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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Wild Summer Nights

As the days get longer, zoos around the country open up their doors for an evening crowd. This past weekend, I was invited to visit Chicago Zoological Society's Brookfield Zoo. Over the summer, every Friday and Saturday night they extend their hours, set up the bandstand, bust out the special menu, and tap the kegs at the biergarten. 

Before the sun went down, we visited the baby zebra, giraffes, and hippo. Tortoises met for an evening conference. A muddy rhino went in for the night. Wild chipmunks and ground squirrels greeted us. Goldfinches rested on coneflowers. 

The Festival of Flight Bird Show at 7:30 pm was a great way to start the evening festivities. The handlers entertained us with their script, and the birds awed us with their wingspans, clever tricks, and bright colors. Some flew overhead and others showed the audience how they immobilize prey. The half hour flew past.

The recently opened Hamill Family Wild Encounters gave us an opportunity walk with the wallabies and get swarmed by parakeets. The reindeer were up close. The red panda was elusive. The intricate, brightly colored weather vanes blew in the wind. In the distance we heard Mr. Blottothe headlining band, playing.

As the sun was setting, we walked over to the bandstand area. The band was upbeat and fun. The crowd was enjoying themselves. The zoo staff had a beautiful, light-pink parrot and an 85 year old tortoise out for a meet and greet. Food was on the mind though, so we made a beeline to the food counter. 

The special menu was a chicken cordon bleu sandwich and cajun burger. The burger won...until I saw the Cuban sandwich on their regular menu. Mr. K and I split a Cuban sandwich and a jerk chicken sandwich with waffle fries. Oh, waffle fries, how I love thee. It's been a while since I've had them, and they sure hit the spot! Crispy. Delicious. The Cuban was double the size expected. It was meaty and delicious. It could have been pressed a little longer, but it was much better than expected for zoo food. The jerk chicken sandwich was pretty much a coleslaw sandwich on a cheap, soft hamburger bun. I was not a fan. The Cuban would have been enough for both of us! I skipped on the $10 brews. I was happy with a bottle of cold, refreshing, $2 bottle of water.

After hours is a great time to enjoy the zoo. Parking is easier, the crowd is lighter, and the weather is cooler. The bands, food, and drinks are a nice benefit too. Summer is the time to get out there and take advantage of the extra daylight and warmer weather. Visit a zoo. Hit up a museum. Head out to music in the park.  

More pictures: Brookfield Zoo's Summer Nights

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