The Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison was created as a result of a land donation to the city by William & Anna Vilas in 1904, in honor of their son, who had died at a young age. The Vilas’s stipulated that the land was “for the uses and purposes of a public park and pleasure ground”, and that admission was always to be free. The zoo is a perfect size for a nice day visit, with 28 acres, and a few hundred animals. Despite being a smaller zoo, 750,000 visitors come each year.
The Madison Zoo has a large portion of their area dedicated to a children’s zoo, with goat feeding, an animal exhibit with porcupines, red pandas, meerkats, cockatoo, and more. In the children’s area there is also a carousel, electric train ride, and a tree house playground.
The zoo’s animal exhibits range from prairie dogs to rhinoceros, ostriches to poison arrow frogs, and orangutans to polar bears. And of course we can’t forget the captive lion. One of the most interesting parts of the zoo is the Discovery Center, where you can watch honeybees build a hive or look at a python’s skin under a microscope. This is also where you’ll get a chance to see tarantulas, cockroaches, giant centipedes, and other terrifying little creatures. At the Herpetarium in the same building, you’ll find giant tortoises, alligators, a huge Burmese python, and a variety of other reptiles. A map of the zoo’s exhibits and attractions can be found here.
The Henry Vilas Zoo has a number of events throughout the year, which you can find on their calendar here.
The Madison Zoo is open 9:30 am–5 pm every day of the year with the exception of certain holidays. The zoo buildings are open 10 am–4 pm. Admission is free, but carousel & train rides cost $1.50 each.
702 South Randall Avenue
Madison, WI 53715