Outdoor fun: Exhibits to visit at Chicago area zoos, Chicago Botanic Garden and Morton Arboretum

Check out our guide of things to see and safety guidelines to follow.

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“Heartwood” is one of the five sculptures installed at various locations at the Morton Arboretum.

Morton Arboretum

As the Chicago area’s zoos, arboretums and botanical gardens start to roll out their programming schedules for 2021 and beyond, here’s an update on new exhibit installations and social distancing guidelines. 

Brookfield Zoo

When: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily

What: The Chicago Zoological Society’s zoo, which is requiring all visitors to wear masks and practice social distancing guidelines, is operating at 60 percent capacity. Some zoo attractions including The Carousel, Butterflies!, Dolphins in Action, Hamill Family Play Zoo and playgrounds are not open. The Hamill Family Wild Encounters is currently open.

Where: North Gate Main Entrance, 8400 31st St. (at 1st Avenue), and South Gate Main Entrance, 3300 Golf Rd

Tickets: Everyone must secure and purchase tickets online before entering the zoo. Visit czs.org.


Brookfield Zoo’s guests can view California sea lions from the underwater viewing gallery at Pinniped Point.

CZS-Brookfield Zoo

Chicago Botanic Garden

When: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (8 p.m. starting June 7)

What: The spring/summer rollout of exhibit installations at the Chicago Botanic Garden has begun with “Picturing the Prairie,” the work of artist Philip Juras depicting the ecology and history of Illinois’ prairies (through September). Starting in July, the photography of Garden Photographic Society members will be featured in the “Nature in View” exhibit. Guests are required to wear masks and observe CDC-mandated social distancing guidelines. 

Where: 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe

Tickets: Admission is free, but parking starts at $25 for non-members. Visit chicagobotanic.org.

The Morton Arboretum

When: Daily, 7 a.m. to sunset (last entry at 6 p.m.).

What: The new Human+Nature (pronounced “human nature”) exhibit features five large-scale, 15- to 26-foot-tall sculptures created by South African artist Daniel Popper. The sculptures, which were created to “reflect how trees are at the heart of the Arboretum’s mission, work, and vision for the future,” include “Heartwood,” a 15.5-foot tall bisected face representing the connection between trees and humans. They are located in different locations onsite. The Arboretum is limiting the number of members and guests on the grounds, and masks are required for unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals when social distancing of six feet is not possible.

Where: 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle

Tickets: Reserve timed-entry passes. Visit buy.acmeticketing.com.

Lincoln Park Zoo

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily

What: The Helen Brach Primate House welcomed “Murray,” an 11-year-old white-cheeked gibbon, and the Regenstein African Journey! added “Sonny,” a male meerkat into its ranks. Masks are required inside animal buildings and outside when social distancing cannot be maintained.

Where: 2400 N. Cannon Dr.

Tickets: Admission is free; tickets need to be reserved online. Visit lpzoo.org.


A family looks on at the Lincoln Park Zoo’s rhino exhibit.

Lincoln Park Zoo

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