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School Trips

As an admission-free, community-supported zoo, the Henry Vilas Zoo welcomes numerous groups from area schools, churches, after school programs, and more.


We strongly recommend giving each child some kind of contact information to have on their person at all times during your visit. An example would be a button with the name of your school and the chaperone's cell phone number. This helps zoo staff reunite any children who become accidentally separated from your group more quickly.

Need Transportation Assistance?

Nature Net's Nature Express bus funding program can help! The program works in one of two ways:
Nature Connections: Schedule two thematically related field trips to any Nature Net site/s and receive funds towards your second bus trip.
Nature Mentor: Recruit a fellow teacher to join your class for their first Nature Net field trip, and share a bus fee!

Click the highlighted link above to apply to receive up to $80/bus to offset the bus expense for your second trip (or your shared mentor trip). Funds are limited, so apply now!

Nature Express is made available through a grant from the American Girl Fund for Children and Alliant Energy Foundation.

Bus Parking

There is no charge for bus parking, but parking is very limited. We ask that buses do not block entrances or gates. Parking at the Henry Vilas Zoo is managed by the City of Madison. Buses are restricted from parking in single vehicle parking areas within Vilas Park. All parking regulations will be enforced and citations may be issued without warning. Bus drivers are encouraged to drop passengers off and relocate to the rear parking lot at Bowman Park (no charge). Click here for more information about bus parking.

Additional deals for school groups:


Please click here for a full school group lunch menu.

Meals do not come with train and carousel tokens. Tokens can be added to any meal for $2.00.

Please email at least 72 hours in advance to place your order.

For a complete catering menu please contact Ben Jackson at the above email address.  Options are available for tent rental and buffet style lunches.

Prepackaged gift shop grab bags can also be purchased for $5.00/each.  Please email with grade level and number of children at least 72 hours in advance to place your order.

Train and Carousel Tokens

Groups can pre-order and pre-pay for Train and Carousel tokens for pick up at the Gift Shop before or on your trip day. Please call 608-258-9490 on a weekday at least 48 hours in advance to place your order.

Bleacher Programs

Schedule a live animal presentation for your class during your school's visit to the Henry Vilas Zoo. For more information on Bleacher Programs, please click here.

Teacher Resources

We are currently in the process of creating supplemental lesson plans for teachers who take their class to the zoo! Please stay tuned, as we hope to add additional resources soon.

Arctic Passage Lesson - Grade 4
Note: This unit will fit well after or at the end of a unit studying energy and conservation.

Arctic Passage Lesson - Grade 5

Wisconsin Heritage Lesson - Grade 4