Ferris wheel opens, koalas coming to Brookfield Zoo Chicago

One of the first things you might notice when you arrive to the south side of Brookfield Zoo Chicago is the sheer size of a new Ferris wheel.

But it’s the view from the top — 110 feet off the ground — that’s a sight to see. On a nice day, you can make out Chicago’s skyscrapers. Gaze west, and you get a perspective of the ever-changing zoo landscape. At night, the wheel and spokes are lit up with 350,000 LED lights in electric red, purple and green.

The 125-ton Ferris wheel at Brookfield Zoo Chicago shines during evening hours and events. Courtesy of Brookfield Zoo Chicago

The Ferris wheel will be open through December for the zoo’s 90th anniversary year.

“It really lets you get up high, envision what the zoo can become as we start looking at the rollout of our 10-year next century plan and how that will sort of flow throughout the zoo’s campus,” said Michael Adkesson, the zoo’s president and CEO.

Looking ahead to its centennial in 2034, the zoo is set to reveal a master plan in June for future improvements, visitor attractions and expansive animal habitats.

The Ferris wheel overlooks Tropical Forests, the outdoor primate complex under construction in the heart of the zoo. The zoo also is developing a gorilla conservation center with public learning space.

“We thought that was really fun for kids to be able to peek over that overall construction as it really comes into full speed this summer,” Adkesson said.

Also this summer, the zoo will welcome koalas for the first time. The male duo, on loan from the San Diego Zoo for two years, will be a “hugely popular” addition to the Hamill Family Play Zoo, Adkesson said.

With two dozen gondolas, the Ferris wheel can take up to 144 people on a leisurely spin. Tickets are $8 and $6 for zoo members.

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