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Henry Vilas Zoo, Madison

4.5
#1 of 17 in Zoos & Aquariums in Wisconsin
Zoo / Aquarium Nature / Park
Despite its relatively small size, Henry Vilas Zoo showcases animals from around the world in a mix of indoor and outdoor habitats. Resident land animals include primates, big cats, tropical birds, and North American prairie animals. In the water, you'll see reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Kids will love the children's zoo, complete with carousel, zoo train, and play area, as well as a year-round exhibit of goats and alpacas. The zoo’s discovery center is equipped with microscopes and magnifying glasses, so you can examine feathers, scales, and skin, or even see tarantulas, cockroaches, millipedes, and other small creatures up close. Plan to see Henry Vilas Zoo and other attractions that appeal to you using our Madison trip itinerary maker.
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Reviews
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating
1,373 reviews
Google
4.6
TripAdvisor
  • This place is depressing. The behavior exhibited by the polar bear is disturbing and heartbreaking. This poor thing has clearly been driven mad through boredom and being confined to this small space. ...  more »
  • This was my second time coming to the zoo! I absolutely love it! It's free and you can donate to help too! There is alot of animals to see and alot of fun!! We will be back next time we visit!  more »
  • This zoo is very nice. The animals are well cared for. My granddaughter especially loved the play area, carousel, train and the photo booth. Loved that it is a free zoo, but donations are accepted. Ev...  more »
Google
  • This is a fabulous small "free" zoo. The suggested donation of $2 is minimal. I encourage you to donate more! Sites like this should be preserved. The grounds have been well maintained, some habitats were under renovation and some animals were hidden from the heat of the day. Also, spend a little time in the beautiful park or at Lake Wingra they are right there next to the zoo!!
  • We have been here many times and I will tell you that Henry Vilas Zoo is one of the best FREE zoos in America. Actually, it is the best smaller zoos in America. It is not huge and parking can be really hard to obtain in the summer and weekends. I would highly suggest arriving at 9:30 a.m., when the zoo opens. In all honesty, this is the perfect sized zoo for little children, who can not walk a lot and get cranky after 1-2 hours of viewing. I hate spending $35-$70 for 2 hours, because children burn out. So make a $1.00-$5.00 donation on your way out! Keep this great zoo running!
  • As you can read from the other reviews, it's free! Last time I went, the suggested donation was only $2. Great size, variety of animals, atmosphere, and exhibit setup for a free zoo. Also a nice size for being in a city of Madison's size. You may have to get creative when finding parking on busy summer days.
  • One of the best places to spend some time in Madison and it is totally free. Well free in the sense that there is no obligation to buy a ticket. However I end up donating every time I am there because it is really really an awesome establishment.
  • Probably one of the best places in all of Madison Wisconsin. A free zoo that has a ton of animals that are all seemingly well cared for, a fun shop for buying stuffed animals and wasting all the money you can manage to cough up for the purposes of keeping your baby happy for an hour or two. Some days are really crowded, some days are nice and quiet. The polar bear exhibit is pretty neat.

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Where to stay in Madison

The university and state politics draw a constant stream of visitors to Madison, so you'll find a wide range of accommodations in the city. Numerous hotels circle the campus, and some of these overlook Lake Mendota. Moving onto the isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, you'll find a handful of charming inns and bed and breakfasts, most of which offer panoramic views of the water. Areas south of Lake Monona feature national chain hotels and motels. These sit farther away from the action around campus and the State Capitol Building, but they can also offer water views and quiet settings near some of Madison's many parks.
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