Chicago’s aquarium and zoos – three of the jewels in the city’s crown of cultural institutions – re-opened in the past few weeks after being closed for nearly four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Lincoln Park Zoo on the North Side of Chicago re-opened at the beginning of the month. The Brookfield Zoo in west suburban Brookfield, Illinois re-opened to Members on Wednesday, July 1, A.D. 2020 and to the public on Wednesday, July 8, A.D. 2020. The John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago re-opened to the public Friday, July 3, A.D. 2020. All three of these institutions are accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (A.Z.A.). They closed due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic-induced statewide lockdown in March. The Lincoln Park Zoo closed on March 3rd, the Brookfield Zoo closed indoor spaces on March 14th and the grounds on March 19th, and the Shedd Aquarium closed in mid-March. All three institutions have undergone thorough cleaning and limited the number of daily visitors; require staff and visitors to wear masks and practice social distancing; and have taken other precautions to protect the health of visitors, staff, and volunteers.
The Lincoln Park Zoo, located in the Chicago Park District’s Lincoln Park, continues to be free, but visitors must place reservations in advance online through Eventbrite or over the phone. Click here to reserve tickets via Eventbrite or call (312) 742-2000. Choose a one hour time slot and specify whether one’s party will enter through the East gate to the West Gate. Parking in the Lincoln Park Zoo parking lot at Canon Drive and Fullerton Parkway costs $20-$40, depending on the length of one’s stay.
Free general admission tickets are released every Monday and Thursday at 4:00 p.m. (Central Daylight Saving Time) for the neck block of three-to-four days. If one’s preferred date is booked up, one will either have to check back or become a Zoo Member to access additional reservations that are accessible exclusively to Members (and get other perks such as free parking).
A party must arrive within the hour reserved, but the party can arrive at any time within that hour. For example, if one has a reservation time of 11:00 a.m., one’s party will be able to enter any time between 11:00 a.m. and noon, but if the party arrives after that hour, they may not be admitted.
Every individual in one’s party must be counted when making reservations, including toddlers and infants being carried. There is a maximum of ten people per party.
The person who makes the reservation for the party will receive an e-mail with the reservation as a pdf attachment. Download the attachment. The e-mail will explain at the top that the Lincoln Park Zoo is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., but the time one has reserved to enter the zoo will be on the pdf. Open it and confirm the reservation.
If one needs to change or cancel a reservation, click on the links provided in the e-mail. On Eventbrite, the Lincoln Park Zoo stated, “Reservations are non-transferrable due to the potential need for contact tracing.”
All visitors over the age of two must wear face coverings (unless medically unable to do so), and practice social distancing of six feet between other parties at all times. [In other words, a party that consists of you, your spouse, your Aunt Edna, your seventeen-year-old son, his girlfriend, your twelve-year-old daughter, and the ten-year-old twins does not have to practice social distancing within your party, but your party must stay six feet apart from any other party.] It is especially important to wear face coverings near popular animal habitats, food kiosks, merchandise kiosks, and in or near washrooms.
Upon entry, the person who received the reservation e-mail should show his or her smartphone to an employee in a box office who will scan the phone. Have the brightness level at its highest setting to make it easier to scan.
There are hand sanitizer stations at the East Gate and West Gate. Further, visitors may use the washrooms located in the Regenstein Macaque Forest and the East Gate.
There are signs reminding visitors to practice social distancing standing throughout the zoo. In addition, there are signs painted on the pavement. In a video, the Lincoln Park Zoo stated, “To promote social distancing, there is a one-way route throughout the zoo… The overall shape of the path that you will be following is similar to a figure 8 with the Main Mall in the middle and a loop on either side.”
One can rent strollers and electric conveyance vehicles (E.C.V.s) at the Searle Visitor Center, where complimentary wheelchairs are also available. These strollers, E.C.V.s, and wheelchairs are sanitized between each use. One may also visit the Searle Visitor Center to receive first aid or to inquire about accessibility information.
Buildings and indoor habitats, such as the McCormick Bird House and Helen Brock Primate House, are closed but animals may be viewed in their outdoor habitats. Chats and programs are suspended. Lionel Train Adventure and the AT&T Endangered Species Carousel are not in operation.
Paper maps are not being distributed. One can download the Welcome Guide on one’s smartphone and view the digital map.
Visitors may purchase food, beverages, and merchandise at kiosks and concessions near the Main Mall. In a video, the Lincoln Park Zoo stated, “For your safety, as well as the safety of our staff, These kiosks offer minimum contact transactions.” The Patio Café Brauer is open for outdoor dining and for takeout. Parke Place Café is open for takeout. Meals can be ordered using Tock: ExploreTock.com/CafeBrauer or ExploreTock.com/ParkPlaceCafe.
Credit: Lincoln Park Zoo Caption: This video is a helpful introduction to what it is like now to visit the Lincoln Park Zoo.
Visit https://www.lpzoo.org/visit/reopening-info/ to make reservations or to find answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the re-opening. a non-profit organization, the Lincoln Park Zoological Society, manages the Lincoln Park Zoo. More than 85% of the Lincoln Park Zoo’s capital and operating costs are covered by contributions from visitors, members, and donors. Click here to donate to the Lincoln Park Zoo.
It is both one of the last free zoos in America and one of the largest free zoos in America. The Lincoln Park Zoo traces its origins to the donation of swans by Central Park in New York City in 1868, so the L.P.Z. celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2018. Normally, it is open every day of the year.
Approximately 200 animal species are represented at the zoo. The address is 2001 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois 60614. The phone number is (312) 742-2000.
“Brookfield Zoo has been closed for nearly four months and we are eagerly looking forward to welcoming guests back to reconnect with animals and nature,” stated Stuart Strahl, President and Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of the Chicago Zoological Society (C.Z.S.). “We have been following guidelines set forth by local, state, and federal government and health agencies to ensure the well-being of our zoo guests, staff, volunteers, and the animals.”
All visitors to the Brookfield Zoo, including Members, must purchase timed-entry tickets in advance. No tickets are being sold on-site. Zoo Admission tickets are being sold in twenty-minute increments. For example, the first Zoo Admission for the day is 9:30 a.m. and the second is 9:50 a.m. There is a limit on the number of people who may purchase Zoo Admission tickets within a time frame such as 9:30. By limiting the visitor capacity for the 216-acre zoological park, the C.Z.S. can ensure there are not so many people on the zoo grounds at any given time that they are unable to practice social distancing. There are paw-shaped signs painted on the pavement to remind visitors to practice social distancing of six feet.
One needs to reserve parking online prior to one’s visit. Indicate whether one plans to park at the Main Gate (North Gate) parking lot or the South Gate parking lot. All tickets are non-refundable. No rainchecks will be made.
|Senior Citizens (65+)||$19.95|
Staff members and volunteers have their temperatures checked before they begin work shifts. They have received safety and sanitation training, and they are wearing face coverings, regularly wash their hands, and practice social distancing of six feet. Further, employees are spraying down washrooms, benches, and other high-contact surfaces with hospital-grade disinfectants on a set schedule.
All guests ages two-and-over must wear face coverings when entering the zoo grounds and whenever they are unable to practice social distancing from other guests and staff or volunteers. This includes when a party of guests is making a food or merchandise purchase. Hand sanitizer stations have been installed throughout the zoo grounds.
Actual paper maps of the zoo ground are not being distributed at the Main Gate and South Gate. Instead, parents (and other adults) may download the map from the Chicago Zoological Society’s Website or take a high-resolution picture of the maps posted at the entrances and refer back to the pictures as they explore the zoo grounds.
In addition to being able to see animals in their outdoor habitats, including the newly arrived African lion brothers Brutus and Titus, one can also see the temporary exhibit Dinosaurs Everywhere!, which features over forty life-sized animatronic dinosaurs. Zoo Admission tickets cover Dinosaurs Everywhere! Developed by Jurassic Park advisor Don Lessum, the temporary exhibit Dinosaurs Everywhere! (or Dinos Everywhere) is on loan from Dino Don, Inc. and The Wildlife Conservation Society.
Seasonal food carts, food stands, and souvenir stands will be in operation. To limit person-to-person contact, visitors must use credit or debit cards to purchase food, beverages, and merchandise.
However, be prepared for indoor spaces and attractions to be closed. The exhibits Seven Seas (home to the “Dolphins in Action” show) and Tropic World are closed, as is the seasonal Butterflies exhibit. The same is true of the Hamill Family Play Zoo. The Carousel and the playground are closed. These restaurants are closed: BZ Red Hots, Café del Sol, Cup & Cone, Peacock Café & Grill, and Wild Burger. The Motor Safari tram is not running.
The C.Z.S. went three-and-a-half months without earning income from admission tickets, gift shops, or restaurants or renting out facilities for private events. To donate funds to help defray the cost of caring for the over 2,000 animals in the Chicago Zoological Society’s care, go to www.CZS.org/Donate.
Early last month, the Brookfield Zoo announced layoffs. On Friday, June 5, A.D. 2020, the C.Z.S. stated, “The extended and state-mandated temporary closure of Brookfield Zoo driven by COVID-19 health concerns has caused the Chicago Zoological Society to reduce and restructure its operations, programs, and staff. As a result, the Society will, unfortunately, eliminate 56 full-time equivalents effective Saturday, June 6, 2020. These permanent position elimination decisions, comprised of both filled and unfilled positions, were made after thoughtful management review. All decisions were rooted in concern for the long-term sustainability of the organization at a time when the Chicago Zoological Society is facing unprecedented and unanticipated pressures. These pressures resulted in difficult decisions to scale back operations to better align with state re-opening guidance. Many organizations, like ours, look forward to welcoming back our guests in a slow, yet progressive manner. This will result in fewer visitors due to social distancing requirements until we are able to operate without restrictions at full capacity. We value the commitment and hard work of every one of our talented employees. However, like so many employers across the nation who depend on customers, these difficult decisions were necessary. We continue to assure the continued care and welfare of the animals in our care, as well as the of safety of our guests, staff, volunteers, and members. Union employees who have been laid off will remain on a call list for one year in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement.”
The C.Z.S. added, “The proper care and well-being of all the animals at Brookfield Zoo continues to be of paramount importance for management, animal care staff, veterinarians, nutritionists, and all those who care deeply about them. We all look forward to the zoo’s re-opening to the public once government restrictions are lifted and welcoming guests and members back to Brookfield Zoo.”
Credit: Brookfield Zoo Caption: This video conveys helpful information about visiting the Brookfield Zoo after it re-opens.
The C.Z.S. 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 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 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. Under normal circumstances, the Brookfield Zoo is open every day of the year. It is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
The Brookfield Zoo 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. Check www.CZS.org/KnowBeforeYouGo for status updates.
In a press release, dated Wednesday, June 24, A.D. 2020, the Shedd Aquarium stated, “Shedd Aquarium, in accordance with citywide and safety guidance, is ready to seamlessly, joyfully and safely reopen its doors to the public following 16 weeks of closure due to COVID-19.” It opened to Shedd Aquarium Members on Wednesday, July 1, A.D. 2020 and to the public on July 3rd. “New, stringent operational protocols and requirements have been implemented to ensure maximum safety and health of all staff and guests.”
“After closing our doors for nearly four months to do our part in supporting public health, we are elated at the opportunity to welcome people back to Shedd Aquarium to look nature in the eye and in person at the aquarium,” stated Bridget Coughlin, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of the Shedd Aquarium. “These last few months have challenged and fundamentally changes us all. Just as people across Chicago and the world relied on online and digital experiences with animals like the rockhopper penguin, Wellington, for comfort, we know seeing animals in person is irreplaceable. We are eager to welcome the communities that supported us and our reopening. Experiencing our Mission alongside all of Chicago fuels us and has never been more important than it is now.”
Credit: Sam Cetjin/Shedd Aquarium Caption: Videos with Shedd Aquarium penguins waddling around exhibit galleries during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown proved popular around the world. As a sign that it is reopening, the Shedd Aquarium released this video of the penguins outdoors with Chicago’s spectacular cityscape in the background before they re-enter the Shedd Aquarium.
The Shedd Aquarium stated it “has developed a phased approach to reopening that includes new protocols such as highly limited admission capacity, safe social distancing and increased air infiltration, cleaning and sanitation measures throughout the 276,000 square feet of public space at the aquarium.” Visitors over the age of two must wear masks (or other face coverings). Entrances and exits are separate.
There is limited hourly building capacity. Once someone has exited, the Shedd Aquarium will not be able to re-admit him or her, so one should be certain one is ready to leave before stepping out the door.
The Shedd Aquarium is maintaining timed-admission to establish an even flow of visitors throughout each day. If one wants to purchase tickets online in advance, one must choose an entry time. Click here to purchase tickets online or call (312) 939-2438 to purchase them over the phone. [A visitor who has a fever, cough, or shortness of breath or has come into recent contact with someone who had those symptoms should e-mail email@example.com or call (312) 939-2438 to reschedule a visit.] One can purchase tickets on-site at the box-office, but one should be prepared when one lines up to purchase tickets to practice social distancing of six feet in the que. Social distancing is also being maintained in every gallery and for every program. There are plexiglass shields at the box-office and all other counters.
Visitors should be prepared to use credit or debit cards if they need to purchase tickets (or anything else) on-site. The Shedd Aquarium stated, “Cash sales will be limited to reduce close contact between staff and guests.”
Shedd Aquarium Ticket Prices
|General Admission||Chicago Residents||Shedd Members|
Now that it is re-opening, the Shedd Aquarium has been able to call back to work 120 staff members it had furloughed. The janitorial or custodial workforce has been augmented by sanitation and atomizing experts who employ specialized equipment.
Staff members undergo wellness checks before they begin their work shifts. Visitors (over the age of two), as well as staff, must wear face coverings.
Visitors should observe one-way traffic signs in most public areas to provide sufficient space for social distancing. There are markers along both the walls and floors. The Shedd Aquarium has installed physical barriers in places where social distancing is not practical. There are circulation pathways to encourage one-way directional foot traffic flow. Click here to see a new map that shows how traffic flows now.
There is reduced contact with high-touch surfaces like interactive screens. Fish ID screens are automatically scrolling so visitors do not need to touch them for them to convey information.
Handrails, elevator buttons, and other high-touch surfaces are being thoroughly cleaned. Visitors will see a new work group called the “Sanitation Squad” wiping down surfaces including “railings, reading rails, elevator interiors, seating areas, exhibits, counter tops, interactive screens, etc.”
“All touch points and hard surfaces throughout the aquarium are disinfected, not just the frequently touched surfaces,” the Shedd Aquarium stated. “The disinfectants we use are on the EPA N list of approved disinfectants for use against SARS-Co-V-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and are in widespread use by the healthcare industry.” Click here to read the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) N list.
Washrooms are undergoing disinfectant spraying multiple times per day. This is a common practice in hospitals and passenger planes. This is addition to thorough cleaning. Consequently, the washrooms will be closed periodically throughout the day. All of the disinfectants and sanitation products used on site are certified safe for humans and the animals at the Shedd Aquarium by the E.P.A. and the Shedd Aquarium’s staff chemist.
A specialized janitorial team undertakes “deep cleaning” of the Shedd Aquarium overnight. Members of this team wear personal protective equipment (P.P.E.). They use electrostatic sprayers, misters, and vacuum equipment with high-efficiency particulate arresting (H.E.P.A.) filters.
In regard to building ventilating and air flow, the Shedd Aquarium is operating under the ASHRAE COVID-19 Building Readiness/Reopening Guidance issued by the A.S.H.R.A.E. (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) on Thursday, May 7, 2020. To this end, all air handlers are running twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Each day, two hours before the building opens to the public and two hours after it closes, the staff flushes the air in the building. This involves operating the exhaust fans as well as opening the outside air dampeners to 100%.
“We have increased our pre-filter change out schedule and changed our final filters to MERV 14,” the Shedd Aquarium stated. “The interiors of our air handlers and air conditioning coils have been disinfected prior to our reopening and will be a part of scheduled preventive maintenance of the aquarium.”
Visitors will find that there are additional handwashing and sanitation stations. Hand sanitizer is available for staff and visitors.
The Shedd Aquarium has temporarily closed the 4-D Experience Theater and suspended Aquatic Presentations. Click here for answers to Reopening Frequently Asked Questions.
Stingray Touch is open, weather permitting. Visitors can touch the stingrays, but first they must wash their hands for at least twenty seconds. They should also wash their hands afterwards. [That is good advice whenever one touches animals under any conditions.] One can view, but not touch, the animals at Sea Star Touch and Sturgeon Touch.
Water fountains have been turned off. Visitors may purchase water or avail themselves of a water-refilling station.
Please note that wheelchairs, assistive listening devices, and noise-cancelling headphones are available on a first-come, first-served basis. They will be sanitized after each use. Click here for details on what the Shedd Aquarium calls its “accessibility offerings.”
At the Shedd Aquarium’s restaurants, they “have reduced the number of tables and optimized outdoor seating options to allow for adequate spacing” in accordance with directives from the City of Chicago (meaning the municipal government). In these restaurants, visitors should wait until they are seated with food before they remove their masks.
The Shedd Aquarium stated it “has received phased 4 business certification approval from ‘Be Safe. Chicago.’ This self-certification means we’ve reviewed and understanding the city’s business operational standards for each phase of reopening, submitted our business plan to ensure we are operationally compliant with the city’s standards and confirmed our willingness and ability to comply and commit to the ‘Be Safe. Chicago’ guidelines during reopening.”
Credit: Sam Cetjin/Shedd Aquarium Caption: Videos with Shedd Aquarium penguins waddling around exhibit galleries during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown proved popular around the world. Here, we see them going on a visit to a much larger sister institution, The Field Museum of Natural History, which is also located on the Museum Campus, and they pay a call upon SUE the Tyrannosaurus Rex. At least theoretically, SUE would have been a distant relative of their ancestors. The Field Museum opened to Members on Friday, July 17, A.D. 2020 and will re-open to the public on Friday, July 24, A.D. 2020.
In addition to being able to visit the Shedd Aquarium in person, one can also connect to it through its new virtual Summer Splash Camp through Friday, July 31, A.D. 2020 and on the Chicago River via the Kayak for Conservation program all summerlong, which is being relaunched with a limited-time pay-what-you-can registration fee. Beyond purchasing a ticket to visit the Shedd Aquarium, one can help fund its operations by donating to It’s Time online fundraising campaign, becoming a Shedd Aquarium Member, symbolically “adopting” an animal, or by making a one-time donation.
The Shedd Aquarium expressed gratitude to “leading sponsors Brian Kenney and Kristin Longley/GATX, Northern Trust, Anna and Bob Livingston, and the Reed Family Foundation for their generous support of Shedd Aquarium’s mission and efforts to reopen.” In addition, the Shedd Aquarium wanted to “recognize and thank donors that also significantly contributed to our reopening: The Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Byron Smith, AbbVie, Rick and Dixie Erwin, Katie and Brent Gledhill, Paul and Amy Carbone, Paula and David Epstein, Ty and Anne Fahner, Kathryn and John Gilbertson, Anders and Donna Gustafsson, Jerry and Jayne Krulewitch, Harvey L. Miller Supporting Foundation, ITW, JPMorgan Chase, Tom and Alissa King/KeyBanc, Chris and Nikki Klingenstein, David and Lesly Koo, Peoples Gas Community Fund, PFK Family Foundation, Walder Foundation, Jane Warner and John Hegener, and William Blair & Company.” I will point out Mr. Kenney is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Shedd Aquarium.
As with The Field Museum, the source of the money to establish the Shedd Aquarium came from Marshall Field & Company, which at the time was a wholesaler as well as a department store. The founder and eponym was John Graves Shedd (1850-1926), one of Marshall Field I’s protégés. He was President of Marshall Field & Company from 1906 to 1923 and served as the first Chairman of the Board of Marshall Field & Company from 1923 to 1926. The 90,000-gallon Caribbean Reef is home to 500 tropical Caribbean reef sea creatures. These include sharks, a moray eel, and a green sea turtle. The 750,000-gallon Wild Reef is housed in a $45,000,000 subterranean structure. It simulates a Philippine coral reef and is home to 540 species of sea creatures. The 3,000,000-gallon Abbott Oceanarium simulates the environment of the Pacific Northwest. It is home to beluga whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, sea otters from California and Alaska, and sea lions from California.
The Shedd Aquarium is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is located on the Museum Campus in the Chicago Park District’s Burnham Park, across from Grant Park in downtownChicago. The address is 1200 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago Illinois 60605. The Website is https://www.sheddaquarium.org/. The phone number is (312) 939-2438.
 Active-duty military service personnel, reservists, veterans, and retired military personnel receive free admission to the Brookfield Zoo, but this does not extend to their families, and one must still pay for parking. On the Website, follow directions for a complimentary admission pass with a barcode. Be prepared to show one’s military identification card at the admission booth.
 American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (A.S.H.R.A.E.) came into existence through the merger of two organizations in 1959. These were the American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (A.S.H.A.E.), founded in 1894, and The American Society of Refrigerating Engineers, founded in 1904.
 M.E.R.V. stands for minimum efficiency reporting value. The efficacy of an air filter is measured on the M.E.R.V. scale. An filter with a rating of 13 or higher is considered a H.E.P.A. filter.
 In this case, the “c” in city should have been capitalized. This is the distinction between the city of Chicago as a place and the City of Chicago as a body politic.
 Shedd was also Chairman of the Board of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway, Director of the Illinois Central Railroad, and one of the forty-nine Governing Members and Trustee of the Chicago Zoological Society.