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Phoenix Zoo: Everything You Need to Plan Your Visit

The Phoenix Zoo is one of the largest in the USA with nearly 400 rare or endangered species with more than 3,000 animals in total. It's so large, you could easily spend all day here.

It is a magical attraction that is perfect for people of all ages. There are elephants, giraffes, tigers, and elephants (oh my!). Beyond the land-dwelling animals, there are also exhibitions on birds including hawks, and a few eagles. There are reptiles, water animals, and so much more.

Other things to do here include an endangered species carousel with all the seats being beautifully and brightly painted animals, a 4D movie theater, and a splash park for kids, and so much more.

Phoenix Zoo Highlights

  • The address is 455 North Galvin Parkway.

  • It is open 7 days a week.

  • Prices of tickets Adult (14 years old and up) $25 at the door. If you buy your tickets online, they are $22.95, Children (3 years old up to 13) $17 whether you buy them at the door or online.

  • Numerous discounts are available at the Phoenix Zoo. These include Seniors (60 and up), Military with ID (ages 14 – 49), students with ID (ages 14 – 59) will all receive a $2 discount. Note: These are only when you buy your ticket at the door. You cannot get this discount if you buy your tickets online.

  • The zoo covers over 120 acres and there are over 3,000 animals.

  • It usually takes 2 - 5 hours to get through the zoo depending on how many exhibits, events, and experiences you choose to see there.

  • It is great for all ages since there is so much to see and do.

  • It's located in the gorgeous Papago Park.

Everything You Need for Your Visit to the Phoenix Zoo

What are the hours and what holidays are you open? Does the Phoenix Zoo offer free days?

What are the ticket prices to go to the Phoenix Zoo? Are there any discounts or discounted passes?

What are the best times to visit and how long should I plan to stay? 

What kind of animals will I see at the zoo?

Are there self-guided or guided tours? Do I need a reservation for any of tours?

Are there are other ways to get around the zoo if I don't want to walk?

Are there any special activities or exhibitions and how much do they cost? 

What can I expect at the 4D movie? Is there closed-captioning at the 4D movie?

Can I bring in my own food or drinks? Are there restaurants or cafes inside?

Is it ADA accessible?

Is it appropriate for toddlers? What are the rules on strollers at the zoo?

Can I touch the animals?

Can I take photographs?

What is the easiest way to get there? Is there free parking? Are there mass transit options?

What else is close to the Phoenix Zoo? Are there restaurants, shopping, or hotels in or near the park?

What is the history of the Phoenix Zoo?

Hours & Holidays

A leopard roams around the grasslands at the Phoenix ZooA leopard roams around the grasslands at the Phoenix Zoo

The Phoenix Zoo is open from 9 am to 5 pm from November through May. It's open from 7 am to 2 pm during the summer. They close at 4 pm on weekends in the summer.

It's open most holidays, but is closed on Christmas Day. They do not offer free days at this time. 

Prices to Visit and Discounts

Here are the current prices for the Phoenix Zoo.

  • Adults (14 years old and up): $25 at the door. They are usually a couple of dollars cheaper if you buy them online, in advance. 
  • Children (3 years old up to 13): $17 whether you buy them at the door or online.

Phoenix Zoo Discounts

You will find numerous discounts available at the Phoenix Zoo. Here are just a few of their most popular ones.

Seniors (60 & Older), Military with ID (ages 14 - 49), and students with an ID (14 - 59): You will receive a $2 discount when you purchase in person at the zoo. You must have an ID ready to prove you fall into one of these categories. 

Member of an Affiliate Zoo or Aquarium: 50% off for those listed as part of the membership.

Brochure Discounts: At times, you will also find special discounts on the back of the Phoenix Zoo brochures. You will see these in your hotel and other establishments. They change depending on what is happening at the zoo. They can be excellent discounts and deals.

Group Rates: There are group rates if you have more than 25 people. Please visit their website or call them for more information.

Best Times to Visit

The best times to visit the Phoenix Zoo are in the winter, spring and fall. This is when the temperatures are better and you will find it's a much more pleasant time to visit. During these times, you will find it is usually busier in the morning, and then less busy at in the early afternoon.

During the summer the best time would as early as you can arrive in the morning. This should give you at least a few hours to enjoy it before it starts to get too hot. 

How long does it take to visit? 

The zoo is massive covering just over 120 acres of land. Since there is so much to see, and do, we suggest that 2 hours, minimum, would be a starting point. You could easily spend up to 4 or 5 hours here depending on long you spend looking at the animals, enjoying the exhibits, and if you eat here.

Animals at the Zoo

A massive Mandrill walks around at the Phoenix ZooA massive Mandrill walks around at the Phoenix Zoo

With around 3,000 animals, you will find species from all around the world. Here is a list of a just a few of them that are people’s favorites:

  • Elephants
  • Tigers & Lions
  • Giraffes
  • Golden Eagles
  • Sloths
  • Monkeys
  • Stingrays
  • Komodo Dragons
  • Ringtails
  • Frogs
  • Lots of insects
  • Parrots
  • And so much more!

The Phoenix Zoo is not only here for us to admire the animals. They are also trying to breed and save rare and endangered ones.

Tours & Experiences

You can even take a tour and feed the Flamingos at the Phoenix ZooYou can even take a tour and feed the Flamingos at the Phoenix Zoo

The zoo is primarily a self-guided tour. However, they do have a few guided tours and experiences. 

Discovery Tours: These are some of the guided tours: You get to ride one of their Eco-shuttles through the zoo. It's offered at 9:30 am and 1:30 pm. This tour goes around the general tour areas and you will be able to hop on and off to take photos and see the animals.  Adults: $74 (14 and over), children (3 – 13) $64, members are $49. Zoo admission is included in the price. It is about 75-minutes long. These must be booked 2 days in advance.

Backstage Adventures: You are able to choose from 4 different tours, where you will travel behind the scenes on each one.

These tours include the Ambassador Animal Resources Tour where you can see the animals, and their caretakers, up close and in person. The Flamingo Flamingle Tour where you get to see the flamingos and actually feed them! You can also learn more from the knowledgeable staff members. The Elephant Adventure Tour which allows you to take a tour of the elephant barn and see how they take care of the Asian Elephants. Last, but not least, is The Stingray Bay Tour where you will see the stingrays up close and touch them. Make sure to check the times and minimum ages for each tour as they change according to season and tour.

Each of the Backstage Adventures Tours listed above cost $124 per adult (14 and over), $114 for each child (3 – 13), and $99 per member. Zoo admission is included in the price. Many of these tours run only once or twice a week and must be booked in at least 2 weeks in advance. All of these tours are 45-minutes long.

Premium Adventure Tour: This 90-minute personally specialized tour will take you on a tour of the zoo, one backstage adventure, and so you can remember your time at the Phoenix Zoo, you will get a souvenir photo and water bottle. Unlike the other tours listed above, you get to decide when you want to go on the tour and which backstage adventure you want to see. There is a limit of 10 people and they must be booked at least two weeks in advance. These tours cost $325 per adult (14 and over), $315 per child (3 - 13), and $300 per member.

Predetermined Walking Guided Tours and Custom Guided tours: These are tours that are led by a specialist through one of the trails. They usually last about 45 to 60 minutes and have a minimum of 10 guests and no more than 25 so you can have personalized service. Zoo admission is not included in the price of the tours. They are held on a daily basis, but the predetermined tours must be booked 2 weeks in advance and the custom guided tours must be booked 3 weeks in advance.

Note: Tours may change or be cancelled depending on the season and weather. 

Other Fun Ways to Get Around the Zoo

A fun way to see the Phoenix Zoo for your kiddies is by taking a rydableA fun way to see the Phoenix Zoo for your kiddies is by taking a rydable

If you aren't in the mood to walk around this massive zoo, there are some other fun ways to get around it. Here are just a few:

  • The Safari Cruiser: This is a 25-minute tour in an open-air bus that will take you around a decent amount of the zoo. You will have a narrated tour, so you learn about what you are seeing, and can enjoy it and relax at the same time. It runs about every 10 - 15 minutes and starts at 9 am and goes until 2 pm. There is an extra charge of $6 for the cruiser tour. Children 2 and under are free.
  • Rydables: These are probably the most stylish way to get around the Phoenix Zoo. These scooters, which are designed to look like animals from the zoo, are totally fun to ride around it. Riders must be 11 years or older to ride alone, two people can ride at once if their combined weight is less than 350 lbs., and the price is $20 for the first hour and $10 for each additional 30 minutes. They start at 9 am and end at 3 pm. Trust me, these are so much fun!

Special Activities and Play Areas

All kinds of adventures and special areas for kids of all ages at the Phoenix ZooAll kinds of adventures and special areas for kids of all ages at the Phoenix Zoo

There are lots of fun special events and exhibitions at the Phoenix Zoo. Some of these are done every day, while others are only during certain times such as Christmas and other holidays. Here is just a small list of the events and exhibitions you can see:

Daily Animal Encounters and Play Areas:

  • The Zoocademy Awards: Some of these include the zoo’s Ambassador Animal Resource team with a number of different animals. They put on a show, which changes daily, and the animals all show off what they are trained to do right in front of you. You get to decide who wins the award at the end!
  • Monkey Village: You will be able to walk through a special exhibit of squirrel monkeys. It is the only one in the United States of America.
  • Red Barn: This area is called Harmony Farms for a reason: kids get to hang out with all kinds of animals like horses, cows, sheep, and more. There are also a bunch of fun farm equipment to play on including farm tractors. It is a great place to relax and let the little ones just have some fun.
  • Discovery Farm: This is another place that kids will love. It's designed for those 18 months through 5 years of age. Kids will be able to explore the big red barn, ride slides, and have fun on the animal rockers. Again, you can let them run around as you take some time for yourself.
  • Leapin' Lagoon: A great place for kids to play, especially when it is hot, as there are loads of water fountains and waterfalls here. It is great for younger kids and there are benches and a changing area.
  • The Enchanted Forest: Let your little ones explore this wonderful area with magical trees all around them. There is even a fun tree house for them where they can see out over the landscape. Make sure to cruise down the slides that look like tree trunks and get wet when you hit the bottom of it! It is a perfect way to cool down on a hot day.
  • Yakulla Caverns: This is another one of the splash pad areas where kids, and kids of all ages, can play around it. There is also a cavern that is full of stalagmites and stalactites, so they can see what a real cavern looks like in a safe environment.

Other fun attractions and activities: 

  • Stingray Bay: You will be able to touch one of the amazing Cownose stingrays as they glide through the 15,000-gallon pool. There is an extra charge for this activity in addition to your entry ticket.
  • Camel rides! As you can imagine, everyone who sees a camel wants to take a ride on one. Not only will you get to ride one, but you will also get a photo taken with one as a souvenir. This attraction has an extra charge in addition to your entry ticket.

There are also special events that only occurring during certain seasons and holidays. You will want to check the website to find out the dates and times as they change regularly.

4D Movie

It is currently closed. 

Food and Drink Options

You are allowed to bring food, drinks, and even coolers into the Phoenix Zoo. There are picnic areas available and they are available on a first come first served basis. They are scattered throughout the zoo, so just look at the maps to find them.

There are also private bungalows at the zoo, but you must rent them in advance.

Please do not bring in any glass or alcoholic beverages.

If you don't want to bring in your own food, then you are in luck since the Phoenix Zoo has almost 10 options for you to choose from here!

Some of these include full cafes with burritos, quesadillas, salads, hot dogs, and more. If you are looking for drinks, you can choose from Starbucks coffee, smoothies, craft beer, and wine. And, for the kids (of all ages), there is kettle corn, churros, ice cream, and other treats.

Trust Aram and me, you will not go hungry or thirsty here!

ADA Accessibility

The Phoenix Zoo is 100% ADA accessible. There are wheelchairs available to rent at the entrance and cost around $15 for the day. If you want to rent an electric scooter, they are also first come first served and cost $45 for the day.

PETS ARE NOT ALLOWED INTO THE ZOO UNLESS THEY ARE SERVICE ANIMALS.

The zoo also has sensory bags which contain items such noise cancelling headphones, fidgeting tools, and much more. There are also weighted lap pads that you can use upon request.

There are specific quiet zones with will help if someone is highly sensitive to sound. These are shown on the map and there are signs along the trail so you can find them.

Lastly, they have special headphone zones. You will find that certain areas of the Phoenix Zoo can get quite crowded, so they have designated headphone zones for those that get overwhelmed with too much noise. These are on the maps and also there are signs by the trails indicating where they are in the zoo.

We highly suggested downloading or asking for a map since there are some trails that are limited and might be more difficult for certain visitors. The zoo will make every attempt to ease their visit so they can enjoy it as much as possible.

If you would like to bring a service animal, a park ranger will go over the rules of the zoo with you. Some of these include service animals having to be on leash at all times. If your service animal barks or causes disruptive behavior, you may be asked to leave. There are two areas, on the left and right side of the entrance for your service animal to relieve itself. It is up to you to clean up any accidents on the trails.

You will probably want to download or ask for a map at the entrance since you will be asked to avoid certain trails for everyone's safety. There are only a few locations where you will be limited, so do not let this dissuade you from coming to this amazing zoo.

Note: Please do NOT leave your animal in your car as it can be very deadly for them. If the temperatures outside are about 80 degrees, it can easily reach 120 degrees inside the car.

Toddlers and Strollers

Toddlers are more than welcome to visit the zoo. In fact, we think it's one of the best places for them. They can check out the animals, get some play time in and tire themselves out during their visit. 

Strollers are allowed at the Phoenix Zoo. If you forget your stroller, they have covered ones that are available for rent. They are first come first served and are located immediately to your right of the entranced. They cost $10 for a single stroller and $12 for a double stroller.

Touching or Petting Animals

You are not allowed to touch or pet the animals unless you are with a guide or there is a special area designated for you to do so. An example of this would be the Stingray Bay which is set up specifically for you to touch them.

Photography & Videos

The magical animal merry-go-round is a perfect photo as it is so colorful and beautifulThe magical animal merry-go-round is a perfect photo as it is so colorful and beautiful

You are welcome to take as many photographs and videos as you like at the Phoenix Zoo. You must try at all times not to bother the animals or get too close to them. There are certain viewing areas, for the best shots, so make sure to keep an eye out for them. Please do not use these photos for commercial usage without discussing it with the zoo staff.

Transportation Options and Parking

It is probably easiest to drive to the Phoenix Zoo. There is a fairly decent sized parking lot, and there is room for overflow parking. We do recommend that you arrive early to ensure you get a good parking spot. All parking is free at the zoo.

There are a few mass transit options that are quite easy to use to or from downtown Phoenix:

  • Take the #3 Bus directly from the Van Buren Street & Central Avenue Station to the Zoo. It will drop you off, and pick you up, right in front of the zoo. It is about as easy as you can get if you don't want to drive.
  • Take the light rail from Central Station out to Priest Drive Station. Then take the #56 bus from Priest Station to the Zoo. You will have to walk about .25 of a mile. You can take the same way back to downtown.
  • Take the #1 bus from Van Buren Street & Central Avenue Station to Priest Drive & Washington Street. Then take the #56 bus from Priest Drive & Washington Street to the entrance of the zoo. You will have to walk about .25 of a mile.

Things to Do Near the Phoenix Zoo

Since the zoo is in the middle of Papago Park, you will find lots of things to do around it.

Hole in the Rock: One of our favorites it the "Hole in the Rock." You'll probably have heard of in brochures or articles before you planned your visit to Phoenix. It is a massive hole in the mountains just behind the zoo.

There is a short but decent climb (it can be a bit slippery when it rains) and is not ADA accessible. It is usually less busy during the afternoon, so you can see it and take selfies at that time. However, it is wonderful to be there when the sun rises, or sets, even though it is busy at those times. It is truly magical.

Fun Fact: You can see the Hole in the Rock from one of the trails when you are at the zoo.

Papago Park: You are technically in Papago Park while in the Zoo. However, the park is massive and there are lots of great hiking and walking areas all around it. 

Restaurants: There are a decent number of restaurants just outside of Papago Park. You can find pretty much any type of food you want at that time. As mentioned above, there are many options to choose from at the Zoo.

Shopping: Just like the restaurants, there isn't a lot of shopping since you are inside the Papago Park. However, shopping is easy to find outside of it and you can find just about anything you are looking for there. Find some of our favorite shopping spots around Phoenix.

Hotels: There aren't any hotels in the park, but there are many all around it since it caters to visitors who want to spend time in the park, the Desert Botanical Garden, and the zoo.

History of the Phoenix Zoo

Robert Maytag, who was the grandson of the famous Maytag company, decided that Phoenix needed a zoo. He, and a number of friends, started researching where to put one and how to build it back in 1961.

However, Robert died at the young age of 38 from pneumonia and the idea of having a zoo almost died along with him. However, a number of community members realized that they could honor him by building one.

They started a campaign to build the zoo with signs on the side of buses saying "Build the Zoo in 62" and other comments. People began to get behind the idea and then it became a reality.

It was originally called the "Maytag Zoo," but they changed the name to the "Phoenix Zoo" to encourage and thank the community for their support and help.

Much of the community, including owners of the Central Newspapers, which owned both The Phoenix Gazette and The Arizona Republic, donated lots of money to the zoo. They actually paid the salary of the zoo's director without anyone knowing where the money came from originally!

The Phoenix Zoo has had almost 50,000,000 guests since it opened, it is one of the world's best global wildlife programs for conservation and influencing and teaching other zoos around the world. It continues to nurture the animals living in it and will continue to build, grow, and help save more and more animals every day.

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