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School Trips


Henry Vilas Zoo is currently open to the public!

We’re open and you are welcome to come explore the Zoo! Check out our COVID-19 update page for more details on what to expect when you visit.

As an admission-free, community-supported zoo, we welcome groups from area schools, churches, after-school programs, and more. 

Critter Connection Program

You can schedule an animal presentation during your visit to Henry Vilas Zoo! Please click here to learn more about our Critter Connections programs.


We strongly recommend giving each child some kind of contact information to have on their person at all times during your visit. An example would be a button with the name of your school and the chaperone’s cell phone number. This helps the zoo staff reunite any children who become accidentally separated from your group more quickly.

Teacher Resources and Lesson Plans

We have created some fun supplemental resources for teachers to use with your students on your self-guided visit to the Zoo. All lessons are aligned with Wisconsin and National Science Standards (WSS and NGSS).

See all of our Teacher Resource options here.

Bus Parking

There is no charge for bus parking, but parking is very limited. We ask that buses do not block entrances or gates. Parking at the Henry Vilas Zoo is managed by the City of Madison. 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 (no charge).

Need Transportation Assistance?

Nature Net’s Nature Express bus funding program can help! The program works in one of two ways:

Nature Connections:

Schedule two thematically related field trips to any Nature Net site/s and receive funds towards your second bus trip.

Nature Mentor:

Recruit a fellow teacher to join your class for their first Nature Net field trip, and share a bus fee!

Click here to apply to receive up to $80/bus to offset the bus expense for your second trip (or your shared mentor trip). Funds are limited, so apply now!

Nature Express is made available through a grant from the American Girl Fund for Children and the Alliant Energy Foundation.

Additional deals for school groups:


Click here for a full school group lunch menu. For questions on food allergies, general school lunch questions, or to place an order, please email or call the Grille at (608) 630-8091. School Lunch orders must be placed at least 72 hours in advance of your visit.
Meals do not come with train and carousel tokens. Tokens can be added to any meal for $3.00.

Gift Bags

Pre-packaged gift bags can be purchased for $5.00 each.

Train and Carousel Tokens

Groups can pre-order and pre-pay for train and carousel tokens, picking them up before or on the day of their zoo visit in the gift shop.

For questions about the Gift Shop, including gift bags and tokens, please contact James at, or call (608) 630-8091 at least 48 hours in advance of your visit to place your order.