Location: 1356 N. Gary Avenue, Wheaton, IL 60187
Cosley Zoo is open year-round, but closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
January-March: Daily 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
April-October: Daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
November: Daily, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
After Thanksgiving-December 23: Daily, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
December 26-30: Daily, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.*
Christmas Eve: 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
New Years Eve: 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
Admission:$3 for adults, $2 for seniors (55 & over), kids (birth-17) are free. Wheaton residents and members are also free.
Parking: Free parking in the attached lot. There’s not a lot of alternate parking if the lot is full; there’s some street parking a few blocks away, including near the sports center southwest of the zoo.
Bathrooms: There are public bathrooms behind the gift shop with changing tables.
Nursing: There is no designated nursing area.
Handicapped/stroller accessibility: There are sidewalks and walkways throughout the zoo that are handicapped and stroller accessible.
Food/eating area: The Coyote Cafe Concession Stand is open April through October and offers all the kid favorites, including hot dogs and chicken nuggets. The Concession Stand also offers limited service during the Festival of Lights in December.
Outside food is allowed in the zoo and there is a large open picnic area with tables available.
Special events: Upcoming special events are listed on the website. Scheduled events include:
- The Great Egg Scramble, for children ages 2-10 -Saturday, April 16; costs $10 for residents and $15 for non-residents.
- Party for the Planet – Saturday, April 30
- Animal Adoption Day – May 21
- Run for the Animals 5K, 10K, & Zippity Zoo Run – Saturday, June 4
- “Wild at the Zoo!” – 3rd Saturday in June
- Pumpkins and Scarecrows Fest
- “Festival of Lights” and Tree Sales – beginning the day after Thanksgiving
- Christmas at Cosley Zoo
- Duck Pond -
- Vern Kiebler Learning Center -Farm animals, such as goats and sheep, are kept in this barn.
- Caboose – Children can learn about animals with educational displays and activities inside the Caboose.
There is a sand box between the gift shop and the Learning Center.
The zoo offers daily activities, including duck feeding, and offers Eco-Exploration Backpacks Tours filled with activities for $2 per pack per visit, available in the gift shop. These would be great for homeschooling parents.
In addition, there are programs are available for individuals and families, schools and groups, scout groups, and there is a Junior Zookeepers program for 7- to 12-year-olds.
You can view a list of all 200 animals (over 70 species) online.
We paid: $4. I paid $3 for adult, non-resident admission. The kids were free, and we spent $1 to split the rental of an eco-exploration backpack with our friends.
Cosley is a small zoo (in fact, Cooper calls it “the small zoo” because we spend so much time at Brookfield) and you won’t exactly find lions and tigers and bears (oh my), but the kids don’t seem to have any less fun. It’s the perfect size for toddlers because there’s plenty to do for a few hours. It’s not too crowded (even when the lot is pretty full), and the kids can see the animals up close. Because it’s smaller it’s a little easier to see more animals; everything’s a little closer together and it doesn’t take quite as long to get from exhibit to exhibit.
We rented an eco-exploration backpack about “senses” for $2 during our most recent visit and enjoyed that. Some of the activities were for older kids (the starting age was four and we had two 3-year-olds and two 1-year-olds), but most of it was interesting for all the kids. They got to look through binoculars and a magnifying glass, try to identify different scents, and try to identify the objects in the containers based on the sounds they made.
The staff at the zoo was very friendly and helpful. In fact, I got the feeling that if your 1-year-old just disappeared while you were focused on scolding your 3-year-old for running away, the entire staff of the zoo would come rushing to help, with management at the front gate and all the employees reporting from different areas of the zoo by walkie talkie, until he was found, safe and sound. But I’m just speculating, of course, because something like that would never happen to a supermom like me. Of course.