By Jill “mamabug” Frier
One of our favorite things to do as a family when the weather cools off is visit the zoo. Any zoo. Every zoo. It’s a great way to get outside, enjoy the weather and see nature and wildlife in action. Arizona has some outstanding zoos and wildlife parks. Each of these places has something unique to offer – they are all much more than just a zoo. And all of them are worth the trip!
It’s a zoo. It’s an amusement park. It’s a peek into a privately run breeding program. This zoo has something for everyone. Animals from around the world are plentiful and the Wildlife World Zoo lets you see them up close and personal. This privately-owned zoo participates in a breeding program for many of its animals, which lets you see baby animals all year round. It also features a hands-on petting zoo with goats, sheep, baby deer, llamas, desert tortoises and more. And don’t forget the aquarium, where you can see everything from penguin feedings, to sharks, to the only sea lions in Arizona.
There are many other fun activities available, too. The train and safari rides take you through the African animal enclosures. The boat tour drifts through the Australian animal exhibit. The sky ride takes you across the park and over the animal enclosures. And many of the dozens of new amusement park rides in the zoo’s new Adventureland area weave their way through the North American animals exhibits (you can say hello to the llamas while you ride the rollercoaster). With the largest collection of exotic animals in Arizona, this zoo in Litchfield Park is worth the price.
The Phoenix Zoo is a traditional, world-class city zoo right in the heart of Phoenix. It features animals from across the globe and participates in a wide range of conservation efforts locally and globally. The zoo was recently granted accreditation by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). Due to its leadership in animal welfare and conservation efforts, the AZA considers it to be one “the best zoos and aquariums in the world.” This zoo is unique to Phoenix and is always a joy to visit. The Phoenix Zoo hosts special activities, events, camps, and educational programs throughout the year.
Out of Africa Wildlife Park is an adventure and a joyful animal encounter experience just a short drive from Phoenix. This Camp Verde zoo and wildlife park has an amazing collection of wild animals from Africa and many other parts of the world. It also provides a caring home for rescued wildlife from around the country. Visitors are allowed to see, and sometimes interact with, the animals up close and in action. Out of Africa offers a wide variety of options to see the animals, from a behind the scenes tour, to a tram ride through various enclosures, to a zipline run over the park. This unique and fascinating experience makes for a great day trip north of Phoenix.
Bearizona is a one-of-a-kind wildlife park in Williams, Arizona, just west of Flagstaff. This state of the art wildlife refuge allows visitors to drive through enclosures with bears, wolves, coyotes, elk, bighorn sheep, bison, and other large animals native to Arizona and North American. You can then park and walk through a zoo to see smaller animals, including young bears. The Birds of Prey show is up close and personal, with owls, falcons, hawks and other birds of prey flying directly over the heads of audience members while the host describes each bird. If you are headed for Northern Arizona, take some time to visit Williams and see Bearizona if you have a chance. You’ve never seen anything like it!
The Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson is natural park that is completely unique to Arizona and the Sonoran Desert. It’s a zoo, plus a botanic garden, plus a natural history museum, plus a conservation, research and educational center. The museum showcases the breathtaking scenery of the Sonoran Desert, just west of Tucson bordering the Saguaro National Park West. The paths through the museum allow you experience the wildlife, flora and fauna of the desert from javelinas, to butterflies and birds, to mountain lions, bears and bobcats. One of our favorite areas is the geological display of underground caves and gemstones. Plan to stop at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum the next time you visit Tucson – it’s one you shouldn’t miss.
These are just a few of the many places to see animals, wildlife and nature up close in Arizona. Watch for updates to Ladybug’s Blog for more fun with animal sightings in our state!