Plan your visit
The Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, WI is one of only a handful of admission-free, community-supported zoos in the country. Fully accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, our beautiful zoo features exhibits and attractions for the whole family!
The zoo relies on support from the community to remain open and admission-free. If you’d like help, please leave a donation in the donation tubes located throughout the zoo or donate online.
All are welcome at the Henry Vilas Zoo!
Zoo Hours & Admission
The zoo is open daily from 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., year-round.
Thanks to generous contributions from members of the community, there is no charge for admission or parking, but donations are greatly appreciated!
The indoor exhibits (Aviary, Herpetarium, Discovery Center, and Primate Building) and Children’s Zoo are open from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
The Zoo Train and Conservation Carousel are open daily during the summer with reduced hours in the spring and fall.
The zoo is closed at noon on the following days:
- Thanksgiving Day
- Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
- New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day
The Henry Vilas Zoo is located at 702 South Randall Ave., Madison, WI 53715, just down the street from the University of Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium.
There are two entrances to the zoo, each with their own parking lot. The main entrance is on the north side at the intersection of Drake St. and Randall Ave. The alternative “bridge entrance” is on the southeast side on Vilas Park Dr. across from the beach.
The zoo is surrounded by Vilas Park, which features lush, open space for active play, as well as two playgrounds for children to explore. The park boasts a ball diamond, a beach, and a lagoon maintained for ice skating in the winter.
Parking is free at the Henry Vilas Zoo, and visitors can take advantage of three parking lots. Parking is limited due to the zoo’s location and can be challenging on weekends and busy summer days. When the lots are full, visitors can usually find a space within a block or two of the zoo.
Please note: Parking is owned and managed by the City of Madison. Restrictions are strictly enforced, and zoo parking lots have a three-hour parking limit.
Buses 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.
Directions to Bowman Park:
- Please use the Wingra Dr. entrance to drop off passengers near the Herpetarium
- Exit Vilas Park via Wingra Dr. and follow Wingra Dr. southeast
- Make a right on Fish Hatchery Rd. and a quick left onto Plaenert Dr.
- Take the first right into Bowman Park (after Wright Middle School)
- Park in the rear lot, leaving ample room for other buses
Madison Metro has several routes that will bring you within five to six blocks of the zoo. We encourage you to use the bus as an easy, environmentally-friendly alternative. As bus schedules are subject to vary by day, please visit Madison Metro to view the most up-to-date routes and schedules.
At the corner of Mills St. and Wingra Dr. is a Madison B-Cycle station for renting and returning bicycles. For current availability, visit madison.bcycle.com.
Electric Vehicle Recharge:
Those with electric vehicles can take advantage of a charging station on the south side of the zoo in the parking lot across from Vilas Park Beach.
Train & Carousel
Mingled with the calls of the zoo’s white-handed gibbons, visitors may hear the call of our Zoo Train. The electric train travels through a tunnel and around the perimeter of the Children’s Zoo animal exhibits and the Red Barn.
A beloved attraction in the Children’s Zoo, the Conservation Carousel began spinning in 2006.
Hours: Weather permitting, the carousel and train open in March or April and run through the end of October from 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. daily. During the winter, the train is closed, and the carousel is open on weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: $2.00 per ride per passenger. You can purchase tokens and multi-ride punch cards in the carousel building or at the main gift shop. Goat feeding is offered at the Children’s Zoo for free for a suggested when volunteers are available.
All proceeds benefit the community-supported Henry Vilas Zoo.
The Glacier Grille & Zoo Snacks
Dine with the bears! The zoo’s Glacier Grille combines healthy, tasty food with a one-of-a-kind setting. Our Grille is the only indoor restaurant in the country to look out onto a polar bear exhibit!
The Glacier Grille is open from 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily beginning in April.
During the winter, the Grille is only open weekends from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
All purchases support your community zoo.
Just feel like a coffee or cool snack?
Stop by the zoo Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream and coffee kiosk! Closed for the winter. Reopens in March.
Henry Vilas Zoo Gift Shop
Find the perfect gift for the wildlife enthusiast or zoo fan in your life. Our selection ranges from fun and affordable keepsakes, toys, and crafts to fine, handcrafted gifts from around the globe. You can also find wild apparel for zoo fans of all ages!
The gift shop also conveniently offers disposable cameras, umbrellas, and rain coverlets to make your visit to the zoo as enjoyable as possible.
- 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily from March through September
- 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily from October through February
- May close early in winter due to weather.