The community-supported Henry Vilas Zoo is full of family-friendly fun for all to enjoy. As you plan your visit to the zoo, know that when you arrive you'll find a variety of animals and attractions ready for you to experience.
Explore our Exhibits and Attractions below.
Since opening in 2003, the Tropical Rainforest Aviary has wowed Henry Vilas Zoo visitors with an immersive tropical experience right here in Madison. This exhibit not only houses many tropical plants and fish, but also features a walkthrough free-flight aviary where you can watch the beautiful birds around you.
Just outside the Tropical Rainforest Aviary, visitors can watch the otters swim and play in their waterfall. Be sure to check out the zoo's popular capybaras, the world's largest rodent. This lush building is a great place to warm up and escape the cold on your winter zoo visit!
The Tropical Rainforest Aviary is located on the northeast side of the zoo, near the penguin exhibit.
Henry Vilas Zoo is proud to care for Amur tigers and African lions. Exhibits mimic habitats in the wild and feature heated rocks for the cats’ comfort in cool weather. Check them out year-round! There's nothing like listening to the lion and tiger have a conversation with each other.
The big cat exhibits are located in the center of the zoo on the north side, near the Primate Building.
Since 1993, the Discovery Center and Herpetarium have been a favorite zoo destination. The Herpetarium is home to cold-blooded animals: reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Don't miss the green anaconda, the largest snake species in the world, or the Aldabra tortoise, the largest tortoise species!
In the same building is the Discovery Center, the zoo's hands-on learning center. See the fine details of feathers, scales, and eggs at the exploration stations’ microscopes and magnifying glasses. The Discovery Center is also the home of our popular summer Zoo School program. Come escape the cold on your winter visit!
The Discovery Center and Herpetarium is located near the Bridge Gate entrance to the zoo on the south side.
Take a moment to enjoy the cool animals that are native to our own part of the world at the George Fait North American Prairie exhibit. Guests love to watch the prairie dogs. The colony normally produces pups in the spring—there are few things more fun to watch than prairie dog pups learning to signal the group. Our impressive bison are perfectly adapted for the heat of summer and cold of winter.
The George Fait North American Prairie is located in the southeast corner of the zoo, across from Arctic Passage.
The state-of-the-art Animal Health Center opened in May 2013. This very important facility is both a state-of-the art hospital and quarantine facility for the zoo. This is where animals come when they need medical treatment, and it’s also their first stop when moving to the zoo, or their last stop when getting ready to move to a new zoo. The Animal Health Center allows us to provide the best possible preventative health care to the animals, as well as immediate on-site urgent and emergency care. If you’re lucky, you may be able to watch a real procedure in the exam room! This building also has a classroom fit to inspire the next generation of zoo vets.
Some of the first animals to use this facility were Burgess the penguin chick who was hand-raised in the exhibit next to the classroom, and Pelo the lion who arrived at our zoo in 2013.
The Animal Health Center is located at the east end of the zoo, past Arctic Passage.
Arctic Passage is the Henry Vilas Zoo's newest exhibit! The Arctic Passage houses large, natural exhibits for grizzly bears and polar bears, as well as provides a new home for the zoo's beloved harbor seals. It features underwater viewing for polar bears and seals and a stream for grizzly bears to fish in. Check out the interactive educational experiences for visitors of all ages, such as the retired Tundra Buggy research vehicle from the Arctic!
As a modern zoo committed to conservation, the exhibit also has sustainability components such as solar panels, rainwater harvesting, and an underground storage unit that saves over 2 million gallons of water used for the animals' pools each year!
The Arctic Passage is located on the east side of the zoo, across from the George Fait North American Prairie
The Children's Zoo is a great place for kids of all ages! It includes our sustainably-designed Red Barn where guests can see our friendly (and very entertaining) goat herd. The Green Barn is home to the popular red pandas and aardvark.
Come ride the Conservation Carousel (there are no horses, but you can ride an okapi or a seal!) or the electric train. The electric train travels through a tunnel and around the perimeter of the Children's Zoo animal exhibits and Red Barn. The Conservation Carousel, a beloved attraction in the Children's Zoo, began spinning in 2006. The carousel begins operation, weather permitting, each March and runs daily from April through the end of October.
The train and Conservation Carousel are each $1.50 per ride per passenger. You can purchase tokens and multi-ride punch cards in the carousel building and at the main gift shop. All proceeds go to help keep the community-supported Henry Vilas Zoo going strong.
The Children's Zoo is located on the south side of the zoo, across from the Discovery Center and Herpetarium and next to the Bridge Gate off of Wingra Drive.
The Primate House, which opened in 1995, is home to primates from all over the world. Learn about prosimians (the ‘pre-monkeys’), monkeys, and apes. The playful, and incredibly smart Bornean orangutans are not to be missed!
The Primate House is located near the north entrance to the zoo, across from the gift shop and picnic area.
Henry Vilas Zoo is home to some of the most iconic species from savanna and high plains habitats from around the world . Watch the reticulated giraffes browsing. Seeing them up close makes you realize how big they really are! Right around the corner you can see the Bactrian camels from the high plains of Asia and alpacas from mountainous South America.
The savanna and high plains exhibits are located on the west side of the zoo.
Come celebrate Wisconsin's history at our newest exhibit, Wisconsin Heritage! This state-of-the-art exhibit features our three American badgers, Bucky, Dekker & Kaminsky as well as our rescued Sandhill crane. Interactive opportunities for kids include a "badger sett", allowing you to get up close to one of our badgers in their burrow, as well as activities and signage depicting our state's great history and the history of Bucky Badger.
Wisconsin Heritage is located across the path from Arctic Passage and our Animal Health Center.
Henry Vilas Zoo is home to many species of animals in addition to those listed above. One of the most important jobs that zoos have is to connect people with wildlife. We hope that you enjoy your visit and learn something new while you are here. For information about how you can help our animals’ wild relatives, please see the signs at their exhibits and the Conservation section of the zoo's website. Please join us for our conservation events throughout the year to help us make a difference for animals in the wild.