Imagine having a black bear walk past the car door. And then 5 minutes later, an Arctic wolf does the same thing. It’s an unlikely scenario unless one visits Bearizona, a drive-thru zoo and wildlife park in Northern Arizona.
There are plenty of Arizona road trip ideas for families to explore, from visiting the Grand Canyon with kids in northern Arizona to heading underground at Kartchner Caverns State Park in southern Arizona. While on an Arizona road trip, make time to do a few iconic Arizona pastimes like horseback riding and roping like a cowboy. Also, consider a few unique experiences like hiking The Wave or visiting Bearizona, a drive-thru zoo.
Grand Canyon with kids
Visiting the Grand Canyon is a typical bucket list trip for many families. You’ll often find parents with kids in tow headed to Arizona for spring break to take advantage of the gorgeous weather. When planning a trip to the Grand Canyon with kids, you might consider taking the train from Williams, Arizona to the South Rim. The train ride departs in the morning; it’s just over 2 hours to the South Rim. A return train ride back to Williams is available later in the afternoon, allowing you time to have lunch and explore before heading back.
If your Grand Canyon adventure includes a departure from Williams, then consider a stop at Bearizona Wildlife Park. Bearizona is located in Williams making it an easy detour from the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff or Sedona.
Tips for visiting Bearizona
This unique zoo has the standard zoo experiences that most kids expect. They can run around (while killing off some energy) and see animals in typical zoo habitats. But my family’s favorite part of Bearizona is the drive-thru part where we see animals through our car windows, walking along the road next to us.
- You can pack snacks to eat in your car while driving through the loop. Just remember to keep your windows up and never feed any animals.
- Speaking of the loop, you can drive around it as many times as you want. I recommend driving it once before visiting Fort Bearizona, then drive the loop one more time before you leave. The animals will have moved around and you might catch some of them in better viewing position the second time around.
- Bearizona offers a guided bus tour several times a day. Listen to fun facts about the animals and the history of Bearizona while viewing the animals. This is a free tour included with admission but it is offered on a first come first serve basis. This is a great option for anyone nervous about driving their car through the loop.
What Animals are at Bearizona?
There are a wide variety of animals at Bearizona. On the 3-mile long drive-thru portion of the zoo, you can see Rocky Mountain Goats, Alaskan Dall Sheeps, Rocky Mountain Elk, Mule Deer, American Burros, Alaskan Tundra Wolves, Arctic Wolves, Junior Black Bears, White Bison, Brown Bison, Bighorn Sheep, and Black Bears
Fort Bearizona is the walk-thru portion and more like a traditional zoo experience. You’ll find quite a few animal exhibits including beavers, porcupine, river otters, bear cubs, bobcats, javelinas and a jaguar. There’s also a bird of prey show with several showtimes each day. We didn’t attend but did notice the birds flying just over the heads of the audience, enthralling everyone watching.
The Fort Bearizona Barnyard is a petting zoo which is always a hit with my boys. It was mostly chickens and goats on our last visit but the star of the barnyard is Joe the Turkey. He was quite vocal and ended up being my eldest son’s favorite animal at Bearizona.
To keep the trip budget-friendly, you can always pack a picnic lunch. There are designated picnic areas inside Fort Bearizona. Bearizona Grille features snack bar-style food like hot dogs and nachos. We ate at the newer Canyonlands Restaurant on our last visit and were very impressed. The restaurant is themed to mimic Arizona canyons. Dining is available outside on a 2-story deck next to the jaguar exhibit. The pricing was in line with what you’d expect from a tourist attraction but the food was delicious and generously proportioned. We will definitely eat there again on our next visit.
Just outside Canyonlands is an enormous gift shop. Enter at your own risk because they had a lot of cool items to check out and buy. One thing everyone should see is the large model train display featuring the Williams and South Rim stations of the nearby Grand Canyon Railway.
Arizona road trip
We’ve been to Bearizona several times over the years and love seeing the new changes every time we visit. If you are planning a Christmas adventure to the North Pole Experience in Flagstaff, then Bearizona is a perfect Arizona road trip detour. Bearizona also offers a holiday lights experience in the evenings.
Depending on the rest of your itinerary, I recommend either the Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff or Hilton Sedona Resort. Both are family friendly accommodations and the perfect jumping off points for other Northern Arizona road trip adventures.