Two years ago Brookfield Zoo closed the 60-year-old Children’s Zoo. While it was sad to see it go, the closure made room for Brookfield Zoo’s newest attraction – Wild Encounters.
Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children 3-11 and seniors (children under 3 are free). Zoo members pay half price.
Wild Encounters opened on July 1, 2015, covers over two acres, and offers up-close animal experiences.
My first impression of Wild Encounters was that it was beautiful – a wide open walkway with animal footprints the in concrete, narrative illustrations, benches, and gorgeous, colorful artwork.
When the weather is nice, guests can meet animal ambassadors up close on the walkway, like this tamandua (small anteater). Brookfield Zoo has 70 animal ambassadors, including the prehensile-tailed porcupine, savannah & serval cats, armadillo, two-toed sloth, great horned owl and other birds of prey, boa constrictor, savannah monitor, and bearded dragon.
There are several habitat areas where guests can observe red pandas, alpacas, llamas, and reindeer, and read about their habitat, behavior, and diet.
Of course, there is a goat enclosure similar to the one in the old Children’s Zoo where you can walk among the goats and pet and brush them, or (for a small fee) feed them grain.
There is also a large walk-in wallaby and emu habitat. Inside the gates, you can watch a movie to learn about the wallaby under the pavilion and walk the path to watch the wallabies and emu. You can also feed them (again, there is a small fee for grain).
(P.S. You can probably tell, but the wallaby pictured above is a statue on the bench.)
Wild Encounters also has a Bramsen Animal Ambassador Pavilion for animal encounters indoors when the weather is bad, and the ITW White Oak Room with can be used for parties or for animal ambassador meetings in bad weather.
The highlight of the Wild Encounters exhibit for us was the parakeet aviary. The 6,500 square foot aviary is one of the largest in North America and had 350 parakeets when we visited. (Eventually there will be 700 parakeets, although they will not all be in the aviary at the same time.) There’s a very short, winding wall creating a separate area just for parakeets. Seed sticks are available for a fee so you can feed the parakeets.
I have to admit, the parakeet aviary was a bit frightening. I don’t have a bird phobia, but parakeets often fly together so there were several times during our time in the aviary when 350 parakeets whooshed past our faces. The first time it was terrifying. After a couple more times it was just kinda cool. The kids seemed to think so, too.
Wild Encounters was very impressive. The kids were really engaged and couldn’t stop talking about the experience afterward. I’d strongly recommend you visit.
When you do visit Brookfield Zoo, be sure you also check out the free Festival of Flight show. The show takes place west of Tropic World (see the Brookfield Zoo site for show times). The kids were so excited about the parakeets that I knew they’d love this show and they did.
The show is approximately 30 minutes long and includes a variety of different birds. A little warning – there is no shade at the show; if it’s a hot and sunny day, be prepared with sunscreen, hats, and cold water.
At the end of the show, kids have a chance to make a donation that goes directly to the birds (literally).