“When is the 39th Annual ‘Holiday Magic’ Festival at Brookfield Zoo?”

The thirty-ninth annual Holiday Magic festival, presented by ComEd and Meijer, will have ten more days (bringing it to a total of twenty-four nights) and expanded hours at the Brookfield Zoo in west suburban Brookfield, Illinois.  The Chicago Zoological Society (C.Z.S.), which operates the Brookfield Zoo on Forest Preserve District of Cook County property, plans to close the Brookfield Zoo throughout all of January and February of 2021 and re-open on Monday, March 1, A.D. 2021.

“Through these challenging times, the health and safety of our guests, volunteers, staff, and animals continues to be our top priority,” stated Stuart Strahl, President and Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of the C.Z.S.  “The past seven months have been incredibly challenging as we all continue to deal with the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, yet we continue to be reminded of the perseverance, understanding, and tremendous support of our staff, members, and guests.  We hope zoogoers take advantage of the additional Holiday Magic evenings this year, and we look forward to opening to the public again in March.”

During Holiday Magic, visitors will stroll along pathways illuminated by over 1,000,000 twinkling L.E.D. lights.  They can walk through a 600-foot-long tunnel featuring thousands of colored L.E.D. lights synchronized to music on Brookfield Zoo’s West Mall.  Other light displays include a twenty-foot-lit orb in which guests can stand; a forty-one-foot-tall Christmas tree; and larger-than-life illuminated animal sculptures, including a bison, bear, and giraffe. The Brookfield Zoo’s malls and Roosevelt Fountain are festively decorated thanks to local community groups and companies that decorated 660 Christmas trees with L.E.D. lights and ornaments.  Many of the Christmas tree ornaments are homemade.

For the first time this year, guests of all ages can play “Game of Gnomes.”[1]  This is a scavenger hunt in which one searches for twenty-four gnome sculptures that range in height from twelve-to-twenty inches tall. 

This year, Santa Claus will not be making an appearance at Brookfield Zoo, much to the disappointment of young visitors, but families will still be able to take photos next to a life-sized Santa Claus cutout.  In a press release, the C.Z.S. stated there will be “other festively themed selfie frames located around the zoo.”  Children will also be able to drop letter to Santa Claus in the giant box on the South Mall.

Outdoor food stands will offer funnel cakes, praline nuts, cinnamon sugar pretzels, popcorn, pizza, burgers, hot chocolate, spiced wine, and beer for sale.  Likewise, kiosks will sell merchandise.

The Brookfield Zoo is observing Phase 4 guidelines from the State of Illinois.  Please note the outdoor animal habitats will be open, but indoor animal habitats will be closed, because all buildings will be closed.  Washrooms will be open, though.  Motor Safari will not be running.  In addition to the washrooms, there will be hand sanitizer stations throughout the zoo grounds.  Parties are expected to practice social distancing of six feet from each other.  All guests over the age of two must wear masks or other face coverings when unable to practice social distancing.  Guest capacity for the zoo grounds will be limited.

To ensure social distancing, advance admission tickets and parking tickets are required.  Reservation times will be available in twenty-minute increments.  Tickets must be purchased or reserved via http://www.CZS.org/OnlineTicketing. All admission and parking tickets must be secured by both zoo members and guests prior to arriving.  Admission is $24.95 for adults, $17.95 for children (three-to-eleven), and $19.95 for senior citizens (sixty-five-and-over).  Parking is $15.  All tickets are non-refundable.  One can become familiar with the Brookfield Zoo’s current protocols by reading them at http://www.CZS.org/KnowBeforeYourGo.


Ticket TypeTicket Price
Adult Admission$24.95
Senior Citizen Admission (65+)$19.95
Children (3-11)$17.95

If one wants to reserve tickets for Holiday Magic, one must reserve general admission and parking on the following dates: the 27th through the 29th of November; the 2nd through the 6th of December; the 9th through the 13th of December; the 16th through the 20th of December; and the 26th through the 31st of December.


NovemberFriday, November 27, A.D. 2020  

Saturday, November 28, A.D. 2020  

Sunday, November 29, A.D. 2020
DecemberWednesday, December 2, A.D. 2020  

Thursday, December 3, A.D. 2020  

Friday, December 4, A.D. 2020  

Saturday, December 5, A.D. 2020  

Sunday, December 6, A.D. 2020 (Feast Day of St. Nicholas)

Wednesday, December 9, A.D. 2020  

Thursday, December 10, A.D. 2020  

Friday, December 11, 2020  

Saturday, December 12, A.D. 2020  

Sunday, December 13, A.D. 2020  

Wednesday, December 16, A.D. 2020  

Thursday, December 17, A.D. 2020  

Friday, December 18, A.D. 2020  

Saturday, December 19, A.D. 2020  

Sunday, December 20, A.D. 2020  

Saturday, December 26, A.D. 2020 (2nd Day of Christmas)  

Sunday, December 27, A.D. 2020 (3rd Day of Christmas)  

Monday, December 28, A.D. 2020 (4th Day of Christmas)  

Tuesday, December 29, A.D. 2020 (5th Day of Christmas)  

Wednesday, December 30, A.D. 2020 (6th Day of Christmas)  

Thursday, December 31, A.D. 2020 (7th Day of Christmas/New Year’s Eve)  
Figure 1 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: Guests will walk through a 600-foot-long tunnel featuring thousands of L.E.D. lights synchronized to music on Brookfield Zoo’s West Mall for Holiday Magic.

Figure 2 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: These are some of the twenty-four gnomes that guests can search for throughout the zoo grounds during Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo.

Figure 3 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: The Brookfield Zoo will be illuminated by over 1,000,000 lights for the 39th annual Holiday Magic in 2020.

Figure 4 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: The Brookfield Zoo’s lion sculptures are festively decorated for Holiday Magic.

Figure 5 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: Larger-than-life L.E.D. animal sculptures, including this red bison, light up the Brookfield Zoo during Holiday Magic.

Figure 6 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: The Brookfield Zoo will be illuminated by over 1,000,000 lights for the 39th annual Holiday Magic in 2020.

Figure 7 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: These are L.E.D. reindeer sculptures lighting up the Brookfield Zoo’s West Mall for the 37th annual Holiday Magic in 2017.

“The expanded schedule will allow zoogoers to enjoy the holiday lights before Brookfield Zoo temporarily closes to the public January 1-February 28, 2021, with plans to reopen to the public on March, within state restrictions,” the C.Z.S. stated in a press release.  “During Brookfield Zoo’s upcoming temporary closure, similar to the temporary closure that took place March 19 – June 30, essential animal care specialists and veterinary staff will continue providing the animals with the same high-level of care.”

Founded to realize the vision of Edith Rockefeller McCormick (1872-1932) for a cage-less zoo in Chicagoland, the Chicago Zoological Society operates the Brookfield Zoo on land that belongs to the Forest Preserves of Cook County (formerly the Forest Preserve District of Cook County).  Essentially, the C.Z.S. has the same kind of relationship with the Forest Preserves of Cook County that the Chicago Academy of Sciences,[2] the Chicago Historical Society,[3] The Field Museum of Natural History, the John G. Shedd Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, and the Lincoln Park Zoological Society have with the Chicago Park District.   Chicago Tribune editorial cartoonist John T. McCutcheon (1870-1949) served as the first President of the Chicago Zoological Society from 1921 to 1948.  Architect Edwin Clark (1878-1967), who also designed two homes for Mister and Mistress James Ward Thorne,[4] a library in a third home,[5] and the first twelve Thorne Miniature Rooms,[6] designed the original buildings for Brookfield Zooin the early 1920s and early ‘30s.[7]  The Brookfield Zoo is accredited by the Association of  Zoos & Aquariums (A.Z.A.), formerly the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums. It also belongs to the World Associations of Zoos & Aquariums.

The North Gate Main Entrance stands at the intersection of 31st Street, west of 1st Avenue and the Des Plaines River.  It is east of Salt Creek.  The address of the North Gate Main Entrance is 8400 31st Street, Brookfield, Illinois 60513.

The South Gate Main Entrance parking lot is adjacent to Riverside Brookfield High School.  The Regional Transportation Authority (R.T.A.) has two different public transit methods that service Brookfield Zoo at the South Gate Main Entrance.  It is a four-block-long walk north from the Hollywood Station on Metra’s B.N.S.F. Railway line, which connects Chicago to Aurora.  Consequently, in good weather, families will ride the train and get off at the Hollywood stop to walk to the zoo.  That train station is also labeled the “Zoo Stop.”  Walk north for two blocks along Hollywood Boulevard.  Then turn right to walk east for one block along Washington Avenue.  Next, turn left to walk along Golf Road.  Two Pace bus routes also have stops outside the South Gate Main Entrance: Route 304 and Route 331.  The address of the South Gate Main Entrance is 3300 Golf Road, Brookfield, Illinois 60513.

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[1] Whomever came up with the name of this game would probably feel better about it if the final season of the H.B.O. high fantasy series Game of Thrones (2011-2019) had not felt like the showrunners got bored, left the project, and farmed out the job of writing the final scripts to a pack of drunk monkeys.

[2] The Chicago Academy of Sciences operates the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park.

[3] The Chicago Historical Society operates the Chicago History Museum in Lincoln Park.

[4] Susen Taras, “Thorne, Narcissa Niblack.” Rima Lunin Scultz and Adele Hast, editors. Women Building Chicago 1790-1990: A Biographical Dictionary. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press (2001), p. 880

See also Sally Sexton Kalmbach, Mrs. Thorne’s World of Miniatures.  Chicago and New Orleans: Ampersand, Inc. (2014), pages 33, 42, 43, 114, and 115

[5] Kalmbach, p. 33

[6] Kalmbach, p. 47

[7] John T. McCutcheon, Drawn from Memory: The Autobiography of John T. McCutcheon.  Indianapolis and New York City: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. (1950), p. 423

See also Andrea Friederici Ross, Let the Lions Roar! The Evolution of Brookfield Zoo.  Chicago Zoological Society (1997), pages 18, 20-23, 25, 39, 95, 96, 98, and 228

See also Bruce Hatton Boyer, “Creating the Thorne Rooms.” In Miniature Rooms: The Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago. Susan F. Rossen, editor.  © The Art Institute of Chicago. New York, London, and Paris: Abbeville Press (1983), p. 19

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