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“Not only is the zoo free, but it is also clean and great staff.”
Review of Henry Vilas Zoo

Henry Vilas Zoo
Ranked #3 of 99 things to do in Madison
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Owner description: Truly a wild place to hang out, this free zoo, located inside Vilas Park, features animals from around the world including African lions, South American alpacas and tortoises from the Galapagos Islands.
De Pere, Wisconsin
Level 4 Contributor
39 reviews
11 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 24 helpful votes
“Not only is the zoo free, but it is also clean and great staff.”
Reviewed 15 July 2014

This zoo is fairly small, but includes a lion, giraffes, rhino's, a monkey house, and more. They are building an arctic area for 2015 which is a $4M project. The exhibits are nicely done, the buildings are clean (including the bathrooms - which is almost unheard of at a zoo) they also have a nice little train that the smaller kids love ($1.50/person - a little high given the short duration). They also have a carousel which seemed very nice (same cost). The staff was also very friendly. The parking was a bit of a challenge, but other than that, for a free and clean zoo, it was great and I would highly recommend.

Visited July 2014
Thank John H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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1,349 reviews from our community

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Canton, Ohio
Level 6 Contributor
133 reviews
44 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 337 helpful votes
“Great Small Zoo in Beautiful Setting”
Reviewed 14 July 2014

Its amazing that a city the size of Madison has such a wonderful and FREE zoo. The lovely grounds are beautifully maintained with nice landscaping and facilities. This is the perfectly-sized zoo for a short outing----especially loved the extremely friendly (and apparently hungry) goats! Reasonably-priced concessions and great giftshop as well.

Visited July 2014
2 Thank blndgenie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Westborough, Massachusetts
Level 6 Contributor
133 reviews
55 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 50 helpful votes
“Free local zoo”
Reviewed 13 July 2014 via mobile

Small zoo with the main exciting animals that everyone would enjoy. The zoo is open to 5 but they start closing the buildings that house the birds, snakes and insects at 4:00. Soon after 4:00 they start putting the animals back in their cages.

Great for families with small kids as it has enough to keep them occupied but is not overwhelming. Would come back. Plus it is Free.

Visited July 2014
Thank Pdonatyandkids
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
chicago, IL
Level 6 Contributor
202 reviews
45 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 162 helpful votes
“What's Not To Like - Free and Zoo Animals”
Reviewed 13 July 2014

We had been to the Henry Vilas Zoo in the past, but it had been a while. Our return trip was enjoyable. We arrived on a Saturday and about 1/2 hour after the zoo had opened. The zoo lot was full (it is small), but we were able to find street parking within a block of the zoo lot for free as well.

We enjoyed walking around and looking at the variety of animals. The animals were mostly active and playing during our visit. As some other reviews mentioned, this is not a San Diego Zoo and it doesn't have all the zoo animals you can name, but there were quite a few and enough for us to view for 1/2 day. It looks like they are also currently building a new polar bear habitat. I may not have seen every possible zoo animal, but for the most part the wallet is still in tact as well. A perfect trade off as far as we were concerned. Still saw lions, tigers, giraffes, primates, rhinos, alligator, several other mammals, birds, amphibians, etc.

The admission to the zoo is free which is great. In addition we had packed a picnic lunch and there are several places within the zoo with tables to bring your lunch in without any issue to save additional money, but there are a few reasonably priced food stands as well. We found the items in the gift shop priced to be very reasonable as well. The zoo makes it's money from donations, donation bins on site, concessions and the gift shop. We had not problem dropping money in the bins and buying a few items in the shop. A more than reasonable cost for a 1/2 day of entertainment for the family.

The enclosures as well are not as fancy as some other zoos we have seen, but they didn't seem too bad and it looked like several were updated.

We had a good time and there is not much else you can do with the family for 1/2 day which everyone likes and for such a low cost. A great feature for the city without question.

Additional Info: If we had planned ahead also next to the zoo is Lake Wingra which has a small beach where we could have spent the other half of the day if we had the beach stuff and suits. The lake had a roped off swimming area, store, pretty nice looking sand (though smaller), and it was staffed by lifeguards.

Visited July 2014
2 Thank ntlwhlr
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Hilliard, Ohio
Level 6 Contributor
240 reviews
53 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 77 helpful votes
“Keeps getting better”
Reviewed 12 July 2014

Whenever we visit Madison, we try to find time for a trip to the zoo. It's still FREE, which I took for granted growing up, but amazes me as an adult. My mother has many childhood memories here, and my grandfather lives nearby when he was a little boy and used to visit the zoo frequently. Other than the price, I am also impressed by how the zoo continues to evolve, providing improved enclosures for the animals and nice variety of animals to see. It took us 1.5 hours to get through the zoo today, but I'd anticipate after their polar exhibit is complete, it will probably be a two hour activity from start to finish. That doesn't include any time spent in the kids area, which is way awesome now compared to when I was little. It includes a play area, train, carousel, and petting zoo. The only bad thing about this zoo (and when I say bad, I do mean disgusting) is the rest room. It is antiquated, and I can never remember a time when it has been clean. On this last visit, the floors were wet and dirty. So my advice is either don't pee or keep you expectations low and be quick about it. Hopefully the restrooms are on a list for future improvements.

Visited July 2014
1 Thank Jessica B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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