A zoo is one of those attractions that works for everyone, from toddlers to grandparents. One of the best things to do with kids in Phoenix is visit the Phoenix Zoo. Multidimensional Traveling Mom Kristi Mehes spent a day there with her family riding a safari train, watching a 4D movie, taking a spin on a carousel, and enjoying the animals.
Best Things to Do with Kids in Phoenix: Spend a Day at the Phoenix Zoo
My family doesn’t live in the Phoenix area, but because we only live 90 minutes away, we visit frequently for day trips, and even for the weekends. My husband and I usually take our preschool-aged son to the zoo once a year, and we usually plan on spending the entire day there.
It’s one of the best things to do with kids in Phoenix; you can easily spend a whole day there. Just make sure you are wearing your comfortable walking shoes – the zoo is huge. Not only are there animals to see, but there’s also a safari train, a 4-D movie theater, a carousel, and a fun children’s playground complete with a petting zoo in an area called Harmony Farm.
Some of the activities like riding the carousel and safari train cost extra, so if you want to stay within a budget, it would be a good idea to choose two of the activities you really want to do as a family to avoid any disappointment.
The Endangered Species Carousel
My son loves riding the endangered species carousel located near the entrance. A ride on the carousel is extra fee. My husband or I accompany our son when he rides the carousel, but we only have to buy one ticket since we stand by him instead of sitting down on the carousel. And there are also benches for the children who don’t like sitting on the animals that go up and down.
The Safari Train
We rode on the safari train when we visited the zoo for the first time as a family. I’d definitely recommend it, especially if it’s your family’s first visit to the zoo – the zoo can be overwhelming because it’s so spread out, and the train can give you a general idea of the zoo’s layout. It was also nice to rest our feet from all the walking, especially for my son’s grandparents who sometimes visit the zoo with us.
It’s especially nice in those hot summer months in Arizona when the temperature reaches triple digits. However, like the carousel, the safari train is not included in the cost of general admission.
If my son had to pick his favorite part of the zoo, he’d choose Harmony Farm, mostly because of the petting zoo. Harmony Farm is an area of the zoo that appeals mostly to younger children, especially my preschool aged son. There, children can go into the petting zoo (included in general admission), check out tractors, or enjoy a fun children’s playground, which includes a slide. There are also sitting areas where parents or grandparents can take a rest while children have fun. My son never wants to leave Harmony Farm!
The Movie Theatre
Like the San Diego Zoo, the zoo in Phoenix has a movie theater where you can watch movies in 4-D. There are usually two movies you can choose from, but the movies are not included in the price of admission. We don’t always watch a movie when we visit the zoo, but it’s worth the indulgence if time permits. The movies last between 10-15 minutes and are also a nice way to cool down on a hot Arizona day.
The Animals and Animal Encounters
The Phoenix Zoo has most of the major animals, including elephants, giraffes, and lions. There are even polar bears. One of the areas we like is Monkey Island, which is located near Harmony Farm. Monkey Island literally is a body of land surrounded by water. There, from a distance, we can spot monkeys swinging from the trees.
In our experience, the earlier we visit in the day, the more opportunity we have to see the animals. Included in general admission is a separate area called Monkey Village, where your kids can see squirrel monkeys up close. You can also pay extra for stingray bay, camel rides, and a giraffe encounter.
Yes, there are even pedal boats! I’ll confess we’ve never rented a pedal boat. We never have time to fit it into our visit because there is so much to do. Pedal boats aren’t included in general admission, and are a bit pricey, which is one of the reasons we haven’t tried it out yet.
Bonus: Special Exhibits
There is currently a special exhibit at the Phoenix Zoo until January 2, 2017 called Nature Connects: Art with LEGO Bricks. There are several displays throughout the zoo and it’s fun as a family to try to find as many as possible.
Know Before You Go
It can be unbearably hot during the summer months in Arizona. We typically avoid visiting the zoo during the summer, although the zoo does does open earlier, and there are several options available for visitors to escape the heat, like the 4-D movie theater and the safari train. However, extra activities, like the 4-D movie theater and safari train, can quickly add up so if you want to stay within a budget, pick two of the activities that your family will enjoy and stick with it. There are also packages available for those who want to include the safari train, the endangered species carousel, and certain animal encounters.