A Guide To Visiting The Phoenix Zoo

Last Updated on May 4, 2021

About The Phoenix Zoo

The Phoenix Zoo is the largest privately-owned, non-profit zoo’s in the United States. This means that it operates without any government aid. They rely on, memberships, concessions, special events, and donations to fund their daily operations.

The fact that the zoo is privately owned is very impressive, considering that the Phoenix Zoo cares for over 3,000 animals. Threatened native species are bred, raised, and released into the wild as part of the conservation efforts.

Phoenix Zoo History

The idea for the zoo was first brought to fruition by Robert E. Maytag, the grandson of the founder of the Maytag appliance company. He suddenly passed away from pneumonia, but the dedicated crew he put together still went forward with the plans in his honor. Family memberships in 1962 were sold for $5.00 a year!

Passion For The Zoo

A Phoenix Zoo employee sang the praises of the Zoo during our Safari train tour. Her passion for the zoo was so strong and felt genuine. She even proudly boasted about their world-class status and about how the Phoenix Zoo trains many, many others about how to properly care for Elephants. Hearing the passion this lady has for the Phoenix Zoo, made us realize that some deeper digging needed to be done.

Just monkeying around!

Behavioral Enrichment

The first thing we noticed as we walked past the first few enclosures is that the Phoenix Zoo prides itself on behavioral enrichment, where the environmental enhancement of the lives of animals in a managed setting by providing them with mental and physical stimulation to increase natural and healthy behavior. Animals are given a sense of control by allowing them to make choices and to stimulate species-appropriate behaviors. The elephant enclosure photo below is a great example of this.

The animals seem well taken care of, and their enclosures are also well taken care of. There is a wide variety of animals and the layout takes you through each exhibit nicely and we liked how authentically the exhibits are displayed.

What You Will See At The Phoenix Zoo

The Phoenix Zoo is divided into four trails: the Africa Trail, Arizona Trail, Tropics Trail, and the Children’s Trail. You will find the animals you would typically expect at such an established zoo.

The Africa Trail showcases many of the world’s most popular animals, including the Southern white rhino, Zebras, Lions, Giraffes, and Cheetahs.

The Arizona Trail is designed to emulate the plant and wildlife of Arizona. You’ll find several plants that are native to the Sonoran Desert. Some of the animals you’ll find include the mountain lion, bobcat, Mexican gray wolf, and Sonoran pronghorn.

The Tropics Trail is split into two parts. The inner trail features the Tropical Flight Aviary, Bornean Orabngutans, and Monkey Village, where you can go into a cage with squirrel monkeys.

The outer trail includes animals such as Komodo dragons and the Land of The Dragons exhibit, Asian elephants, jaguar, Sumatran tigers, and tropical birds.

Also included is the Forest of Uco. It is a lush rainforest landscape that you wander along a one-mile trail. It also includes a South American market and features tropical animals, including the Andean bear.

Along The Children’s Trail, you will find the Red Barn, full of farmyard animals ready for your petting and affection. The discovery Farm is a play area for kids that are 18 months to five years old. The Enchanted Forest has a treehouse, bridges, and slides for older kids. ON a warm day, let the kids cool off in the waterpark splash pad area, the Leapin’ Lagoon, or Yakulla Caverns. There are also demonstrations on farming and agriculture for children. Featured animals are emus, an ocelot, a caracal, siamang gibbons, and golden lion tamarins. The most popular is Fernando, a two-toed sloth!

Feeding the giraffes is so cool!

Programs With Additional Fees

The Phoenix Zoo offers activities that are an additional fee, beyond the regular admission fee.

4D Theatre: Watch a short film that will heighten your senses of sight, sound, smell, and touch during the show.

Safari Cruiser: A narrated tour of the Zoo. The narration on the 25-minute safari train was informative, mixed with a bunch of dumb jokes to add some personality. It was a great way to get a glimpse and orientation of the whole park while giving a great view of most animals.

Endangered Species Carousel: Choose to ride a lion, elephant, zebra, mountain lion, rhino, or even a sea dragon! Each animal is uniquely painted.

Giraffe Encounter: You are able to feed the giraffes – you will be amazed by how long their tongues are!

Stingray Bay: An interactive experience where guests can dip a hand in the water to feel the unique skin of a stingray, and feed them fish and shrimp. The stingrays are in a 15,000-gallon pool.

Camel Ride: Climb on the camel’s back for a slow ride around an enclosure.

I had never ridden a camel, so I figured I would have my first shot at it

Special Events

There is always something wild happening at the Phoenix Zoo! Take a look at the event calendar to see what is happening.

ZooLights: A holiday event with millions of twinkling lights, music, and Santa visits. The pandemic changed this experience to a drive-thru event.

Winter in July: A family-friendly celebration that brings the cool of winter to Phoenix in the middle of summer. There’s plenty of snow for the kids and animals to enjoy, animal popsicles, waterslides, and Radio Disney playing kid-friendly tunes.

ZooFari: The Zoo’s biggest fundraiser, featuring notable Arizona chefs and mixologists. Enjoy up-close animal encounters, live music, an auction, and a 50/50 raffle.

Visiting The Phoenix Zoo

The Phoenix Zoo is open 364 days of the year, only closing for Christmas Day. During the summer, the zoo can open as early as 7 am to help visitors be able to beat the heat. From September to May the hours are usually 9 am to 5 pm. Make sure you check online to confirm what the seasonal hours are.

Daytime general admission is $29.95 for visitors 14+ years, and $19.95 for children between 3 years and 13 years old. Discounts are available for online ticket purchases. Children under 3 years old are free. There are also package options for visitors wanting to take part in some of the extra-fee attractions.

We found it extremely easy to spend a few hours at the zoo. You’ll want to leave extra time if you are taking part in the additional attractions.

We visited in March and it was warm. Always bring sunscreen and plenty of water.

Wear comfortable footwear. The zoo is 125 acres, so you will be doing a lot of walking!

Wheelchairs, electric scooters, and strollers are available for rent.

Smoking is strictly prohibited on Zoo grounds and within the Papago Park area.

Where the Elephants roam

Special Needs

For guests who have special needs, the Zoo has “Quiet Zones” to help accommodate guests with sensory processing needs. These areas have less activity to allow guests to regroup after overstimulation.

The zoo also has “Headphone Zones” where the noise is exceptionally loud. Sensory bags can be rented that include noise-canceling headphones and fidget tools.


There are a variety of cafés, lounges, and snack bars at the Phoenix Zoo. You’ll easily be able to find a hotdog, hamburger, pizza, or chicken tenders to order when hunger strikes.

The zoo is family-friendly, so you are able to bring in your own cooler, ice chest, and food (no glass containers or alcoholic beverages). There are many picnic tables spread throughout the zoo.

Getting To The Phoenix Zoo

The Phoenix Zoo is located at 455 N Galvin Pkwy. If you are driving, you will take the 202 to Priest Drive, which will become Galvin Parkway. Heading north, turn right at the light after Van Buren.

Parking at the zoo is free.

Valley Metro Rail does not stop anywhere near the Phoenix Zoo.

The light rail can be taken to the Washington/Priest Station. Transfer to the north-bound Bus 56 to the Phoenix Zoo stop. A one-day pass will be $4.

Attractions Nearby

While we could easily spend the whole day at the zoo, you could also combine your visit with a nearby attraction. We suggest you visit the zoo first, to see the animals when they are more active during the morning hours.

Hole In The Rock: It is only a short hike to the Hole in the Rock at Papago Park. The trail is loose gravel. It is a fascinating geological site to see. The views of Phoenix from the top of the trail are fantastic.

Papago Park: This is a nice place to take a walk in Phoenix. The trails are clearly marked, and parking is free.

Desert Botanical Garden:  Visitors can stroll through five thematic trails to experience the beauty of the Sonoran Desert.

Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting: The world’s largest firefighting museum. The museum chronicles the history of the profession and commemorates fallen firefighters.




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