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School Trips


We’re open! Come explore the Zoo!

Check out our FAQ 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 zoo 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 parking lot at Bowman Park (no charge).

Need Transportation Assistance?

Nature Net’s Nature Express grant program can help! The program is designed to remove barriers for all kinds of nature learning experiences.

Apply for reimbursement for bus funding (or many other nature project ideas) up to $300 per semester.

Find out more and fill out an application on the Nature Net website.

Additional deals for school groups:


Contact us if you are interested in placing an order for a school group lunch. For questions on menu, 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.

*NOTE: We do not have a secure space for individuals or groups to store lunches or coolers.

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. Tokens are $3 each, and are valid for one ride on either the train or carousel.

To pre-order tokens, please contact, or call (608) 283-1610 at least 48 hours in advance of your visit.