Spend the day among more than 2,000 animals at this gigantic zoo. The highlights? First, there's the 7½-acre Great Bear Wilderness exhibit, a sprawling replica of North American woodlands for the zoo's population of grizzlies, polar bears, bison, Mexican gray wolves, and bald eagles. It's the largest exhibit built in the zoo's history. Be sure to watch the polar bears from the popular underwater viewing area. Monkeys, otters, birds, and other rain-forest fauna
cavort in the carefully constructed setting of rocks, trees, shrubs, pools, and waterfalls of Tropic World. At the Living Coast you can venture through passageways to see sharks, rays, and Humboldt penquins. Daily dolphin shows are a favorite even for adults. Harbor seals, grey seals, and sea lions inhabit a rocky seascape exhibit. Don't worry if you don't want to trek around the grounds—you can hop aboard a motorized safari tram ($4) in warm weather or the heated Snowball Express tram in the cold. During the winter holiday season, the evening Holiday Magic shows are a treat.
The two best educational exhibits are Habitat Africa and The Swamp. In Habitat Africa you can explore two very different environments. See such tiny animals as klipspringer antelope, which are only 22 inches tall, in the savanna exhibit, which also has a water hole, rock formations characteristic of the African savanna, and termite mounds. If you look closely in the dense forest exhibit, you might be able to find animals like the okapi. The Swamp is about as realistic as you would want an exhibit on swamps to be, with a springy floor and open habitats with low-flying birds vividly demonstrating the complex ecosystems of both Southern and Illinois wetlands. For hands-on family activities, check out the Hamill Family Play Zoo ($3.50), where kids can learn to care for nature by playing zookeeper, gardener, or veterinarian.
1st Ave. and 31st St., Brookfield, Illinois, 60513, USA