Information on:

Henry Vilas Zoo

702 South Randall Avenue
608 266-4732


Our mission at the Henry Vilas Zoo is to conserve and protect the wonders of the living natural world and to help build understanding between people and animals by promoting conservation and providing a high quality recreational and educational experience to our visitors.


On June 30, 1904, Col. William and Anna Vilas gave a large tract of land to the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association for the uses and purposes of a public park and pleasure ground.

The park was named in memory of the Vilas' son, Henry, who died at a young age due to complications from diabetes.

In 1911, the first animal exhibits were created, representing the start of the Henry Vilas Zoo. In what has proved to be a defining and truly visionary move, the Vilas Family stipulated that the park always be admission free.

As the zoo developed within the park, it too remained free thanks to community support.

The Henry Vilas Zoo is one of ten remaining free Zoos in North America. As an accredited AZA (Association of Zoos & Aquariums) zoo, our mission is to conserve and protect the wonders of the natural living world.


Dennis Nelson

Sunday, July 29, 2018
Not the largest zoo but the variety is great and most of the animals have well-appointed and roomy habitats. Parking can be tough on weekends but you are going to walk a lot anyway. Absolutely worth going out of your way to visit. You could see everything in a couple of ours if you rush but could easily spend most of the day. Many food and picnicking options are available as well as a pretty nice gift shop.

Adam Buckingham

Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018
Great free zoo. My 3 year old son loves to visit and see the animals. Since it's free, you can just pop in for a few minutes without feeling you need to stay around all day. There is a nice cafe with A view of the polar bears, and a snack shack. There's a great playground and indoor carousel. The park adjacent to the zoo has a nice Beach and playgrounds. We love the zoo

Tamara Lancaster

Saturday, July 14, 2018
Still standing, growing, improving from when I was a kid and when my children were still kids...and it is one of only a handful of FREE zoos still around. Pack a picnic lunch, eat at the zoo (there are a few options), or end your day with whatever type of meal you desire with the long list of options in the area. Beautiful garden, expansive lawn and a large park right outside the gates. We have always loved the Milwaukee Zoo, but Henry Villas is easier on the budget and smaller (without being too small, definitely) and easier if you have a hard time getting around or have a gaggle of younger kids. Also, it's perfect if you only have a few hours...a good reason for several visits without gouging your budget!

Aaron Weikum

Monday, July 23, 2018
Visiting this zoo was a fun experience, and I would suggest this first and foremost if you were visiting Madison and looking for stuff to do. The only bad part of the experience was waiting a few minutes for a parking spot to open up. The Henry Vilas Zoo has fewer features and interesting species than the other free Midwestern zoos I've visited, the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and the Como Zoo in St. Paul, but is still great for a smaller city like Madison. Be sure to make a donation, buy gift shop items, and eat some snacks while there to support such a great place!

Robert Kaul

Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Great place to visit with small children, I suggest hitting the train and carousel first thing then getting to the animals! Also go get a ride card, it's a little less expensive than buying 6 tokens and it brings you up to the minimum card transaction amount. This also helps fund the zoo! Throw a couple bucks their way while you're there, it's supper nice that it's free but the reality is you'd pay 35 per person to go to the Milwaukee zoo, so throw them ten bucks or something :)

Henry Vilas Zoo is not affiliated with AmericanTowns Media