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.