Deciding to visit zoos in the towns and cities that we travel to is a no-brainer. First off, with our membership to our zoo here in Seattle (Woodland Park Zoo), our entry to other zoos is often free or discounted. Secondly, it’s one of those win-win places for kids and adults. Plenty for grown-ups to enjoy without feeling like they are missing out and sitting at the kiddie table all day, but also so engaging for children with exhibits designed just for them. It would be hard to find a kid who wasn’t interested in animals, right?
So off we went to check out the Phoenix Zoo during our most recent trip to Arizona. The zoo is actually located in a larger area called Papago Park. With the Desert Botanical Garden, Hall of Flame Fire Museum, golf course, and tons of hiking and other recreation opportunties, it’s one of Phoenix’ hubs of fun outdoor activity (and just 10 minutes from downtown).
From the moment we stepped into the zoo, I was impressed with the set-up and organization, and with so many nooks and crannies to explore (125 acres, 2.5 miles of walking trails) we found it hard to leave when naptime was looming!
We allowed Bergen (2.5 years old) to do a whole lot of walking on his own. Even though he is fast, we were still moving at a toddler pace, so we didn’t get to each and every exhibit and even some of the areas we did get to were breezed by quickly due to fleeting interest. Here you’ll find the aspects of the zoo that we enjoyed most!
5 Phoenix Zoo Highlights
1. Children’s Trail.
This was our first major focus as we entered the zoo. I loved the fun winding trail down to the lake and across a small bridge (always a good thing for our water obsessed guy). Here we saw emus, siamang (kind of ape), birds, and warty pigs (among others).
Bergen’s favorite part though was a little section called the “Animal Kingdom”. Here he could climb into shells of turtles and fish as well as touch several animal replicas to actually feel the size and texture.
2. Harmony Farm.
Always pointing out barns, fields, and farm animals in books and our travels, we made a point of stopping at Harmony Farm to give Bergen a chance to interact with some of his favorite interests. The area allows kids and their families to get up-close and personal with all the usual farm friends like sheep, cows, chickens, and horses. Kids can also visit a special section to to pet and brush goats!
3. South American Village and Tropics Trail
As we made our way out of the farm area and onto the Tropics Trail, I started to notice little buildings along the trail in the distance. The zoo has put together an adorable small village complete with a border station. Bergen had a great time interacting with the different buildings, and I thought it was such a neat way to engage kids in learning about other cultures and bringing the connection beyond just the animals that are native to different countries.
Some of the animals found along the Tropics Trail include elephants, Andean bears, jaguar, and many different types of reptiles. I appreciated all the foliage here transporting us to another land and making us feel like we had traveled far, but didn’t have to endure all the hot and steamy temperatures!
Nothing can replace truly being in the wild as opposed to captivity, but the large area of the Savanna seems to provide these animals plenty of space to roam. I liked that our animal encounters were not obvious. We had to work a little to spot the giraffes, zebras, watusi cattle, and even vultures!
There are fun buttons to push to learn more about each animal, but Bergen’s favorite part of the Savanna area was the giraffe overlook. He climbed up and down the steps several times, and loved getting to be up high to get a good view of the surrounding area.
5. Arizona Trail
The “local area” of zoos featuring animals native to that region of the world is always one of the most interesting places for me to visit, and getting to experience the Arizona Trail, particularly the “Desert Lives” trail was no exception. I truly felt like I was on a hike as we viewed native cactus, bighorn sheep, and took in views of the surrounding rocks of Papago Park.
With all that fun, it’s hard to believe we had any low moments during our visit to the Phoenix Zoo! I think you’ll be surprised to learn what Bergen didn’t enjoy since we (grandma and I) were so excited to experience it with him. After much talk and anticipation, we boarded the Safari Train (really a tram like you’d see at Disneyland), which is a 25-minute guided tour of the most of the animals and sections of the zoo.
But as soon as the ride started, Bergen wanted to get off! This was disappointing, and a little frustrating (no fault of the zoo, of course) since we weren’t allow to disembark until the end. Just a reminder to really makes sure your child actually wants to participate in an attraction, especially when extended time and money are involved!
Have you visited the Phoenix Zoo? Where is your favorite zoo?
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