Do you have a love for viewing wildlife and animals? Join us as we take a tour throughout the state to view some of Wisconsin’s noteworthy and unique zoos. Whether you are seeking exotic wildlife or adorable farm critters, we’ve got you covered.
1. Henry Vilas Zoo – Madison
Photo by Jordan Richmond
What’s the best part about Henry Vilas Zoo? It’s free and open to the public year-round! There are plenty of sights to see with the whole family, such as the Big Cats Exhibits, Artic Passage, and Primate House among other areas. Kids will love the diversity of animals, like polar bears, lions, giant tortoises, and ostriches as well as the fun environmental centers. The Madison community has done a terrific job over the years keeping this beloved zoo maintained and allowing it to constantly expand with exciting new exhibits through donations.
2. Bear Den Zoo & Petting Farm – Waterford
This cozy farm offers great options for kids and animal lovers alike by inviting close interactions with local wildlife and exotic animals. You can expect to find ducklings, kittens, lemurs, goats, and kangaroos to pet and play with. The animals are different each year and there are always little fluffy baby animals around that will melt your heart. There are also many other activities to be had on the farm such as hay rides, pumpkin picking in the fall, and even playing tug of war with a black bear! Perfect for family reunions or giving plenty of warm memories to your kids, there is sure to be something that everyone will appreciate at this upbeat zoo.
3. Menominee Park Zoo – Oshkosh
Photo by popo.uw23 on Flickr
The zoo with a lake view. This great wildlife exhibit offers local and exotic animals and is continuing to expand right off Lake Winnebago. Gray wolves, elk, otters, and foxes call Menominee Park home and can be viewed from May through September. The scenery of the zoo and park make for great dates, day outings, and excellent Kodak moments. The plans for expansion at the zoo keep the Oshkosh community optimistic as it continues to take in new animal residents to its family.
4. Jo-Don Farms – Caledonia
Don Meyer had a vision to share his love of animals with others so he created Jo-Don Farms. Just south of Milwaukee is the farm, which holds a great variety of rescued animals that Don offers for the public to view and interact with. Public support and an admiration for all things animals welds the Jo-Don community together. You can find tigers, parrots, camels, lions, and other farm animals at Jo-Don between May and October. All of this is fantastic but the most impressive part of Jo-Don farms is its “Bring the zoo to you!” program. If you are hosting an event, then contact Jo-Don Farms and they can bring their animals to you. Enjoy the animals company with camel and pony rides, educational programs, and petting zoos.
5. Wildwood Wildlife Park and Nature Center – Minocqua
Photo by John Kunze
Wildwood has carefully crafted a respectable reputation with its park by offering a variety of exhibits, a clean environment, friendly staff, and detailed plans for future expansions. Known as the second largest zoo in the whole state, Wildwood is home to giraffes, white tigers, zebras, a reptile house, a safari tour and so much more. The extensive schedule at Wildwood includes educational programs for kids, holiday events, fundraisers, and conservation efforts.
6. Lincoln Park Zoo – Manitowoc
Lincoln Park Zoo is Manitowoc’s pride and joy for animal viewing and conservation. Snow leopards, Asiatic black bears, bison, and cranes can be seen in all their majestic glory here. Lincoln Park brings in a variety of special events to the zoo, such as Steve Kellner’s Traveling Snake Show, Moo at the Zoo, and Easter Eggstravaganza for the kids. The best part of the zoo is that, like Henry Vilas, it’s free to visit! Lincoln Park Zoo is very community-driven and is the perfect option for those seeking entertainment on a budget.
7. Milwaukee County Zoo – Milwaukee
Photo by Jim Bauer
The biggest zoo on our list offers a huge variety of animals and exhibits that cannot be ignored for the nature enthusiast in each of us. Over 2,000 mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles can be found here with rarities such as the Amur Tiger, Diana Monkey, Hippopotamus, and African Elephant. A stand-out feature is their online “Zoo View”, which allows visitors to see some of the animal exhibits in real time, anytime! The Milwaukee County Zoo’s mission is to maintain its respectable zoological society while contributing to animal conservation and education. This is one zoo you cannot pass up.
8. NEW Zoo Adventure Park – Suamico
Just north of Green Bay you can find the zoo and adventure park hybrid. Offering a wide variety of entertainment options such as zip lines, a climbing tower, and a ropes course make for an adrenaline filled evening. Once you are done with the adventure park, stroll right into the zoo area and view the animal exhibits, such as mountain lions, red wolves, red pandas, moose, and penguins. Unlike many other zoos in the state, you can visit NEW Zoo during the chilly winter months as well.
9. Wildwood Zoo – Marshfield
Photo by Lisa on Flickr
Not to be confused with Wildwood in Minocqua, this zoo can be found in Marshfield and is yet another free option. Wildwood has a mission to provide quality and well-regulated North American animal facilities to those in central Wisconsin. The zoo’s roots date back unofficially to 1904 when a few utility workers began to care for two black bears. Today, it’s only run by one keeper, yet offers a great experience for some quality animal viewings and educational experiences. Animals include lynx, eagles, Timber Wolves, Bighorn Sheep, and two beautiful Kodiak Bears, which can’t be found anywhere else in the state! The zoo is open all year and has done a terrific job of bringing attention and visitors to Marshfield and is always looking for your support to expand.
10. Irvine Park & Zoo – Chippewa Falls
Our last zoo is one of the only zoos located in Northwest Wisconsin and has worked hard to keep itself as an adorned attraction in the Chippewa Falls community. Be sure to stop on by since the zoo is free and open all four seasons to the public! There are a wide variety of attractions, including the Big Cats and American Black Bears exhibits, along with its famous Red Barn Petting Zoo, perfect for children. Irvine Park also provides picnic areas, hiking trails, an outdoor pool, and even a Christmas Village during the winter.
BONUS: Wisconsin Big Cats – Rock Springs
Photo by Ron Amundson
If you love big cats as much as we do, then you can’t forget about the Wisconsin Big Cats and Education Center. Located just south west of Wisconsin Dells is the largest home to big cats within the state. The center serves as a sanctuary and educational facility that survives off donations from its members and the public. Self-guided and guided tours are available for purchase to view the tigers, lions, and leopards that reside within the facility. Wisconsin Big Cats continues to carefully care for our feline friends and represent quality animal conservation.
Which of these zoos have you visited, and what would you add to the list? Share with us in the comments below!
Ken Virden is a member of the Discover Wisconsin crew. He spends his recreational time with family and friends going camping, attending rock festivals, and running his own podcast ‘Virden Interviews’. Watch Discover Wisconsin TV Saturday mornings at 10 on Fox Sports Wisconsin. (Twitter: @DiscoverWI)
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