The Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, WI is one of only a
handful of admission-free, community-supported zoos in the country. Fully accredited
by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, our beautiful zoo features exhibits and attractions for the whole family. The Zoo is open daily 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., all year round except some holidays. Donations are encouraged but not required. All are welcome at the Henry Vilas Zoo!
Explore the topics below for more information.
The Zoo is open daily 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., all year round except some holidays. The indoor exhibits (Aviary, Herpetarium, Discovery Center, and Primate Building) and Children's Zoo are open 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Zoo Train and Conservation Carousel are open daily during the summer with reduced hours in the spring and fall.
The zoo is closed at noon on these days:
• Thanksgiving Day and the day after Thanksgiving
• Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
• New Year's Eve and New Year's Day
• Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
For the safety of the animals and our guests, the following are not allowed on zoo grounds:
• Drink lids and straws
• Rollerblades, rollerskates, skateboards
• Bicycles and scooters (they can be walked through the zoo, but not ridden)
• Pets and therapy animals (certified service animals are allowed, please see below)
• Carry-in alcoholic beverages
There is no charge for admission or parking, but donations are greatly appreciated. The zoo relies on support from the community in order to keep going strong. If you are able, please support the zoo: donate online, become a member, or place your donation in the donation tubes located throughout the zoo.
The Henry Vilas Zoo is one of only a handful of community-supported, AZA-Accredited zoos in the country. Families of all economic backgrounds can visit the zoo, spend great times together, and connect with the natural world. When you give to the zoo, you're helping to ensure that this unique community resource remains for many generations to come.
The Henry Vilas Zoo is located at 702 South Randall Avenue, Madison, WI 53715, just down the street from the University of Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium. The Zoo is surrounded by Vilas Park, which includes lush open green spaces for active play as well as two playgrounds for children to explore. There is a ball diamond, a beach, and in the winter the lagoon is maintained for ice skating.
There are two entrances to the zoo, each with a parking lot. The main entrance on the north side of the zoo at the intersection of Drake Street and Randall Avenue. The "bridge" entrance to the zoo is on the southwest side of the zoo on Vilas Park Drive across from the beach.
From I-90/I-39 or I-94:
Take exit to Hwy 12/14/18 West. Exit at Park Street, North. Remain on Park Street for approximately 1.7 mi to Drake Street. Turn left onto Drake Street (you will see a Zoo sign at the intersection). Travel on Drake Street for about five blocks to Randall Ave. The main Zoo parking lot is at the corner of Randall Ave. & Drake St.
From northbound 151:
Take exit to Hwy 12/14/18 East. Exit at Park Street, North. Remain on Park Street for approximately 1.7 mi to Drake Street. Turn left onto Drake Street (you will see a Zoo sign at the intersection). Travel on Drake Street for about five blocks to Randall Ave. The main Zoo parking lot is at the corner of Randall Ave. & Drake St.
From southbound 151: Remain on Hwy 151 through the city until it becomes Park Street. From Park Street, turn right on Drake Street. Travel on Drake Street for about five blocks to Randall Ave. The main Zoo parking lot is at the corner of Randall Ave. & Drake St.
Madison Metro has several routes that will get you within five to six blocks of the Zoo. We do encourage you to use the bus as an easy, environmentally-friendly way to get to the zoo. As bus schedules are subject to vary and change based on the day of travel, please visit Madison Metro to get the most up-to-date routes and bus schedules to the Henry Vilas Zoo.
There is a Madison B-Cycle station (for renting and returning bicycles) near the zoo at the corner of Mills and Wingra. For current availability, please go to madison.bcycle.com.
There is an electric vehicle recharge station on the south side of the zoo in the parking lot across from Vilas Park Beach.
Parking is free at the Henry Vilas Zoo. There are three parking lots outside of the zoo. Parking in the lots is limited due to the zoo's location and can be challenging on weekends and busy summer days. When the lots are full, visitors park in the surrounding neighborhoods and can usually find a spot within a block or two of the zoo. Parking at the Henry Vilas Zoo is owned and managed by the City of Madison, not the Henry Vilas Zoo. Please take notice of parking restrictions on signs in areas you wish to park. **Please note: parking restrictions are strictly enforced by the City of Madison and zoo parking lots have a three hour limit on parking.
Bus Parking: 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 show below. There is no charge to park at Bowman Park.
Directions to Bowman Park:
• Please use the Wingra Dr. entrance and drop passengers off near the Herpetarium.
• Exit Vilas Park via Wingra Dr. Follow Wingra Dr. southeast.
• Make a right on Fish Hatchery Rd. and a quick left onto Plaenert Dr.
• Take the first Right into Bowman Park (after Wright Middle School)
• Park in the rear lot, leaving ample room for other buses
**School groups: Please have your students wear a button or tag with a number to call if they become separated from the group. This greatly helps us reunite you quickly if you become separated.
The zoo is pleased to make strollers and wheelchairs available for visitors to rent at the zoo gift shop in the fall, spring and summer seasons. The cost is $4 per day. You must also leave a driver's license, which you will get back upon returning the stroller or wheelchair. Strollers and wheelchairs are available on a first come, first served basis. For safety reasons, wheelchairs and strollers will not be available for rent during the winter. You are welcome to bring your own stroller or wheelchair to the zoo during this time!
The Zoo is wheelchair accessible. Please use caution when operating mobility devices and wheelchairs at all times. Please be aware many areas of the zoo contain narrow walkways, branches, doorways and/or uneven terrain. Guests using wheelchairs are advised to avoid the steeper paths in the zoo (marked with signs). The Conservation Carousel in the Children's Zoo is wheelchair-accessible. Wheelchairs are available to rent at the Zoo's gift shop near the main entrance to the Zoo on Drake and Randall.
Henry Vilas Zoo is accessible to guests with ADA-defined Service Animals, but for the safety of the animal collection, the zoo doesn’t allow therapy animals or pets.
Guest with Service Animals may be required to:
• Respond truthfully to the limited and appropriate inquiries that may be made by Dane County Staff regarding the Service Animal.
• Ensure that the animal meets any local licensing requirements, including maintenance of required immunizations for that type of animal.
Service Animals (or Service-Animal-in-training) should:
• Wear their required license tags at all times.
• Wear a harness, leash, or other tether, unless either the handler is unable, because of a disability, to use a harness, leash, or other tether, or if the use of a harness, leash, or other tether would interfere with the Service Animal's safe, effective performance of work or tasks, in which case the Service Animal still must be otherwise under the handler's control through, for example, the use of vocal commands, signals, or other effective means.
The Zoo's Unique Dining Experience - with the Bears! Combine our healthy, tasty new food options with a completely one-of-a-kind setting, and you get the zoo's new Glacier Grille restaurant. The Glacier Grille is the only indoor restaurant in the US to look onto a polar bear exhibit!
Try the Glacier Grille - purchases help your community-supported zoo thrive!
Glacier Grille Holiday Hours:
Thanksgiving Day: Closed Day after Thanksgiving: Open during Zoo Lights only (5:30-9:45pm) Christmas Eve: Closed Christmas Day: Closed New Year's Eve: Open during Zoo Lights only (5:30-9:45pm) New Year's Day: Open during Zoo Lights only (5:30-8:45pm)
Enjoy a Fun Outdoor Lunch at the Zoo. Soak up the ambiance of one of Madison's beautiful summer days by dining on the patio at our new Badger Bites. Try our fresh, made-to-order sub sandwiches and wraps, fresh baked cookies, a variety of snacks (like our signature loaded nachos), fresh fruit, and hand-scooped ice cream.
Open 11am to 5pm.
Because the Henry Vilas Zoo is admission-free, we ask that you support Zoo Concessions whenever possible. Every time you make a purchase at the gift shop or at one of our restaurants, you're helping our community-supported zoo.
If you do choose to bring a snack into the zoo, please limit the use of lids and straws, as they are particularly dangerous to the animals. Public grilling is not allowed on Zoo grounds. Please clean up after yourself or your group.
Every dollar spent at the gift shop helps the zoo.
The Gift Shop is open from 9:30am to 5:00pm daily from March through December, and Wednesday through Sunday only in January and February.
What will I find in the Zoo's Gift Shop?
You can find the perfect gift for the wildlife enthusiast or zoo fan in your life here at the Henry Vilas Zoo's gift shop. Selections range from fun and affordable keepsakes, plush animals, toys, games and crafts to fine hand-crafted gifts from around the globe.
Unique apparel for everyone from age 0 to age 99 can also be found at the gift shop. Show your love of Henry Vilas Zoo with a t-shirt, hat, or sweatshirt.
The gift shop is also the most convenient place to purchase sundries such as disposable cameras, umbrellas, and quick rain coverlets during your visit to the zoo.
Alongside the calls of our white-handed gibbons, zoo visitors may hear the call of our Zoo Train in warmer seasons. The electric train travels through a tunnel and around the perimeter of the Children's Zoo animal exhibits and Red Barn.
The Conservation Carousel, a beloved attraction in the Children's Zoo, began spinning in 2006. The carousel begins operation, weather permitting, each March and runs daily from April through the end of October. The carousel is wheelchair-accessible.
The train and Conservation Carousel are each $1.50 per ride per passenger. You can purchase tokens and multi-ride punch cards in the carousel building and at the main gift shop.
All proceeds go to help keep the community-supported Henry Vilas Zoo going strong.
For more information about bringing your group to the zoo, please visit our School Trips page.
By entering Henry Vilas Zoo, you give your consent to use your image or likeness in photographs taken on zoo property by zoo staff or volunteers for advertising or communication purposes.