Insider’s Guide to Phoenix Zoo

March 26, 2022

Immerse yourself in the middle of world-class wildlife action, and feel like the king of the jungle.

You will experience this at the sprawling Phoenix Zoo, fondly considered one of America's best and most expansive zoos. Boasting many must-try activities and experiences, your curiosity, sense of discovery, and imagination will soar to new heights. 

This sprawling 125-acre zoo in Phoenix, Arizona, is home to 3,000 animals, representing 400 species of wildlife spectacle. An ideal recipe for adventure. From Sumatran Tigers to Komodo Dragons and Asian Elephants to Bornean Orangutans, its unique animal encounters make Phoenix Zoo a must-see experience in Arizona.

Follow along with our handy guide to learn all the tips and tricks to a successful day at Phoenix Zoo.

About the Phoenix Zoo

Phoenix Zoo is among the oldest zoos in the U.S. Established in 1961. It has gained a reputation for animal advocation with excellent care and rehabilitation programs. Meanwhile, it's a pilgrimage for adventure-seeking tourists and locals alike, seeking a reprieve from the concrete jungle, opting instead for a vibrant and educational one.

Regardless of your purpose, allow at least half a day to make the most out of your Phoenix Zoo experience. 

Four trails make up the Phoenix Zoo, situated at the beautiful Papago Park. The Africa Trail, Arizona Trail, Tropics Trail, and the Children's Trail. Each offer a unique and memorable experience one should not miss.

Fun Fact: Queue up those fitness trackers! While exploring the zoo's trails, you will accumulate approximately 10,000 steps.

underwater photograph of a stingray in the Sting Ray Bay in Phoenix Zoo, Phoenix, Arizona, USA

photo credit: Phoenix Zoo via Facebook

Amazing Animal Encounters

Each Phoenix Zoo trail offers a unique experience:

Africa Trail

No need to go to Masai Mara in Africa to experience a pride of lions first-hand. Along Phoenix Zoo's Africa trail, you will have an encounter with these giant beasts without leaving the Grand Canyon State. Aside from lions, expect to see many other popular animals. Including mandrill, ostrich, gazelle, Southern white rhino, and giraffes.

Related Post: Free Things to Do in Phoenix, AZ

Pro Tip: Elevate your Phoenix Zoo experience by feeding the world's tallest mammal! The giraffe encounter lets you get up close and personal with giraffes. Zoo personnel will give you pellets, but be ready for the giraffes to use their tongues to grab them. Did you know their tongues typically range from 18 to 20 inches long?

hand holding Phoenix Zoo map against Africa Trail of Phoenix Zoo in the background in Phoenix, Arizona, USA

photo credit: Phoenix Zoo via Facebook

Arizona Trail

From the zoo entrance, the nearest is the Arizona Trail, where you can stop by at Stingray Bay to have a rare glimpse of stingrays before kicking off your great desert adventure. However, this encounter with stingrays pales compared to the treat of exploring this trail. In this section, Arizona's flora and fauna are on grand display.

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The Arizona Trail is home to javelinas, mountain lions, bobcats, turkey vultures, thick-billed parrots, and Mexican gray wolves. Aside from these animals, plants native to the Sonoran Desert can also be found here, like the saguaro cactus.

Fun Fact: For a minimal fee, you can experience riding a camel and have your picture taken!

Tropics Trail

Two distinct parts make up the Tropics Trail. The inner trail near the lake will let you enjoy the sight of tropical birds in the aviary. A Monkey Village is also a delight to see, with its Bornean orangutans and common squirrel monkeys. The outer trail lets you see komodo dragons, Asian elephants, jaguars, iguanas, and Sumatran tigers. Phoenix Zoo's Tropics trail also hosts the Forest of Uco, a rainforest that has exhibits on scientific expeditions and ruins.

On the other hand, the Tropics Trail will reward you with much-deserved shade. Finally, be sure to stop by the Yakulla Caverns. Here, you can cool off and recharge. The place mimics caves with waterfalls, where kids can run under cascading water and slip down a waterslide. 

birds in the middle of pond surrounded with trees and plants at the Tropics Trail at Phoenix Zoo in Phoenix, Arizona, USA

photo credit: Phoenix Zoo via Facebook

Children's Trail

Are you traveling with the kids? The Children's Trail is replete with amenities and activities kids will enjoy. Be sure to pack your child's bathing suits! Leapin' Lagoon, where they will enjoy its splashing waters until their heart's content.

This is a flat area with water that sprays up from the ground. It is undeniable fun for kids. However, daring adults can also bask in this fun activity. Changing rooms and shaded benches are also available in the area.

child sprawled on the shore with other children playing in the background at Yakulla Caverns in Phoenix Zoo, Phoenix, Arizona, USA

photo credit: Katherine Cook

Phoenix Zoo Ticket Tips

Secure your tickets from Tripster for great rates and a hassle-free experience entering the Phoenix Zoo

To redeem, print your E-ticket and present it to any open admission turnstile or show the E-ticket on your mobile phone to be admitted to the zoo. 

General Daytime admission tickets to the Phoenix Zoo range from $16.95 to $21.95 for children and adults.

When to Go

While the Phoenix Zoo is open year-round, the best time to visit is during fall, winter, or spring when temperatures are milder. The zoo typically opens at 9 AM and closes at 5 PM.

Related Post: 29 Unforgettable Romantic Things to Do in Sedona for Couples

Pro Tip: Members are admitted one hour ahead of the opening schedule. Phoenix Zoo members are treated to a year-long free daytime admission, discounts, and exclusive invitations to exhibit premieres and events.

aerial view of Phoenix Zoo in Phoenix, Arizona, USA

photo credit: Arizona Museum of Natural History via Facebook

What to Know Before You Go

Maximize your Phoenix Zoo experience by considering the following:

Be an Early Bird

Queues tend to be longer the later you go in the day, especially during weekends. Take note that most animals are most active during the early hours of zoo opening. So have those cameras ready when you arrive at the zoo.

Related Post: Phoenix Nightlife

Experience Phoenix Zoo in a whole new light

Level up your zoo experience during winter, when the zoo management deploys what it considers as the largest holiday light displays in the U.S. Dubbed as 'Zoolights' at the Phoenix Zoo. This seasonal event completely transforms the zoo into a dazzling spectacle.

During its run, you will be treated to twinkling lights, lighted animal sculptures, and a wildlife lantern safari featuring the likeness of more than 66 creatures.  

nightshot of

photo credit: Phoenix Zoo

Bring Your Own Food

If you are on a tight budget, you can save big time by bringing your own food and beverages. Coolers are accepted. However, Phoenix Zoo prohibits the use of glass containers and the consumption of alcoholic beverages on its premises.

Get Into the Action With the 4D Theater

Bring your Phoenix Zoo experience to a whole new level! Combining the senses of sight, sound, smell, and touch gives you an immersive experience of wildlife encounters. 

Tips on What to Eat at the Phoenix Zoo

Worked up an appetite exploring the zoo's trails and exhibits? Here are the must-try dining options at the Phoenix Zoo:

  • Crossroads Cafe: perfect for those craving some Mexican food. Savor burritos, quesadillas, salads, and more!
  • Farm Cafe: offering hot dogs, hand-scooped ice cream, and various other snacks.
  • Savanna Grill: the place to go if you are looking for burgers, fried chicken, or ice cream.
  • Sunset Treats:' best sellers include fresh popcorn, hot jumbo pretzels, frozen treats, and more.

Tips on Where to Go Around Phoenix…and beyond

Phoenix, Arizona, has a plethora of can't miss experiences.

Complete your Phoenix itinerary by also grabbing tickets to one of these great attractions in the area:

Phoenix Zoo + Legoland Package

LEGOLAND is a treat for both young and old alike. Located in Tempe, Arizona, it offers attractions like 4D Cinema, exciting rides, and countless LEGO bricks for ultimate family bonding. 

Phoenix Zoo + SEA LIFE Aquarium Package

SEA LIFE Aquarium boasts 250 species waiting to be explored by the whole family. Here, you can enrich your knowledge of marine life and immerse yourself in its conservation initiatives.

Other Great Phoenix Area Attractions

  • Riding in one of the Hot Air Balloon Rides in Phoenix is an exhilarating way of viewing Phoenix's beauty from above. 
  • A day tour at the Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend takes you right to the spot you always find in your desktop computer wallpapers. 
  • Any trip to Phoenix will not be complete without visiting the Grand Canyon. One of the best ways to experience its magnificence is the  Grand Canyon and Sedona Day Tour Adventure. As one of America's most recognizable national parks, you will enjoy its breathtaking vistas, perfect for a postcard.

It's never too late to fulfill your dream of being the King of the Jungle. With our guide in tow, that dream is within reach at the Phoenix Zoo. 

Which Phoenix Zoo Activity Will You do First?

Leave us a comment below!

Louie with mountains and body of water in background

Written By Louie

Louie Lapat is a writer who loves to scribble in journals about his travels. He enjoys photography, graphics designing, and video editing but still considers ...

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