The Living Coast - Brookfield Zoo

The Living Coast is a small aquarium in the southwest corner of the zoo. It has a penguins along with a modest number of rays, sharks, and and other fish. Nothing here is going to compare with Shedd Aquarium, so if you're planning a trip there soon, it's probably worth skipping the Living Coast (unless you want to meet a penguin, which is better here—more details below).

There's only one direction to walk, starting with fish, moving to rays, then sharks, eels, and other fish, and finally ending with the penguins. The penguins exhibit is fine but it's hard for little kids to see in (the view is blocked at the bottom). The penguins are also accompanied by free-flight birds, which I'd normally like but these seem to poop in the area with people more than usual. I've never seen anyone get hit, but they keep me a little nervous.

For $50 per person, you can meet a penguin at a "Penguin Encounter." This program is about 45-minutes total, which includes a fair amount of time with the penguins themselves, and happens twice each day at 11am and 2pm. The part with the penguins is relatively unstructured: the people stay seated and penguins will come up to you if they're interested. Zookeepers will talk about the penguins and answer questions. You'll almost always get the chance to pet one, although that's not guaranteed. If you can go during less popular times, a smaller group means a little more individual attention from the penguins. You can buy tickets there (go to the Coast Gifts gift shop, just outside the Living Coast), but I recommend buying them ahead of time online ( to ensure you get tickets. Sundays are the most popular, with Saturdays and Mondays not far behind. Participants must be at least 5 years old, and anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. The main advantage and disadvantage as compared to Shedd is the same: the unstructured atmosphere. At Shedd, you'll be posed for a formal picture that you can buy afterwards; that won't happen at Brookfield but you'll get the chance to take pictures on your own and will often get more time petting and watching the penguins.