Animal Adventures: Wisconsin's Zoos and Wildlife Parks

By Denice Ryan Martin
Special to

There’s tons of water fun in the Dells, Northwoods and on Lake Geneva. But if you’re feeling water-logged or want to do something different for a day, visit one of the nearby petting zoos and wildlife centers. It’s your chance to get up close and personal with some of Wisconsin’s furry animal friends.

Central Wisconsin

Wisconsin Deer ParkWisconsin Dells

Did you know the white-tailed deer is the state’s official wildlife animal? See, pet, and feed over 100 of these gentle creatures, plus five other kinds of deer from around the world.

Greet other fascinating animals like American elk, bison, llamas, emus and lemurs. Explore an entertaining exhibit that’s four blocks long while strolling along its paved and wooded trails.

Northest Wisconsin

Lumberjack Steam TrainLaona

Experience the farm and the forest in one journey! This amazing day trip destination is chock-full of animal, history and forestry exhibits. The kid-friendly animal corral features small, cuddly farm animals as well as an assortment of fine feathered friends.

Take a peaceful pontoon boat ride on the Rat River and scout for eagles, otter, deer, blue herons and other wildlife. Train lovers of all ages are invited “All aboard!” for a vintage steam train ride to an old logging camp.

Top off the fun with ice cream from the on-site Choo Choo Hut restaurant.

Northwest Wisconsin

Wilderness Walk Zoo & Recreation ParkHayward

Howdy, pardners! This 35-acre site includes wild Northwoods animals and farm animals, plus a western town and a chance to pan for gold.

Come and meet bears, timber wolves, lemurs and silver foxes. The park is open rain or shine, seven days a week.

Northwoods Wisconsin

Wildwood Wildlife Park & Nature CenterMinocqua

Generations of vacationing families visited this popular park in the '60s, '70s and '80s, when it was known as Jim Peck's. Today it's the second largest zoo in Wisconsin with more than 750 mammals, reptiles and birds.

Memorable moments include feeding fish in the trout pond, offering bears their “bear juice” and doling out “critter crackers” to the deer, camels and sheep. Get up close and personal with 500 colorful birds in the “Parakeet Budgie Encounter.” Fun educational programs, a Primate & Reptile Center and a large interactive petting zoo all guarantee a full day of animal excitement.

Southeast Wisconsin

The Dancing Horses Theatre & Animal Gardens – Delavan

Conveniently located near Lake Geneva, Animal Gardens has a petting zoo with animals ranging from hay-eating cattle to exotix critters and – wait for it – a dancing horse theatre! Visit the hands-on Baby Animal Barn, feed deer in the park, share a pond with the swans and step back in time at the Indian Village.

For an extra charge, treat your family to the enchantment of the Dancing Horses Theatre. It’s a show complete with exquisitely trained horses, dazzling moves, pageantry, costumes and music. The kids will remember this one-of-a-kind show for years to come!

Ready for more cute animals? Check out these working farms along the Great River Road!

This entry was posted in Animals & Agriculture