Holiday Magic festivities light up Brookfield Zoo for a 37th year

Brookfield Zoo is all decked out for the holidays with more than one million LED lights. Guests can enjoy the lights as well as a variety of live entertainment and activities during the zoo’s annual Holiday Magic, which takes place on Dec. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, and 26-31, from 4-9 p.m. (Photo contributed)

BROOKFIELD – Chicagoland’s largest and longest-running lights festival returns to Brookfield Zoo this December with more than one million LED lights that will get zoogoers of all ages in the holiday spirit. The zoo’s 37th annual Holiday Magic takes place on Saturdays and Sundays, Dec. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, and 22-23, as well as Wednesday through Monday, Dec. 26-31. The zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day of the event. Come early to enjoy the entire zoo and stay later for the festivities that begin at 4 p.m.

Brookfield Zoo will be glowing with various light displays throughout the park including a 41-foot-tall Talking Tree and larger-than-life animal figures of a giraffe, bison, and bear. Guests can also walk through a 20-foot-tall lit orb – making for memorable photo opportunities, and possibly for some, a romantic engagement proposal. Searchlights will illuminate the sky around Roosevelt Fountain and the West Mall. On the East Mall, you can find gigantic reindeer created from telephone poles surrounded by lit spheres. On the opposite mall, guests can view starburst light displays hexagon-shaped trees, and mirror balls that “dance” to music. Finally, nearly 600 trees decorated with ornaments by Chicagoland communities and corporations line the walkways along the zoo’s malls and around the fountain adding to the ambience.

Each night will feature a combination of music and live entertainment at the Holly Jolly Theater. There will also be professional ice carving demonstrations, magic shows, costumed characters, a model train display, and an animated video accompanied to holiday tunes that will illuminate the front of The Swamp. There will be Zoo Chats each night of Holiday Magic, during which guests can learn fun facts and information about the animals at Brookfield Zoo. Zoogoers also can attend a special 6 p.m. Dolphins in Action presentation, and many other buildings will be open to see animal favorites, including Tropic World, The Living Coast, Big Cats, Birds and Reptiles, Feathers and Scales, Hamill Family Play Zoo, and Great Bear Wilderness.

In addition, Brookfield Zoo’s newest attraction—the Chicago Wolves Skating Rink—will be open each night of Holiday Magic. Guests can bring their own skates or rent a pair for $5 at the zoo and take a whirl around the 40-foot x 80-foot rink. Hours of operation on Holiday Magic days are from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. The cost for unlimited time for all skaters is $7.

Through Dec. 23, youngsters can visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus in the North Pole workshop located in the Seven Seas Underwater Viewing Gallery where they can share their wish lists and pose for pictures. Guests can spread holiday cheer by joining carolers in singing to the animals, including reindeers, big cats, and bears. After spreading that holiday cheer, guests can warm up in one of the zoo’s restaurants, which will offer their standard menus as well as special holiday treats like hot chocolate, cookies and cappuccinos. Finally, gift shops will have hundreds of unique items on sale for those who want to get a head start on their holiday shopping.

Holiday Magic festivities end on Saturday, Dec. 31, but not before everyone is invited to ring in 2019 at the Zoo Year’s Eve celebration. The Holly Jolly Theater will be rockin’ and rollin’ with music, fun games, party favors, prizes, and more, beginning at 6 p.m. Families with younger children can head to Hamill Family Play Zoo, where kids can make noisemakers. Both locations will feature an early countdown to the New Year at 8 p.m.

During Holiday Magic, guests should park in Brookfield Zoo’s main parking lot located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield. Regular admission is $21.95 for adults and $15.95 for children ages 3-11 and seniors 65 and older, and children 2 and under are free. Activities are free with paid admission (with the exception of in-park paid attractions and photo opportunities). Car parking is $14; bus parking is $20. Discounted tickets may be purchased at any of the Chicagoland Meijer locations in Illinois. For more information and a complete schedule of Holiday Magic activities and entertainment, visit or call (708) 688-8000.