I have been looking forward to the opening of the new Hamill Family Wild Encounters exhibit for months, as soon as I heard about the red pandas! The exhibit is more interactive than most areas of the zoo, and really gives you the chance to experience the animals.
Name and Background:
Hamill Family Wild Encounters is a new exhibit at Brookfield Zoo. From the website:
The just over 3-acre exhibit, geared toward guests of all ages, will feature unforgettable hands-on experiences that include opportunities to touch and feed animals, including parakeets and goats. There will also be red pandas, llamas, alpacas, wallabies, and reindeer as well as additional up-close encounters with more animal ambassadors.
The Hamill Family Wild Encounters exhibit is located near the Hamill Family Play Zoo, close to the south gate entrance.
Monday-Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. During the Summer Nights event, the exhibit is open until 8:30 p.m. It is open 365 days a year, just like the rest of the zoo.
When to Visit:
We went a week after Hamill Family Wild Encounters opened and it was busy, but not overly crowded. It is a fairly large area.
There are additional tickets required to enter the exhibit. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children 3-11 and seniors 65+. Tickets for members are half-off.
There is a bathroom and drinking fountain within the exhibit space and there are several benches and areas to sit. There aren’t really any shaded places to sit, though the parakeet exhibit is indoors and offers a nice chance for air conditioning and shade.
All ages! My 2 year old was scared of the goats, but there were plenty of younger kids right in the petting area with them. This is a great opportunity to get up close with some really fun animals.
We made our way to the Hamill Family Wild Encounters at about 11:30 a.m. on a really nice Wednesday. The zoo was fairly crowded but the lines weren’t too bad.
When you enter the exhibit there are large signs introducing the animals at each area. There are llamas, reindeer, and red pandas in regular enclosures. But what makes the exhibit more memorable are the more up close and personal encounters.
The goats were my personal favorite, though my 2 year old wouldn’t agree. There is a fence with several machines to buy food for them. One of the machines was completely empty when we were there, but the other had some. It was 50 cents for a serving of food (so make sure you have quarters!) and there are areas of the fence with holes to feed the goats directly from your hand. You can also enter the fenced-in area with the goats and pet and brush them. It is an open space that the goats can just wander around. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of hand sanitizer around when you leave!
The wallaby area is also neat, they are basically free roaming throughout the area. There is a path you are directed to stay on and a tiny little rope, but generally the wallabies can go wherever they want. It’s a fun experience to see them from a pretty close distance.
The parakeet area was definitely the favorite of both my daughters. There was a little bit of a line to get in, but it wasn’t bad. To prevent the birds from getting out they have to have people enter in groups, making sure the outer door is closed before entering the second set of doors. They had bird seed sticks for sale for $2 (again, make sure you have cash! I didn’t and my daughter was extremely disappointed, but thankfully a super nice zoo employee came over and gave her one) You can hold the sticks out for the birds and they will land on you to eat. Or in the case of my daughter who did not want a bird on her, there are ledges you can have them land on instead.
The Hamill Family Wild Adventures is a fun new addition to Brookfield Zoo and my daughter has already been talking about how she can’t wait to go back. If you make the trip, make sure you have dollar bills and quarters so you can get the chance to feed the animals, it’s definitely worth it!