Do you have questions about the Henry Vilas Zoo?
We have answers! Please browse our zoo frequently asked questions below.
Admission to the zoo is free. Rides on the zoo train & carousel are $3 apiece; tokens or punch cards can be purchased in the carousel building or the main gift shop.
The zoo is open year-round from 9:30 am-5:00 pm (with the exception of select holidays). Be sure to visit the Zoo Hours section of our website for additional opening and closing times.
The zoo is open 365 days of the year. We close at 12:00 pm on select holidays. Be sure to visit the Zoo Hours section of the website for information about holiday hours and early closing times.
Yes, the zoo is open year-round. If the zoo needs to close due to inclement weather, an announcement will be made on our website and social media platforms.
Henry Vilas Zoo is located at 702 South Randall Avenue in Madison, Wisconsin, just down the street from the University of Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium. The zoo is surrounded by Vilas Park, Lake Wingra, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum.
Parking is free at the Henry Vilas Zoo, and visitors can take advantage of three parking lots outside of the zoo. There is also free, 2-hour street parking in the surrounding neighborhoods. For detailed parking instructions, visit our Plan Your Visit page.
Buses, RVs and motor homes are prohibited from parking in single-vehicle parking areas within Vilas Park. All parking regulations are 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, where there is no fee to park. For more details and directions to Bowman Park, please visit the Plan Your Visit page.
To reduce paper waste, we do not print physical maps. A current map of the zoo can be found here. Large, posted maps are also located throughout the zoo.
All of our animal exhibits are free. There is a $3 fee for our zoo train and conservation carousel.
The zoo has something for every taste and diet. Adjacent to our award-winning Arctic Passage exhibit, the Glacier Grille offers your family the only restaurant experience in the world overlooking polar bears! Also, stop by for a coffee or cool snack at our Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream kiosk.
Coolers and picnic baskets are permitted on zoo grounds. There are picnic areas located in central areas at the zoo. We ask that outside food is not brought into our Glacier Grille restaurant.
The zoo has a variety of special events throughout the year. A full list of events can be found here.
The zoo is pleased to offer strollers for rent in the zoo gift shop on a first-come, first-served basis in the fall, spring, and summer seasons. The cost is a $10 deposit (you will get $5 back upon returning the stroller to the gift shop). You must also leave a driver’s license, which will be returned to you when you bring back the stroller. For safety reasons, strollers are not available for rent during the winter. You are welcome to bring your own stroller to the zoo during this time.
The zoo offers push wheelchairs only for rent in the zoo gift shop on a first-come, first-served basis in the fall, spring and summer seasons. The cost is $5. You must also leave a driver’s license, which will be returned to you when you bring back the wheelchair. For safety reasons, wheelchairs are not available for rent during the winter. You are welcome to bring your own wheelchair to the zoo during this time.
Yes, you are welcome to bring in your own stroller or wagon. We do ask that you park your stroller outside before entering some zoo buildings for easier navigation.
Any zoo employee or volunteer would be happy to help you; however, there is a Visitor Relations desk located in our Visitor Center, located up the hill from the North American porcupine and African penguin exhibits.
For the safety of your pet and our zoo animals, dogs and other pets are prohibited, including therapy or emotional support pets. Certified service animals are permitted. More information can be found here.
Yes, these items are prohibited for the safety and welfare of our animals and visitors:
- Drink lids and straws
- Rollerblades, roller skates, and skateboards
- Bicycles and scooters (they can be walked through the zoo, but cannot be ridden)
- Pets and therapy animals (certified service animals are allowed)
- Carry-in alcoholic beverages
Yes, our central bathroom facilities have a nursing mothers’ room. For access, please ask any zoo staff member or volunteer on-grounds and they will be happy to unlock the room for you to use.
Smoking, including vaping, is prohibited on zoo grounds.
Zoo grounds are open from 9:30 am-5:00 pm, and animal buildings are open from 10:00 am-4:00 pm. We give our animals the choice of whether they would like to be in their outdoor or indoor exhibit each day, and there may be times certain animals are not on display or certain animal buildings that are closed to the public. You may occasionally see keepers working in an animal habitat. This is a great opportunity to ask our keepers about their work and the animals in their care! Some of the animals are more active in the cooler hours of early morning and early evening. Occasionally, some animals may need to turn in early.
We offer Behind the Scenes experiences on certain weekends during the year. Click here for more information and to pre-register.
We are always looking for volunteers to help us in many different roles at the zoo; including guest services, conservation education, and special events. Visit our volunteer page for more information about how to get involved.
Unfortunately, we are currently unable to offer opportunities to shadow a zookeeper or vet.
Summer internships are currently offered through UW Steven’s Point.
Our staff is dedicated to helping educate our community on the wildlife that calls Henry Vilas Zoo home. We are pleased to offer a variety of educational programming including sleepovers, pre-school programs, zoo camp, and Wild Encounters live animal programs. For more information on our programs, please visit our education page.
We would be happy to provide a special birthday experience for the big day. Additional options, such as plush animals, carousel rides, train rides or up-close animal encounters, are also available. Learn more about renting the zoo here for other special occasions.
As an admission-free, community-supported zoo, we welcome groups from area schools, churches, after-school programs and more. For more information on bringing your group to the zoo, please visit our school trips page.
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