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Winter Zoo Camp

It’s time to leave your den and enjoy ours! When winter comes to the Henry Vilas Zoo, our animals stay cozy and so will you. All our programs include a mix of time spent exploring the outdoors and experiences in our warm indoor spaces. With a different topic each day, we offer flexible sign-up options to fit your schedule.

Registration now open!

Register Now!

Winter Zoo Camp Details

  • Fee: $65 members/$70 non-members per day
  • Camps are geared toward students in 1st-3rd grade and 4th-6th grade.
  • Hours: drop off is between 8:00 – 8:30 am, camp activities are from 8:30 am – 3:30 pm, optional aftercare available from 3:30 -5:00 pm for an additional $8 per day
  • Each day includes: a science challenge, thematic games and activities, and of course an up-close animal encounter!
  • Lunch is not provided. Please pack your own lunch

Check out our daily themes this year!

Lions: 1st-3rd Grade
Dec 23rd: Gingerbread Zoo Help us build the zoo – out of gingerbread! We will use
our gingerbread engineering skills (and our love for
candy) to build the sweetest zoo around! We will explore
the zoo for inspiration and research, and go behind the
scenes to see how it all works.

Dec 26th: Pajama Party Snuggle up in your PJs for this pajama party at the
zoo! We will learn all about how animals cozy up for
winter, or head out for the cold winter season. We will
be inspired by some zoo animals who build dens and
build our own cozy dens.

Dec 27th: Snowfari Join us on a snowfari adventure! We will explore the
tundra as polar researchers and meet some animals
who are built for the snow and cold. We will have some
fun in the snow ourselves and make some special treats
for our cold loving friends.

Dec 30th: Party Animals Let’s celebrate! Animals have all sorts of connections
to people and culture, in this camp we will learn about
all the ways animals are celebrated around the world!
We will party it up as we learn and meet some animals.

Jan 2nd: Scatology Scat is where it’s at! Although it may seem gross, scat
helps us learn a lot about animals. We will take a look
at how we can help take care of animals and learn more
about their diet. If this isn’t your favorite zoo camp,
it will be a solid #2. 😉

Jan 3rd: Rainforest
Let’s take a step out of the cold winters of Wisconsin
and see what life is like in the rainforest where it’s hot
and humid. We will take care of some of the tropical
residents at the zoo and learn all about the
adaptations they have to survive in the heat.

Tigers: 4th-6th Grade
Dec 23rd:Animal EngineersPeople aren’t the only creatures around that
can make some incredible structures. Animals
have been modifying their habitats for millions
of years! Let’s learn about a few of these animal
architects and get inspired to build a few things of our own.

Dec 26th:Animal Engineering:
Exhibit Design
There is a lot to consider when designing an
animal’s home…do you have what it takes to build
the perfect zoo? We will explore our zoo and go
behind the scenes to see what it takes to build an
animal enclosure. Then we will try our hand at
designing something for our favorite animals!
Join us on this animal architect adventure.

Dec 27th: Animal Engineering:
We can learn so much from the amazing adaptations
that animals have. Come problem solve with us and
get inspired by some innovative animals. We will use
what we know about these animals to engineer
a creative and unique solution.

Dec 30th: Training 101 Open… Sit… Paw! We train our animals to do all sorts
of things that help us take better care of them. Join us
as we discover the basics of behavior science from a
few of our trainers here at the zoo. We will put our new
knowledge to the test to train some animals ourselves!

Jan 2nd:Getting Into
Hot Water
People can have an impact on the wild world around
them both good and bad. As our climate changes we need
to learn more about what we can do to help the animals
that are facing these challenges. Be a climate hero and
help us save animals and the places they call home.

Jan 3rd:Nature
Snakes are slimy. Porcupines shoot their quills. Camels
store water in their humps. We’ve all heard these stories,
but are they true? Join us to discover and dispel
all sorts of nature myths.

Register Now!

Zoo Camp FAQ

How much time do campers spend with the animals and behind the scenes?

This is the heart of the Zoo Camp experience! Each day, campers will have an opportunity to step into the role of the zookeepers: putting out food for an animal or helping to prep an animal enclosure for the day. At least once each day, campers get to see or touch an animal up close. We also focus on investigating the real life challenges zoo staff and vets face. Campers will have opportunities to build their teamwork skills as they complete our science challenges.

What does a typical day at Zoo Camp look like?

  • Campers are welcomed with some games or activities while everyone arrives.
  • Small group bonding activities start the day.
  • Some days campers do a “keeper chore” to help the keepers set up for the day.
  • The challenge of the day is revealed. The group comes up with questions and suggestions for which animals to observe.
  • Campers explore the zoo to make observations that will help them solve the challenge.
  • Meet an animal up close or go into an enclosure to learn more.
  • Lunch offers a chance to eat, relax, or play at the playground (campers must bring their own lunch).
  • After lunch, campers discuss solutions to their scientific challenges and work together to design or build a model to solve the problem they have been working on.
  • The afternoon continues with thematic activities, games, and often another up-close animal encounter, before wrapping up and reflecting on the day.
  • Campers who are pre-registered for the extended day have a snack (provided by camp) and more time to explore the zoo, play at the zoo playground, or play games together.

Why are daily science challenges used to shape the camp experience?

With easy access to information online, teaching children how to approach a novel challenge is more effective than telling them animal facts. Our instructors build on campers’ innate curiosity by encouraging them to carry out scientific investigations. The challenges also create natural teamwork situations that bring groups together and are lots of fun!

What kind of science challenges are you talking about?

We work with the kind of challenges zoo staff and scientists are faced with everyday, such as:

  • What kinds of food should we feed the animals?
  • What should we add to the enclosure to encourage natural behaviors?
  • How do we design the best habitat for an animal?
  • How do we care for an injured animal?
  • What new inventions can we create by studying animals?

At Zoo Camp, we use age-appropriate scenarios based on real life. The campers then have room to observe, wonder, and come up with their own solutions – some of which we can actually put into place at the zoo!

Will it feel fresh and new to attend more than one session of Zoo Camp?

Yes! We have a new theme each day, with different animal encounters, and a new daily challenge and science investigations. The process of asking questions and carrying out new investigations feels fresh each time.

What is the adult-to-child ratio?

We keep our group sizes small. Camps are limited to twelve children with two adults.

What group do I sign my child up for?

We group our sessions by the grade your child is in for the current school year. If you don’t see a session that works for you, please call or email us to discuss if it would be a good fit to sign your child up for a younger or older camp. We are willing to make exceptions if everyone thinks it will be a good fit. Email: or call 608-444-1861.

Questions about Zoo Camp? 

Email the Education Department at