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Henry Vilas Zoo, Madison

4.5
#1 of 17 in Zoos & Aquariums in Wisconsin
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. Take a look at our Madison sightseeing planner to schedule your visit to Henry Vilas Zoo and learn about what else to see and do during your holiday.
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Henry Vilas Zoo Reviews
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
1,436 reviews
Google
4.6
TripAdvisor
  • I am always amazed that a town the size of Madison can have such a fun zoo. Every time we visit there seem to be major improvements. The viewing areas are great.  more »
  • Considering it is a free zoo it does have a nice variety of animals. They have animals like lions, giraffes, lemurs, rhinoceros, bears, bison and camels. There is a children area with a large playgrou...  more »
  • Was in Madison for a weekend and had some a few hours to kill before dinner. Saw a sign for the zoo and decided to stop. We are glad we did. Don’t listen to the reviews that say that it’s depressing. ...  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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