The Brookfield Zoo at Night, and a Little Mayan Food, Make the Holidays Bright

Dance of the Wooden Soldiers
Dance of the Wooden Soldiers

We started with The Joeffrey Ballet’s, The Nutcracker, with two-year-old Bradaigh.  Two years later, we added Emma. Each year, one more grandchild, until we grew to an even dozen.  Yes, my children are competitive pro-creators, giving us a grandchild nearly every year for twelve years.  Wheee!  I love it.

Now, every Christmas Season, Loved-One and I take the grandkids for a special outing.  It’s fun to see the kids dressed up in their Christmas clothes and on their best behavior.  We love a little adventure with new cuisine or kinds of entertainment. We’ve been to The Snow Queen at The Victory Gardens, A Christmas Carol at Metropolis, and The Christmas Schooner at the Bailiwick and my favorite, The Nutcracker:  several different ballet company’s, including one rendition with a very special jack-in-the-box granddaughter.

DSC04516This year Loved-One suggested Brookfield Zoo‘s Holiday Lights.  He came up with the idea in mid-October, when the evenings still held the promise of warmth.  I remembered our visit to the San Diego Zoo at night.  I had a delightful time.  The zoo had few people crowding around the quite active animals.  I’ll never forget the underwater viewing of the hippos.  I’d never seen hippos move around so much and with such grace.

As December got underway, I hesitated.  What was I thinking?  I hate the cold.  Oh well. I plan to dress in layers.  Several.

IMG_2710We started our holiday event with lunch at a Mayan restaurant,  Xni-Pec, just around the corner from the Brookfield Zoo.  (Alert:  The diner looks nothing like the pictures on the website.  Maybe there is a hidden door for the a more elegantly clad party of seventeen.)  We took up most of the diner and it was a little noisy.  We loved the food.  I would travel there for the coffee alone:  a potent mixture of coffee, cocoa, chili, all steeped with oranges.  Yumm-mee.

The highlight of lunch?  Eight-year old Keely:  “That was so much fun, I forgot we are on our way to the zoo!”  Oh my, Grandma’s heart is already feeling warmer than  toast on Sunday morning.

I’m happy I asked for extra adults for the zoo visit.  It was beautiful.  And dark.  I kept counting noses, afraid we might lose someone.  DSC04529We didn’t, but a few unsuspecting people did get caught up in our bevy and get carried along with our the fun.

A trip to the zoo at night is great for animal viewing; so much more activity than in the heat of a summer day.  The snow leopards leaped through the dark night and wrestled close our glass window, scaring and delighting at the same time.  My favorite were the bats.  Some of them looked like little winged monkeys crawling on the branches of trees.  Now that’s something you cannot see in the daytime.

DSC04565The light displays delight us.  The kids’ favorite: the talking Christmas Tree.   The kids asked several questions, and the tree responded. He’s from Michigan and he sees Santa every year.  His name is Firdinand, but you can just call him Fir.  Yes, a couple of kid-questions required censoring.  Kids and their body-function preoccupation.  What more can I say?

The zoo provided some fun shows like a magician, caroling to the animals, and Those Funny Little PeoplePiers Morgan from America’s Got Talent had it right:  They aren’t people, they aren’t little, and they aren’t funny.  I really got a kick out of them on TV, but something go lost on the little stage.

DSC04520We walked around the zoo for about 4 hours, clocking in about 4 miles, according to my Fitbit.  The kids fell asleep in the car on the way home, but were happy when we roused them for a final cup of hot cocoa before we delivered them to their beds.

There’s still time to visit the Holiday Magic at the Brookfield Zoo.  The fun lasts right up through New Year’s Eve.  I suggest going early.  We missed the baby giraffe; the exhibit closed before we got to it.

The price is reasonable, even for a crowd, and ComEd offers a free child’s ticket with each adult ticket purchase.  Just follow this link for the coupon:

And yes, yes, yes, if you have never tried Yucatán (Mayan) food, go to Xni-Pec.  Great food for the adventurous, and they are happy to cater to the less adventurous in the group with french fries and cheese quesadillas.

One more thing:  I never got a bit cold.  Layers: that’s the answer.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.




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