Location: Henry Vilas Zoo; Madison, Wisconsin
The climbing rock is very popular with the older kids.
The zoo got its start in 1904 when William and Anna Vilas gave the city of Madison 50 acres for a park to be named in honor of their late son Henry. A few years later, a portion of the park was set aside for a deer exhibit, creating the zoo. It had started looking run down, with the exhibits, many decades old, looking worn out. The zoo began slowly renovating exhibits in the 1980’s. Restoration snowballed in earnest in the 1990’s and continues today- herpetarium, aviary, big cat complex primate center, beautiful otter exhibit, and North American prairie are completed; the new Children’s Zoo has a carousel, train and fantastic playground. Many of the animal exhibits are “interactive”, meaning, that you can get up close to swimming otters and napping tigers. Photo ops are built in everywhere. The Arctic Passage complex is the next exhibit scheduled.
Several popular community events take place annually at the zoo, with the Halloween celebration the most popular. Henry Vilas Zoo admission is free, a stipulation of the Vilas bequest, which the 500,000+ visitors a year greatly appreciate. It is open year-round.