Henry Vilas Zoo

Two lions cuddling

Jeff Miller

A pair of lion cubs, born in 2017, are a major draw, along with the zoo’s Arctic Passage exhibit — home to polar bears, grizzly bears, and harbor seals — which opened in 2015.

Archival photo of Henry Vilas

Courtesy UW Archives, UWArchivesS16487

The zoo opened in 1911, after William Vilas 1858, MA1886 and his wife, Anna, donated land for the public park that was named for their son Henry, who died in childhood due to complications from diabetes.

Two Badgers at the Henry Vilas Zoo

Jeff Miller

American badgers Dekker and Kaminsky — namesakes of the two former Badger basketball stars — and a sandhill crane are featured in the Wisconsin Heritage exhibit, which highlights the state’s mining history.

Children ride the carousel at the Henry Vilas Zoo

Jeff Miller

Free admission makes the zoo, located less than two miles from the UW–Madison campus, one of the city’s most popular attractions. Inside the Children’s Zoo, rides on the carousel and electric train cost $2 apiece.


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