A group of young kids look at a tiger on the other side of a fence at Henry Vilas Zoo

Sharon Vanorny

Admission is Free

The Henry Vilas Zoo remains one of 10 free zoos in the nation.

Henry Vilas Zoo

Where else can you see more than 650 animals from around the world for free? Henry Vilas Zoo has been one of visitors' favorite things to do in Madison for decades. Indoor exhibits like the aviary and primate building let you get up-close to some of the world's most amazing animals. The conservation carousel amazes all. And the polar bears are always putting on a show. 

Plan Your Visit

The zoo is open 365 days a year from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (with special hours on holidays). And we weren't kidding when we said it's completely free, all year long. If you haven't been yet, it's about time to start planning your trip to see lions, tigers and bears (and badgers and flamingos, oh my)!


Plan your ultimate zoo day

Let the Henry Vilas Zoo be the centerpiece to your ultimate Madison, Wisconsin getaway. The zoo is just minutes from some of the best things to see and do in Madison.

Explore Vilas Park

Memories are made when you walk out of the zoo and head right to Vilas Beach for a dip in the lake or a float around on a kayak. Pack a picnic or bring your favorite takeout while the kids run on the playground or your friends tee up a round of Frisbee.

Discover Monroe Street

Monroe Street is an iconic Madison neighborhood filled with shopping, great eats and some awesome public art to up your Instagram game. Start your Monroe Street mosey at Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream and continue all the way down to take in the sites of the legendary Camp Randall Stadium.

Along the way you can stop and get a record at Strictly Discs, peruse through pages at Mystery to Me bookstore, grab a beer at Garth's Brew Bar and snag some brunch at local favorite Mickie's Dairy Bar

Bike around

You don't need to bring your bike to discover the country's most bikeable city. Madison BCycle has electric-bike rental stations located throughout town, including right outside Vilas Park. 

Adventure through the UW Arboretum

Part research center, part natural getaway, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum is an outdoor haven right among the action of the city. Hike and bike through more than 17 miles of easy trails of various lengths, or check out their free-and-low-cost events.