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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, campers will gain a greater awareness for the individual animals at the zoo and how to help animals in the wild, all while building their science skills and making new friends.

Thank you for joining us for Winter Zoo Camp 2023!

Check back in October for information on Winter Zoo Camp 2024.

Zoo Members receive discounted registration. Sign up for a Zoo Membership today!

Winter Zoo Camp Details

  • 2023 Dates
    • 12/20, 12/21, 12/22, 12/27, 12/28, 12/29, 1/2* (*only younger group on this day)
    • Single day registration
  • Fee: $70 per day
    • Henry Vilas Zoo Members at the Family level or above receive a 10% discount
  • Camp is geared toward students in 1st-6th grade
  • Hours: drop off is between 8:00 – 8:30 am, camp activities are from 8:30 am – 3:30 pm, pick up is between 3:30 – 4:00 pm.
  • Each day includes: a science challenge, thematic games and activities, and of course an up-close animal encounter!
  • Lunch and snack are not provided. Please pack your own lunch and snack.

2023 Themes

This year, we are again offering single-day registration for our winter camps!

Each day we will have a new theme, so you can choose to register for only one day, or sign-up for them all!

To make registration easier, we have some overlap in the age groups, so middle-elementary students can have their pick of which group to join based on the theme. 

Frog Pond Classroom (1st-3rd) – Around the World

Tamarin Tree House Classroom (3rd-6th) – Survival!

Scholarships Available

Note: completing this application does not guarantee a spot in camp. Scholarship funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

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 12 children with two adults.

What group do I sign my child up for?

We group our sessions by age. 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 608-283-1610.

What is your cancellation policy?

If you choose to cancel your registration, and notify us via email MORE THAN TWO WEEKS prior to the start of camp, you can choose to receive a refund (minus 10% for administrative costs) or transfer your registration payment to a donation for the Zoo. 

If you choose to cancel your registration, and notify us LESS THAN TWO WEEKS prior to the start of your camp, no credits or refunds will be given. Your registration payment will automatically be transferred to a donation.

All cancellations must be made via email to



Questions about Zoo Camp? 

Email the Education Department at