Friday, May 23, 2008

Brookfield Zoo: $12 for Four People

We live pretty close to the Brookfield Zoo, and we will probably buy the $100-a-year family membership when the baby is older. But for now, the baby is free, our visits are too short to take advantage of all the extras that go beyond general admission, like the dolphin show, play zoo and children's zoo. So we base our visits around free days, free passes and free parking.

Yesterday the whole family visited together to celebrate Nutmeg's "graduation" from preschool. Here's how we did it:

  • Parked for free on a neighborhood street near the south entrance of the zoo. You have to read the signs around there, because near the Metra station there is only 2 hour parking, and then the blocks closest to the zoo require a parking pass 24 hours. But just in between, there are streets that say, "permit parking only 8 a.m. to 10 a.m." or something like that. Then you walk about three blocks to the zoo.
  • Brought two free "adult or child" passes we received in the mail. Anytime you see a mailer from the Brookfield Zoo, encouraging you to buy a membership, check inside for a free pass. It's usually right on the page, and you have to cut it out.
  • Paid $7 for a child admission for Nutmeg
  • Of course, packed a lunch complete with snacks and drinks. This is the kind of occasion for which I bring out those fruit roll-ups and granola bars I've been trying to hide from the family (because if I don't they will sit there and eat them in the house, despite the fact that they are obviously packaged for eating on the go).
  • So, we managed to avoid impulse shakedowns for ice cream, drinks, Mold-o-Rama gorillas and beer. However, we did buy two tickets for the carousel, which I feel is money well spent. Nutmeg used to get to ride carousels all the time when we lived in San Francisco, and at nearly 1 and a half, Pebbles was seriously missing out on this. She shook her head violently at first, but then totally got into it.
Free days at the zoo only happen in the fall and winter, but when they do, you can go into the play zoo and children's zoo for free as well. The play zoo is an indoor area with lots of activities and small animals in cages, so that's a great winter activity.

For the rest of the summer, if we go again we will make use of the Oak Park Public Library's free pass, which we just found out about. Also, if you live in Chicago the public library there has Brookfield Zoo passes as well.