This spring and summer, woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats will greet visitors at Brookfield Zoo.
The zoo’s newest exhibit, ‘Ice Age Giants’, runs until October 30 and features creatures such as the woolly mammoth, mastodon, saber-toothed cat, giant hyena, giant ground sloth and the short-faced bear.
“We’re really excited to see people coming back to the zoo and participating in Ice Age Giants,” said Andre Copeland, manager of interpretive programs at Brookfield Zoo.
Over 35 life-size animatronic recreations of these long-extinct animals are on display, complete with posable heads, eyes, mouths and tails. They can be found on the east side of the park (near the trail where the dinosaurs were) and also on the west end of the park near Swan Lake.
“Ice Age Giants was a chance for us to engage our guests in stories about animals that left during the Ice Age that we are still in now,” he said. “During this Ice Age, more than 35 species that people will be able to see at Brookfield Zoo were trying to survive different challenges in their environment. What we would like people to do is experience a day in the life of one of these animals.
These animals roamed North America and Eurasia but died out thousands of years ago. Different extinction theories will be explored in the exhibit, he said. These theories will be linked to animals currently cared for at Brookfield Zoo, he added.
“It’s a really nice way for people to come in, to see animals that closely resemble and are closely related to animals that we have now, that have experienced some of the same challenges that animals that live today face,” did he declare. “We know that the giants of the Ice Age did not survive; however, by examining what they went through and making decisions now to improve our environment, our species will have a better chance of survival.
He’s heard patrons say they liked this exhibit even more than the zoo’s dinosaur exhibit.
“They thought it was fresh and new and something they could relate to a little more because the species was so close to the species currently living at Brookfield Zoo,” he said. “And one thing that I was really excited to hear was that people really liked the signage. People actually read the signs and like them.
It doesn’t hurt that the screens contain a good number of “dad” jokes, he added.
There are also plenty of photo ops for people, he said. If you walk to the west end of the zoo, towards the Living Coast Plaza, there’s a huge photo board featuring four of the giants, he said.
“It’s a great way to take cool selfies, snap a family photo up front, and create memories.”
The zoo is excited to get back to normal this year with a slate of events on its 2022 calendar.
Twilight Tunes at Brookfield Zoo, formerly Summer Nights, is every Friday and Saturday in July, said Leah Rippe, vice president of marketing and communications.
“This is our summer concert series. You can come and listen to great bands from all different genres, whether you’re a county music lover or a classic rock lover,” she said. “We will have food trucks and all kinds of drinks to choose from. And at the end of the evening we will have a laser light show which is always a hit with the kids.
Bands will be on the East Mall and will include Hello Weekend on July 1, Trippin Billies on July 2, ARRA on July 8, Boy Band Review on July 9, Sixteen Candles on July 15, American English on July 16, 7th Heaven on July 22, Hillbilly Rockstarz on July 23, Southern Accents on July 29, and House Party on July 30.
Limited capacity and reservations required. Tickets are $15 for adults and $13 for children ages 3-11 and seniors 65 and older. Zoo members pay $10 and $8. Tickets can be purchased online.
Beer and beasts are the stars of the annual ZooBrew on August 27. Guests 21 and older can sample dozens of beers, lagers, stouts, porters, and seltzers while admiring wildlife and nature.
“It’s a fun time. We usually have over 80 beer samples…and our animal ambassadors come out so you can get up close and personal with all kinds of species,” she said.
Several tasting sessions and ticket options, including for designated drivers, are available. All tickets include free parking and entry to the zoo.
Events like these are important to the community because they help bring visitors back to the zoo and experience nature and animals in a different light, she said.
“The zoo is a great place for all ages,” she said. “If events aren’t your thing, there’s definitely something for everyone here.”
The Brookfield Zoo 5K Run is 9/11 inside the park with a one-mile Kids’ Dash.
The zoo gets spooky with the annual Boo! during the Zoo’s event weekends in October with decorations, photo ops, a corn maze and a treat for the little monsters.
The Reindeer Run returns November 19 with a two-mile family fun run that takes place inside the zoo at night.
“If you want to take a look at these Holiday Magic lights, this is the way to do it,” she said. “You can run right under the illuminated tunnel of light…and (see) all the beautiful trees decorated for Holiday Magic. We have the music playing and the synchronized tree to the north. Wear your light gear and get out there.
The zoo ends the year with Chicagoland’s longest-running holiday event, the 41st Annual Holiday Magic Nov. 25-27 and 30 and Dec. 1-4, 7-11, 14-18 and December 26 to 31.
From 3pm to 9pm, guests can visit the many animals at night while enjoying all the lights, trees and decorations.
Or: 3300 Golf Road (main entrance south gate), Brookfield
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. weekends; 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Memorial Day to Labor Day
Tickets: $24.95 for adults, $17.95 for children ages 3-11, and $19.95 for seniors 65 and older. Parking is $15
Information: 708-688-8000; czs.org
Annie Alleman is a freelance journalist for Pioneer Press.