Attraction of the Week: The Phoenix Zoo: A Wonderful Zoo with Gorgeous Desert Views & Great Exhibits
The Phoenix Zoo is a wonderful mid-side zoo , one of the bet I’ve ever visited. It’s the largest non-profit zoo in the country. Large animal enclosures, plenty of landscaping, and gorgeous natural landscapes make this a peaceful place to enjoy a morning stroll. You will get a decent workout in as it is pretty spread out (over 125 acres!), however, the animals benefit by having much more space than the typical zoo. All the animals seemed happy walking around in their nature inspired surroundings.
The zoo is very clean and well-maintained. You won’t see any garbage lying about. In addition, it is surprising lush, with not only great natural landscapes, but also many beautiful palms, cacti, and other desert plants. The zoo is set up different than most zoos with 4 major walking trails (totaling about 2.5 miles) instead of a large loop. Some of the zoo is shaded, and if you get too hot, you can always stand under a mister (numerous located throughout the zoo) or visit the splash pad to cool down. Take a look below at some the beautiful desert scenery you will get to experience on your visit.
Adjusted hours in the summer (7am-2pm) means you can enjoy the zoo before the brutal afternoon heat hits (typically well into the 100’s). Fortunately, most people either do not want to get up at 7 or still can’t stand the summer’s 90 degree mornings, meaning you get most of the zoo to yourself! At 7am, this was the least crowded zoo I have ever seen. Basically, we enjoyed the entire zoo to ourselves. If you can withstand 90 degree morning temperatures, you will benefit with a nice relaxing zoo experience! Clear views of the animals with no crowds around!
Overall, the Phoenix zoo is very scenic. You will see all different types of cactus and palm trees during you walk around. The most picturesque portion of the zoo take you through the natural sandstone buttes of Papago Park. A portion of the park has been turned into the Bighorn sheep exhibit. Papago Park is a large area that also houses the Desert Botanical Garden, a large network of trails, and exercise facilities.
Over 1400 animals, including 30 endangered species call the Phoenix zoo home. A few of the must-sees include the Andean Bear, flamingos, Sumatran tigers, the lions, and the beautiful giraffes and zebra exhibits. A walk through squirrel monkey exhibit, which allows you to get an up-close view in a no barrier environment, is a unique sight only found at the Phoenix zoo. Take a look below at the beautiful pictures taken during our visit.
Despite the hot weather, the majority of the animals (with the exception of the missing bobcat and a few sleeping cats) were out and about enjoying the day. In fact, I saw more animals here than at any other zoo. The enclosures are all very big with plenty of plant life. It’s nice that the animals can enjoy being outside all year, as is not the case at cold weather city zoos.
Note: During the summer morning hours, most restaurants are closed until later in the day, with the exception of Jungle Java near the entrance. Here you will find Starbucks brewed drinks, breakfast burritos, and sandwiches. In addition, outside coolers and food are allowed if you wish to bring your own and save some money.
Additional add on activities include: Camel rides, a 4D show, stingray bay, a 25 minute narrated tram ride, carousel rides, pedal boat rides, and a giraffe encounter where you get to feed them up close. Each extra activity can be purchased individually or bought in a package to save money (see pricing below).
*Bring with a camelbak (great for hot weather areas) or a reusable water bottle so you can refill up your drink all day without spending unnecessary money on water bottles.
*Expect very hot weather all summer long, even during the morning hours. Stay hydrated, wear light colored clothing, and cool off frequently by standing under the misters. Take your time walking around so you do not overheat. There are not many indoor exhibits (one of the only downsides compared to other zoos) at this zoo. If you need air conditioning, walk around the gift shop for a bit.
*Look for discount coupons on sites like Groupon or Living Social.
*Get here as early as possible in the summer to avoid both the heat and crowds.
*Wear gym shoes. The zoo is pretty spread out, so you will do plenty of walking. Plus, it’s more comfortable. I also recommend workout clothes as you will be sweaty and basically working out the entire visit.
*Visit the lions first as they are less likely to be active during the hot portion of the day.
*If you are a frequent zoo visitor (not necessarily just of the Phoenix Zoo as they have a reciprocal agreement with over 160 zoos and aquariums), you might as well purchase a membership. At only $55, it will pay for itself in 2-3 visits. Plus you get an hour early admission!
Address & Admission
Location: 455 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008
General Tickets: $20 for adults, $14 (ages 3-13)
Value Tickets: $28 for adults, $22 (ages 3-13) Includes Stingray Bay, 4D theater, and Safari Tram Ride
Total Experience Tickets: $36 for adults, $30 (ages 3-13) Includes everything in value ticket plus camel and carousel rides.
Parking is free.
Zoo hours: June 1st-August 31st (7am-2pm), September 1st- November 4th & January 12th-May 31st (9am-5pm), November 5th-January 11th (9am-4pm).