This spring and summer, woolly mammoths and saber-tooth cats will greet visitors at the Brookfield Zoo.
The zoo’s newest exhibit, “Ice Age Giants,” runs through Oct. 30 and features creatures including the woolly mammoth, mastodon, saber-toothed cat, giant hyena, giant ground sloth and short-faced bear.
“We’re really excited to see people come back to the zoo and engage in Ice Age Giants,” said Andre Copeland, interpretive programs manager at Brookfield Zoo.
More than 35 life-size, animatronic re-creations of these long-since extinct animals are on display, complete with moving heads, eyes, mouths and tails. They can be found on the east side of the park (near the trail where the dinosaurs used to be) and also on the west end of the park by Swan Lake.
“Ice Age Giants was a chance for us to engage our guests in stories about animals that departed during the ice age that we are currently still in,” he said. “During this ice age, over 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 off thousands of years ago. Different extinction theories will be explored in the exhibit, he said. These theories will connect with animals currently being cared for at Brookfield Zoo, he added.
“This is a very nice way for people to come in, see animals that closely resemble and are closely related to animals that we have now, that had experienced some of the same challenges that animals that are living now are facing,” he said. “We know that the ice age giants didn’t make it; however, by taking a look at what they went through and making decisions now that better our environment, our species will have a better chance of survival.”
He’s heard from patrons that 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 bit more because of the species being so close to the species currently living at Brookfield Zoo,” he said. “And one thing that I was really pleased to hear was that people realty liked the signage. People are actually reading the signs and loving them.”
It doesn’t hurt that the displays contain a healthy number of “dad” jokes, he added.
There are plenty of photo ops for people too, he said. If you head to the west end of the zoo, toward the Living Coast Plaza, there’s a huge photo board that has four of the giants on it, he said.
“It’s a great way to take some cool selfies, take a family photo in front of it and create some memories.”
The zoo is excited to return 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 enjoy great bands from all different genres, whether you’re a county music lover or classic rock enthusiast,” she said. “We’ll have food trucks out and all different beverage items to choose from. And at the end of the evening, we’ll have a laser light show that’s always a hit with the kids.”
Bands will be on the East Mall and include Hello Weekend July 1, Trippin Billies July 2, ARRA July 8, Boy Band Review July 9, Sixteen Candles July 15, American English July 16, 7th Heaven July 22, Hillbilly Rockstarz July 23, Southern Accents July 29, and House Party July 30.
Limited capacity and reservations are required. Tickets are $15 for adults and $13 for children 3 to 11 and seniors 65 and over. Zoo members pay $10 and $8. Tickets can be purchased online.
Beer and beasts are the stars at the annual ZooBrew Aug. 27. Guests 21 and over can sample dozens of ales, lagers, stouts, porters and seltzers while taking in wildlife and nature.
“That’s a fun time. We have typically more than 80 samples of beers … and our animal ambassadors come out so you can get up close with all different kinds of species,” she said.
Several tasting sessions and ticket options, including for designated drivers, are available. All tickets include free parking and admission to the zoo.
Events like these are important to the community because it helps bring guests back to the zoo and experience nature and animals in a different light, she said.
“The zoo is a great place to come for all ages,” she said. “If events are not your thing, there’s definitely something for everyone here.”
The Brookfield Zoo 5K Run is Sept. 11 inside the park along with a one-mile Kids’ Dash.
The Zoo gets spooky with the annual Boo! at the Zoo event weekends in October with decorations, photo ops, a corn maze and a sweet treat for little monsters.
The Reindeer Run returns Nov. 19 with a family-friendly two-mile fun run taking place inside the zoo at night.
“If you want a sneak peek at those lights of Holiday Magic, this is the way to do it,” she said. “You get to run right under the illuminated tunnel of light … and (see) all the beautiful trees decorated for Holiday Magic. We’ve got the music playing and the synchronized tree up north. Wear your glow gear and come out.”
The zoo wraps up the year with Chicagoland’s longest-running holiday event, the 41st annual Holiday Magic Nov. 25-27 and Nov. 30 and Dec. 1-4, 7-11, 14-18 and 26-31.
From 3 to 9 p.m., guests can visit the many of the animals at night while enjoying all of the lights, trees and decorations.
Where: 3300 Golf Road (south gate main entrance), Brookfield
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. weekends; 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day
Tickets: $24.95 for adults, $17.95 for children 3-11 and $19.95 for seniors 65 and over. Parking is $15
Information: 708-688-8000; czs.org
Annie Alleman is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.