Henry Vilas Zoo

Our weekend getaway this time was to Madison, Wisconsin. It is only a two hour drive from home but we decided to stay up there Friday and Saturday night. That way we could drive up after work on Friday and make a leisurely start on Saturday morning when our plan was to visit the Henry Vilas Zoo.

I managed to get off a little early Friday afternoon and we were on the road before 3PM and in Madison by 5 o’clock. We checked into the Magnuson Grand Hotel and asked the desk clerk about a good place to eat nearby. She suggested The Green Lantern in McFarland. It is right on Lake Waubesa and is a very typical Wisconsin restaurant and bar – more like what I would expect to find in the northern part of the state. The food was good and we would certainly go back.

After dinner we stopped by the Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison Dejope casino for some slot machine play before going back to the hotel for the night.

We woke up to thunder on Saturday morning so we had breakfast in the hotel and then went back to the room to relax and wait for the weather to improve. About 10:30 the clouds parted and blue sky began to show through. We put our cameras in the car and drove to the zoo.

Henry Vilas is a small zoo but they have a pretty good collection of animals and it is free. Free admission and free parking. That is rare for a city zoo these days. There are donation boxes scattered around the grounds so, if you go, drop in a couple dollars to help keep this a free public resource.

We started at the lion enclosure where the zoo’s new lion cub was having fun attacking his parents who patiently put up with his antics. From there we continued to the tiger enclosure then to the giraffes who, a sign told us, had begun sparing and had to be separated. They were still hitting each other over the fence by reaching out their long necks.

We saw the rhinos, seals and a few other exhibits before stopping for some zoo food for lunch. – a turkey wrap for Georgia and a pulled pork for me. The we continued to the the bears, capybaras, otters, etc. We skipped the children’s zoo but it looks like a good place for the kids to get up close to animals and was crowded with families.

Colorful parrots are the stars of the rain forest aviary and they made enough noise to make sure everyone knew it. There are other birds there but they are overshadowed by the big parrots.

The reptile house has native Wisconsin species of snakes and lizards as well as more exotic specimens. The first picture in this post is a timber rattle snake that is the largest venomous snake species in Wisconsin.

The North American prairie enclosure is interesting. Bison live here along with prairie dogs and a badger named Cranky. The antics of the prairie dogs kept us watching for a long time. The bison were just lounging in the sun and Cranky stayed in his shallow cave. The last exhibits we saw were the penguins and primate house.

We enjoyed the zoo and our day outdoors.

Since we had a little luck in the casino the night before, we decided to make the 45 minute drive to the big Ho-Chunk casino in Wisconsin Dells for our evening entertainment. I did OK and came out even but Georgia was up even more than the night before. We quit while we were ahead and drove back to the hotel in Madison getting dinner along the way.

We slept in Sunday then checked out and made the drive back home with lunch at the Dill Pickle Grill. Summer is winding down but, hopefully, we will get a few more fine weekends like this so that we can get out and enjoy ourselves.

Update: Sadly, the Dill Pickle Grill has closed. No more stops there on our way to and from Wisconsin.