On June 11th, we took Jes and the grandkids to Vilas Park/Lake Wingra and the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin’s capitol city.
In 1904, Col. William F. and Anna M. Vilas donated land “for the uses and purposes of a public park and pleasure ground.” Over the next several years, they also donated $42,000 and public donations of $10,000 were raised to enlarge and improve the park. The park is named for young Henry Vilas, who died from complications related to diabetes. The family stipulated withtheir donation of land and money that the park was always to remain free.
The first animal exhibits were added in 1911, the beginnings of what was to become the Henry Vilas Zoo. Over time, the zoo, as it developed, remained free to the public, including parking.
In 1983, with the recognition that it was a regional resource, the zoo was “separated” from the city park and a county zoo commission was created. The zoo is now operated by Dane County, which provides 80% of the operating funds, with the city of Madison providing the rest.
The zoo currently has several construction and renovations projects in progress, including the Adventure Tree Play Area, which looks like great fun for kids.
The zoo is about 30 acres in size. On average, a visit to the zoo will take about an hour and a half.
The busiest time for the zoo is May, when more than 150 school buses may arrive each day.
Animals at the zoo include: Aldabra Tortoise, Alpacas, American Alligators, Badger, Bats, Bison, Birds(exotic & birds of prey) Black Bears, Grizzly Bears, Polar Bears, Bactrian Camels, Capybara, Chimpanzees, Colobus Monkeys, Cotton topped Tamarin, Elk, Emu, Fish, Flamingoes, Frogs, Goats, Golden Lion Tamarins, Hedgehogs, Iguana, Insects, Kangaroos, Lemur, Lions(African), Muntjac, Ostrich, Otters, Penguins, Rhea, Rhinoceros, Seals, Sheep, Snakes, Swans (black), Tapir (Mayalan), Turtles, Wallabies.