Family date night fun: Summer Nights at Brookfield Zoo

Looking for a fun, family-friendly date night? Brookfield Zoo’s Summer Nights is the perfect combination of fun with an appeal for everyone, especially lovers of live music.

This isn’t your average concert in the park, so throw that notion out of the window. First and foremost, you’re in the zoo! Brookfield Zoo is 216 acres of beauty at every turn. If you’re coming in from the city or a distant suburb, you can absolutely pay admission for the day and enjoy the animals and adventures, but know that by 7 p.m. when the concert starts, you may have kids who are hot, tired and cranky on your hands. If you want to play it safe, make this a late afternoon/evening outing. 

The Summer Nights fun starts at 4 p.m. You must pay the zoo admission fee (unless you’re a member) but there is no additional fee for the pre-concert fun, the concert or the laser light show. 

Here is the formal schedule for Summer Nights 

4 p.m. – Games and Craft Activities

5 – 9 p.m. – Roaming Entertainers

5:30 p.m. – Kid’s Entertainment

6 – 7 p.m. – Animal Ambassadors

7 p.m. – Concert

9 p.m. – Laser Light Show Finale  

We’ve typically arrived after 5 p.m., with chairs, a blanket and a cooler — just like any concert in the park. You can sit as close to the stage as you’d like, or farther away if you like the music a bit softer, or want to be near the playground. The proximity to the playground is critical if your kids aren’t into live music. If they need to play while you listen, let them! We’ve also had some success with scheduling meet ups with school friends that we haven’t seen in a while. 

Brookfield Zoo serves beer, wine, pretzels and a full menu at two nearby concession stands and carts near the stage. You can also pack a few snacks in your cooler, if you’d prefer to do so. 

The bands this season include ARRA on July 6, Boy Band Review on July 14, Sixteen Candles on July 20, The Ides of March on July 28, Southern Accents: The Ultimate Tom Petty Experience on Aug. 10 and Unity the Band on Aug. 17. See the full entertainment schedule here.

Sure, the music will be so much fun, but absolutely stay for the laser show. On the stage, a cloud of smoke emits, then the screen illuminates with psychedelic images synchronized to a fun audio track, while lasers shoot from the stage across the field. At this point, most families will begin packing up and heading to the parking lot. Stay and enjoy the show; this is what the kids waited for. It’s worth it. 

After you pack up and head out, it’s fun to pass the large cats as you make your way to the North Parking lot. It’s totally worth it to see a lion at 9 p.m.!


If you go:

Summer Nights at Brookfield Zoo

8400 31st Street

Brookfield, IL 60513 

Adults: $21.95 ($20.95 online), Seniors 65 and over: $15.95 ($14.95 online), Children 3 to 11: $15.95 ($14.95 online)

Note: You can take PACE or the Metra to Brookfield Zoo. If you drive, there is a fee for parking. Call your local library to inquire about admission passes. (Parking not included.) 

If you have a family of four or more, consider an annual membership. In just two visits you will have paid for the membership. You can see all the concerts this summer then return for Boo! at the Zoo in October and Holiday Magic in December. 

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