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Snooze at the Zoo

Imagine falling asleep while the bats wake up behind you or the Aldabra tortoises snooze over your shoulder. Come and see what the zoo is like at night! Our sleepovers offer you a chance to see what happens when everyone else goes home and the animals settle in for the night. You’ll enjoy a special animal presentation, animal activities, and some behind-the-scenes experiences.

Our public sleepovers are designed for families with children age five through early teen. We also offer one adult-only sleepover per season.

Our group sleepovers are for groups of 20 – 30 people. Groups must have at least one adult for every ten children.


Polar Region: What special adaptations help polar animals survive? How is climate change affecting life at the poles? What can you do to help? You’ll learn about our cold weather animals, create some form of enrichment for them, and see them enjoying it the next morning. Finally, you’ll also help zookeepers prep an animal enclosure before the zoo opens. You will meet several of our education animals, feed seals, and make treats for the polar bear, then watch her eat them! Appropriate for children ages five and up.

Jr. Zoo Vet: What do keepers and vets do to make sure animals at the zoo are healthy? Step into their shoes as you try to solve our animal challenge. You’ll hone your observation skills by closely studying our animals to come up with a solution. We’ll introduce you to several special animals and give you the chance to help the keepers get the zoo ready in the morning. You will meet several of our education animals and have an encounter with either our aardvark or our North American porcupines. You will also help the keepers set up treats for those animals. Please note: This program is designed for families with children ages 5 – 10. We try to go to bed a half an hour earlier than our other programs and the activities are designed for a slightly younger audience.

Conservation Heroes: Come and learn how zoos help animals in need while meeting several of our education animals and one of our endangered animals. You’ll go inside animal enclosures to help our keepers with the setup in the morning, and you’ll also learn about conservation happening beyond the zoo. You’ll leave inspired to make a difference for animals in the wild. You will meet several of our education animals, then get up close with our rhino or giraffes while helping keepers prep the animal enclosure. This program is most appropriate for families with children ages 8 – 12, but younger children are welcome.

Adults Only: Conservation and History at the Henry Vilas Zoo – Trivia Night: For adults 18+, come and learn the ins and outs of the zoo after dark. You’ll meet some special animals up close and learn more about what the zoo does to care for animals on grounds and in the wild. Then, test your knowledge in a rousing game of trivia! Remember how fun the zoo was as a kid? Now see how fun it can be as an adult! You will meet several of our education animals, then enjoy an up-close encounter with our rhino or giraffes while helping keepers prep the animal enclosure.

Halloween Sleepover: Nocturnal Animals and Bugs: Come and get close to some of our crawly, slithery animals and those that usually only come out at night. Enjoy a special animal presentation in the evening, sleep next to our animals, and in the morning, you’ll help our zookeepers prepare an exhibit and deliver a breakfast treat to either our Aldabra tortoises or to our lions.

Sleepover Dates

Public Sleepover Dates
Friday 9/14 – Jr. Zoo Vet
Saturday 9/22 – Polar Region
Saturday 9/29 – Conservation Heroes
Saturday 10/13 – Zoo Trivia (Adult 18+ alcohol-free)
Saturday 10/27 – Halloween (Nocturnal Animals and Bugs)

Group Sleepover Dates
(Theme: Conservation Heroes)
Friday 9/21, Friday 9/28, Friday 10/5, Friday 10/19, Saturday 10/20, and Friday 10/26

Prices & Registration

Public Sleepovers
Member Price: $65 per person
Non-Member Price: $75 per person
(Join as a member and receive a $10 discount per person)

Group (Private) Sleepovers
$70 per person
*All people attending the sleepover must register and pay. Adults and children pay the same price to attend.

Questions? Email


What do we do at a sleepover?

What you will do depends a little on the theme of the sleepover you sign up for, but our sleepovers follow a general itinerary similar to what is listed here:
7:00pm: Arrival and check-in/group welcome activity (eat dinner before you arrive)
7:30 – 8:30pm: Animal presentation and thematic activities, visit specific animals behind the scenes
8:30 – 9:00pm: Snack and activities
9:00 – 9:30pm: Evening stories or activities
9:30 – 10:00pm: Get ready for bed
10:00pm: Lights out
6:30am: Wake up
6:30 – 7:15am: Coffee, get ready for the day, and pack your overnight stuff
7:15 – 8:00am: Breakfast
8:30 – 9:30am: Meet an animal up close, help zookeepers prepare an animal enclosure for the day, wrap-up activities, and good-bye

How much time will our group spend with animals and behind the scenes?

Our sleepovers include several special animal experiences. In general, this means we’ll show you a formal animal presentation with our education animals, give you the chance to meet a couple zoo animals up close, and give you a few opportunities to go behind the scenes. We do ask you to keep in mind that the animals need their rest, too, so many of our animals will be sleeping in their cozy den-like spaces off-viewing. All of our planned activities may vary depending on animal needs and zookeeper recommendations. You are welcome to stay at the zoo when it opens to the public at 9:30am to see the rest of the zoo.

Where do we sleep?

You will be sleeping on the floor in the Discovery Center and Herpetarium. Both parts of the building stay quite warm at night, so we recommend bringing layers and being prepared for a warm night. The Discovery Center has several reptiles and mammals in it, and the Herpetarium has many more reptiles and amphibians. Many people say sleeping next to these animals is the highlight of their stay!

What should we bring?

  • Any sleeping gear you need to be comfortable. We recommend a sleeping pad, cot, or air mattress, and blankets and sheets or a sleeping bag
  • Pajamas
  • Basic toiletries
  • Clothes for the outdoors. Bring rain gear as needed
  • You also need to have close-toed shoes to participate in all activities

Our bathrooms are shared and we ask that you limit your morning routine to the basics (consider it sort of a camping experience) so that everyone can get through the bathrooms in the evening and morning. You will be walking around the zoo during these activity times, so please dress appropriately for the weather.

What meals are included?

Plan on eating dinner before you arrive. We serve a bedtime snack and a hearty breakfast in the morning. Please contact us if you have special dietary needs or questions.

What is new with sleepovers this year?

We’ve worked hard to make sleepovers even better this year! We wanted to ensure you get the best experience, so we reduced our group size. We also added more behind-the-scenes experiences and new animal encounters. We created different themes so you can choose the ones that best fit your interests. We also added hands-on activities and more fun ways to bring the group together.

Our sleepovers now start an hour later to give families more time to wrap up their day and eat dinner before coming to the sleepover. We are also thrilled to offer a bedtime snack and a hot breakfast in the Glacier Grille.

What is the difference between a public sleepover and a group sleepover?

Our public sleepovers are open to everyone and are limited to 20 people. The themes are pre-set. Small groups of less than 20 can sign up as individuals to attend a public sleepover together.

Group sleepovers are for groups of 20 – 30. You get to pick from the themes being offered during the season. Some dates are reserved for groups and some are reserved for the public.

How many adults need to attend? What is my role as an adult?

We require that one adult come for every ten kids that they sign up to chaperone. As the chaperoning adult, you are responsible for helping your children with the bathroom, getting ready for bed, and packing in the morning. For everyone’s safety, we also ask that you make sure that your children listen to the zoo staff leading the program.

Should we bring any money with us?

We will no longer sell t-shirts during the event. The gift shop and Glacier Grille open at 9:30 the next morning if you would like to purchase something after the sleepover ends.

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