“The 38th Annual Holiday Magic Light Festival at Brookfield Zoo,” by S.M. O’Connor

      The thirty-eighth annual Holiday Magic light festival at Brookfield Zoo, presented by ComEd and Meijer, features over 1,000,000 L.E.D. (light-emitting diode) lights illuminating the zoo grounds in west suburban Brookfield, Illinois, and will be over the Advent weekends of November 30th and December 1st, December 7th and 8th, December 14th and 15th, and December 21st and 22nd, as well as during Christmastime from the 26th through the 31st of December.  The Chicago Zoological Association (C.Z.S.) describes Holiday Magic in a press release as the “longest-running lights festival in the Chicagoland area.”  During the Holiday Magic light festival, the Brookfield Zoo will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.  Guests can arrive early to enjoy the whole zoo and stay late for the festivities that begin daily at 4:00 p.m.

      For the first time, this year, zoo visitors can stroll through a 600-foot-long tunnel that features thousands of colorful L.E.D. lights synchronized to music and a light display of hexagon-shaped trees, mirror balls, and “dancing” Christmas trees (billed as “holiday trees”) on the West Mall.  The forty-one-foot-tall Talking Tree and twenty-foot lit orb where guests can stand to take commemorative photographs will be returning.  Larger-than-life L.E.D. animal sculptures of a bison, bear, giraffe, and reindeer will adorn the North Mall, South Mall, and East Mall.  A “holiday light show” will be projected on the façade of The Swamp building.  Searchlights will illuminate the sky around Roosevelt Fountain, which will be encircled by sixty “decorated themed corporate trees.”  Almost 600 Christmas trees decorated by community groups line the mall walkways.

Figure 1 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: A life-size giraffe statue greets guests near Brookfield Zoo’s south entrance during its annual Holiday Magic festival.

Figure 2 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: More than 1,000,000 L.E.D. lights illuminate Brookfield Zoo for its 38th annual Holiday Magic festival.

Figure 3 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: During Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic, wee tots pose for a photo atop one of the lion statues at the Brookfield Zoo’s South Gate.

Figure 4 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: A life-size bison statue greets guests at the South Gate entrance to Brookfield Zoo during its annual Holiday Magic.

Figure 5 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: At Brookfield Zoo’s 38th annual Holiday Magic light festival , guests can walk through a nearly 20-foot-tall lit orb, which can make for memorable photo opportunities.

Figure 6 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: A 41’ Talking Tree near the North Gate entrance greets guests to Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic.

Figure 7 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: Guests can take a spin on the skating rink at Brookfield Zoo during its annual Holiday Magic light festival.

Figure 8 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: A zookeeper gives a Zoo Chat about a reindeer to guests during Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic.

Figure 9 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: A special early countdown to the New Year is celebrated by families at Brookfield Zoo’s Zoo Year’s Eve celebration on December 31st.

Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: For Holiday Magic, over 1,000,000 L.E.D. lights illuminate the grounds of Brookfield Zoo.


Holiday Magic Weekends Dates
1st Weekend of Advent Saturday, December 30, 2019
Sunday, December 1, 2019  
2nd Weekend of Advent Saturday, December 7, 2019
Sunday, December 8, 2019  
3rd Weekend of Advent Saturday, December 14, 2019
Sunday, December 15, 2019  
4th Weekend of Advent Saturday, December 21, 2019
Sunday, December 22, 2019  
2nd through 7th Days of Christmas Thursday, December 26, 2019
Friday, December 27, 2019
Saturday, December 28, 2019
Sunday, December 29, 2019
Monday, December 30, 2019
Tuesday, December 31, 2019  

      Evening activities will include demonstrations by professional ice carvers, visits with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus through December 22nd (because after that they’ll be busy), live musical and dance performances in the Holly Jolly Theater, and magic shows.  Guests can view Santa’s Toy Shop model railroad display in the Riverside Room.  At the BZ Red Hots restaurant, for an extra fee, one will be able to decorate cupcakes.  

      Guests can bring their own ice skates to the Chicago Wolves Skating Rink on the East Mall or rent ice skates there.  Skates, the Chicago Wolves mascot, will make a special appearance at the rink on Sunday, December 1, 2019 from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.  In the same vein, children can meet and have their pictures taken with the (costumed character) Nature Cat, the hero of Nature Cat, the popular P.B.S. Kids cartoon series (which airs locally on W.T.T.W.), at the Hamill Family Play Zoo on Saturday, December 7, 2019.

      Habitats open during Holiday Magic include Australia House, Big Cats, Desert’s Edge, Feathers & Scales, Great Bear Wilderness, Hamill Family Play Zoo, Hamill Family Wild Encounters, the Pachyderm Building, Regenstein Wolf Woods, Reptiles & Birds, Seven Seas Underwater Viewing Gallery, Clouded Leopard Rain Forest, The Living Coast, The Swamp, and Tropic World.  [Please note that the parakeet aviary in Hamill Family Wild Encounters will be closed.]  Several animal Zoo Chats will take place throughout each evening, and a “Dolphins in Action” presentation can be seen nightly at 6:00 p.m.  Further, restaurants and gift shops will be open.

      On the final evening of Holiday Magic, Tuesday, December 31, 2019 (New Year’s Eve), families can ring in 2020 at the Zoo Year’s Eve celebration, which will feature a family-friendly early countdown at 8:00 p.m.  A D.J. will set the tone of the party with games, party favors, and prizes in the Holly Jolly Theater.  An even earlier countdown will start at 7:30 p.m. inside the Hamill Family Play Zoo, where children will be able to make festive noisemakers.  This child-friendly countdown is for families with children ages six-and-under.

      For Holiday Magic, visitors should use the North Gate parking lot on 31st Street.  Regular admission is $21.95 for adults and $15.95 for children ages three-to-eleven and senior citizens sixty-five-and-over.  Children two and under – so infants and toddlers – are free.  The activities are free with paid admission (with the exception of in-park paid attractions, photo opportunities, and cupcake-decorating).  There is a $14 fee to park a car costs and $20 to park a bus.  Discounted tickets may be purchased at any of the Meijer locations in Chicagoland (within Illinois).  Groups of twenty or more may purchase discounted tickets by going to www.CZS.org/GroupSales or calling (708) 688-8431.  For more information, and a complete schedule of Holiday Magic activities and entertainment, visit www.CZS.org/HolidayMagic or call (708) 688-8000.

      The Chicago Zoological Society is a private, non-profit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.  Founded in 1920 and chartered in 1921, the Chicago Zoological Society (C.Z.S.) brought to life the vision of Edith Rockefeller McCormick (1872-1932) to give Chicago a zoo without bars modeled on the Tierpark Hagenbeck, known in English as the Hagenbeck Animal Park, a privately-owned zoo in Hamburg founded in 1907 by Carl Hagenback, Jr. (1844-1913).  The Brookfield Zoo opened in 1934, during the second year of Chicago’s second World’s Fair, A Century of Progress International Exposition (1933-34). 

      The C.Z.S. is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. The Brookfield Zoo met the American Humane Association’s rigorous standards for the care and welfare of animals to become the world’s first zoo to receive Humane Certified™ certification.

      The Brookfield Zoo is open every day of the year.  It is located between the Stevenson Expressway (I-55) and Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) and is also accessible via the TriState Tollway (I-294).  The North Gate Main Entrance address is 8400 West 31st Street, Brookfield, Illinois 60513.  The South Gate Main Entrance address is 3300 Golf Road, Brookfield, Illinois 60513.  A train station, the Hollywood (Zoo Stop) on Metra’s B.N.S.F. line, is a few blocks to the south of the South Gate entrance.  The phone number is (708) 688-8000.  The Website is www.czs.org/Brookfield-ZOO/Home.

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