Cosley Zoo in Wheaton is one of my absolute favorite places to go with kids in the Western suburbs. It’s especially great for younger kids (uh, and parents) who find themselves flagging with all the walking and crowds at larger zoos. And you can really get up close to all the animals here! Read on for some tips to help you plan your trip.
A Visit to Cosley Zoo in Wheaton
1356 North Gary Ave.
Wheaton, IL 60187
See the website for current hours, which vary by season, as well as holiday closures.
Features of Cosley Zoo
Cosley showcases both farm animals and native Illinois species. You won’t find zebras or elephants here, but you will see 50+ species including cows, goats, llamas, deer, coyotes, bobcats, and the most exquisite collection of ducks that quack delightfully. For proof, here’s a video of my toddler losing his mind over the ducks.
When you walk into the zoo, you’ll find a nature play area and the Douglas Depot visitor center/gift shop. Keep walking to find the duck pond, a small sand pit, and a large barn that houses sheep, goats, and more.
Inside the barn, zookeepers sometimes bring out native reptiles and other animals for visitors to see and touch. Outside, you’ll find animals like cows, ponies, and llamas. The animals are all treated to enrichment activities, and you can usually catch them playing around.
Across from the barn, there’s a pig pen and a colorful collection of chickens. Keep exploring to find a special bobcat habitat and a large enclosure with animals like deer, turkey vultures, and more.
The great thing about Cosley is that it’s really easy to spot the animals. Smaller crowds and smaller exhibits mean kids can really see what the animals are doing. Many come right up to the fences, like this coyote did on our last visit!
The aviary features a large variety of birds, including an owl exhibit.
A real railroad caboose has been converted into a play space for young kids with hands-on activities like puzzles and a matching game.
Food at Cosley Zoo
You are welcome to bring your own food to enjoy at the picnic tables, or to purchase food at the zoo. The “Coyote Cafe” concession stand sells traditional kiddie favorites (pizza, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, mac & cheese, and peanut butter & jelly), as well as snacks and ice cream. Meals with chips and a drink cost $5.50–$8.75, while ice creams cost $2.50–$3.50 each.
Here are current prices as of April 23, 2018 (check website for changes):
- Wheaton Park District residents: Free with a Wheaton Park District Universal Resident ID
- All kids (from 0–17): Free
- Cosley Zoo members: Free
- Non-resident adults: $7
- Seniors 55+: $6
Special Needs Accommodations
Cosley has accessible walkway surfaces, which are handy for strollers, too.
Parking and Transportation
Parking is free at Cosley Zoo, and the lot is right outside the front gate. The zoo is very stroller-friendly, but also walkable even for older toddlers.
The bathrooms include changing stations for infants.
Best Days/Times to Go
Check the website for the schedule of daily activities, including chances to feed and meet the animals (extra fees may apply). I’ve noticed that the nicer the weather, the busier the zoo tends to be; we like to go on gray, drizzly days to avoid the crowds.
April 4, 2020, 5:00pm - 6:30pm