It was time to come back to the Henry Vilas Zoo, and this time explore the ENTIRE zoo. My previous visit was on October 4, 2011 and I didn’t go through the entire zoo on that day. Also, Al was with me this time, he didn’t remember the last time he came here.
If you plan on coming, remember that its free to visit, donations are accepted though and there are donation boxes scattered throughout the zoo. Most days the zoo is open 9:30 to 5, more specifics on hours here. Inside exhibits open at 10:00. Wear comfortable shoes, it took almost four hours to see the entire zoo in one visit. It helps to have a map with you too to check off each exhibit as you see it. Lets begin our tour!
We began at the main entrance where we find the gift shop and ice cream shop. Also two concrete lions that the kids love to take their picture with.
Now for a real lion, today he was sunning himself in full view, looking regal.
Next to the lion is the Primate House, the outdoor exhibits are also viewable from the inside.
After the Primate house we head along the path east and see the Anna Vilas Hall building, where many events take place.
From the balcony of Anne Vilas Hall you could see the penguin’s home. They were not out that morning so here they are from my 2011 visit.
Our next stop was the Tropical Rain Forest Aviary, with bird, reptiles and even rodents that live in the rain forest.
The Capybara is here too, the largest rodent.
Now for the new exhibit we all have been waiting for, the new Arctic Passage!
In 2011 they were fundraising, now its a reality it just opened May 23, 2015. Here is an overview of the new mega-exhibit.
Many kids were there, and they were really enjoying it. We also had lunch at the new Glacier Grill inside, which offers a view of the Polar Bears while you eat! Eating here also supports the zoo.
The Sea Lions were really aping the crowd, and knew how to get claps and cheers.
There are many great photo-ops to take with your kids too. Not to mention numerous animal cut-outs the can put their faces in.
This is really fun, outside of the Arctic Passage exhibit is an actual Tundra Buggy, used to transport scientists across the arctic and Antarctic icy terrain. You can go inside and kids can pretend to drive it, inside it sounds like its rolling along.
It’s not just for scientists anymore! In Churchill, Canada you can also have a buggy tour. Cool!
Across from the Arctic Passage exhibit is the North American Prairie exhibit. In it are Prairie Dogs, Badgers and Bison.
The viewing platform’s scenery has changed since 2011. on the left is 2011, on the right is 2015. Wow, what a change!
Next to here is the new Jack Lussier Conservation Pavilion, also just a sign on my visit in 2011. A docent was teaching a large group of children here.
Next is the Herpetarium, or reptile house. Outside are two tortoises and an alligator. I probably saw those same tortoises when I was a kid, or even my Mom since they live over 100 in many cases.
And now for the best Children’s Zoo I can remember ever seeing.
It wasn’t this big when I was a kid. It has a petting zoo, train ride and carousel for both kids and adults to enjoy. It’s a $1.50 to ride them each. Lets watch them in action! The carousel is customized for Madison, see the panels above with the Capitol and Bascom Hill.
The animals at the petting zoo area were so funny and all vying for attention.
There also is a large play structure for the kids here. This is a zoo in itself.
Pink Flamingos are also in this part of the zoo.
Also here is the Red Panda, not for petting.
The last area of the zoo to see is at the east-central area, with the giraffes, hippo, tapir, plus the tiger (not seen) and lion.
Lots of tables under pavilions (new) near the central building that has been there since my childhood. Access to the Children’s Zoo used to be through the central area of this building.
What a great time both of us had, you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy this zoo. Thanks also Vilas Family for bestowing this gift to Madison, your legacy begins its 2nd century!