Henry Vilas Zoo

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Henry Vilas Zoo
LocationMadison, Wisconsin, United States
Coordinates43°3′34″N 89°24′37″W / 43.05944°N 89.41028°W / 43.05944; -89.41028
Land area28 acres (11 ha)[1]
Annual visitors750,000
Henry Vilas Zoo

Henry Vilas Zoo is a 28-acre (11 ha) public zoo in Madison, Wisconsin, United States that is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Owned by Dane County, the zoo charges no admission or parking fees. It receives over 750,000 visitors annually.


In 1904, the city received 50 acres (20 ha) of land from William and Anna Vilas under the conditions that it be used "for the uses and purposes of a public park and pleasure ground".[3] The park was named in honor of the Vilas's son, Henry, who died at a young age from complications related to diabetes. The family stipulated that the park always be admission-free.

By 1911, 28 acres (11 ha) of the park were partitioned into an animal exhibit, marking the creation of the zoo. The Madison Zoological and Aquarium Society was founded in 1914, and in 1926 became the Henry Vilas Park Zoological Society, which continues today. In 1964, the society was incorporated as a non-profit corporation.

For the hundredth anniversary of the zoo, the society operated a "Zoo Century" campaign to support a $27 million redevelopment of the zoo over the next 10 years. Plans call for a new Arctic Passage exhibit and a redesigned Children’s Zoo.[4] The Arctic Passage which includes a major expansion that includes a new restaurant, and new enclosures for seals and returning grizzly and polar bears opened May 23, 2015.[5]

The zoo hosts an annual Zoo Run Run with a 5K-10K run/walk. The race starts and finishes in the zoo, and uses portions of the adjacent University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum.

Animals and Exhibits[edit]

The zoo houses amphibians, birds, fish, insects, mammals, and reptiles from several continents.


  1. ^ "Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin". city-data.com. City Data. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  2. ^ "Currently Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". aza.org. AZA. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  3. ^ "History of the Vilas Zoo". Henry Vilas Zoo. Archived from the original on April 26, 2015. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  4. ^ ‘Zoo Century’ Campaign Unveiled
  5. ^ http://host.madison.com/news/local/henry-vilas-zoo-s-new-arctic-passage-it-s-a/article_df0312fe-76f0-5b94-bbdb-b092f7568f88.html

External links[edit]