of enclosure instead of
cages. The style is now in wide use, at such world
renowned zoos as the San
and the Bronx Zoo.
The zoo featured the first Giant Pandas
exhibit in the United States and
that continues to be a big attraction. The first resident, Su-Lin, has
been preserved and is on display at Chicago's Field
Museum of Natural History.
In 1960, it built the country's first indoor dolphin exhibit and in the
1980s introduced the first simulated rain forest. The tropical rain
forest supplies shade and swinging fun for the monkeys, while birds
flit in and out of the branches. Visitors can see their reactions as
they watch the animals scamper around under a simulated thunderstorm.
Featuring landscaped grounds and over 2,000 animals (over 400 species),
it fully deserves its reputation as one of the world's great zoos. The Australia House
houses many of the native species of that huge
continent. The Baboon
Island is a free roaming area full of these
delightfully active and noisy relatives of the great apes. The Reptile
House has dozens of snakes, lizards and creatures it's
hard even to categorize.
The Pachyderm House
is home to huge elephants, once the home of Ziggy,
a 6 1/2-ton bull elephant. The poor creature was confined to a cage
indoors for nearly 30 years after attacking a trainer in 1941. Sadly,
after being released in 1973 it fell into an exhibit moat two years
later and died seven months after.
Among the other famous residents is Binti
Jua, a lowland gorilla. In
August of 1996, a young boy fell into her enclosure but she merely
picked him up and brought him back to her trainers. She had performed a
similar action many times, taking her own baby, Koola, to the
It has one of the largest meerkat collections of any zoo with over 30
residents scampering around clearly visible grounds behind glass. There
are pygmy hippos, much smaller than the usual, but just as tough and
fierce when aroused.
There are placid animals, too, including the hilarious tree sloths.
Also amusing are the cotton-topped
tamarins (a type of monkey that
hails from Central or South America.) There's an unusual type of horse,
the Norwegian Fjord horse
that will excite horse lovers. Reptile fans
can check out the Sungazer
lizard and the
Only 20 minutes from downtown by cab, or about 30 minutes by bus, the
Brookfield Zoo is easy to get to and you could spend the entire day there before
returning to your hotel happily exhausted at night.
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