Milwaukee County Zoo started as a miniature mammal and bird park in the late 19th century, and today it’s one of the city’s great family days out. The zoo covers almost 200 acres (81 hectares) of landscaped grounds, with spacious enclosures faithfully recreating the natural habitats of its 2,583 animals. It’s noted as the nation’s first zoo to successfully breed polar bear cubs in captivity. Give yourself at least half a day to see the animals and take in the feeding presentations and other rides and activities on offer.
You can cover a lot of ground fairly quickly on an insightful guided tour by “zoomobile” streetcar, or with a leisurely miniature steam train ride. The guided tours run for 25 minutes. Purchase tickets from the Zoomobile Ticket Booth near the main entrance. Both activities run during the warmer months between mid-April and mid-October. Alternatively, get a bird’s-eye view of the animals on the Sky Safari chairlift.
Don’t miss the Big Cat enclosure featuring African lions, snow leopards, South American jaguars and hyenas. The enclosure features regular feeding demonstrations and draws big crowds throughout the day. Check feeding times in advance, particularly when visiting during the colder winter months, when there are fewer events scheduled.
Year round, the temperature-controlled Aquatic and Reptile Center offers a close-up view of tropical marine life and exotic creatures such as the Chinese alligator and King Cobra. You can indulge in some fun side attractions at the zoo, including donkey and camel rides, a traditional carousel and zip lining.
Milwaukee County Zoo is located just west of the city in the Canon Park neighborhood. There is ample on-site parking and frequent public buses from downtown. The zoo is open every day of the year. Families get in free on monthly “Family Free Days” outside the peak summer season.