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Prepare to be awe-struck as you get up close and personal with black bears, wolves, jaguars, and pythons in their natural environment…without getting out of your vehicle. Bearizona Wildlife Park is a one-of-a-kind safari park home located just an hour south of the Grand Canyon National Park in Williams, Northern Arizona. It’s home to indigenous North American animals that will wow your kids, from the safety of your car.
Bears, cougars, bison, wolves and more. It’s an animal lover’s dream come true at Bearizona Wildlife Park in Williams; Arizona. I’ve visited twice, once by myself and another time with four kids, ages 6 to 16, proving that this day trip works for kids of any age.
TravelingMom Tip: Before you go, download the app for Bearizona for directions, park map and specifics on the animals.
What is Bearizona?
We enjoy visiting Bearizona because it’s not your average zoo. We have visited zoos but are a little uncomfortable in that setting as I tend to feel sorry for the animals being “cooped up.”
Bearizona is a drive-through zoo that travels through more than three miles of Ponderosa pine forest. It is home to 50 species of North American wildlife, including black bears, jaguars, bison, wolves, rocky mountain goats and bobcats, all seen in their natural environments.
The drive through the park is about an hour, even with stops to take pictures.
When you get to the end of the drive through, you can either leave the premises or head to the parking lot outside the Fort Bearizona walk through. That’s a second feature of the zoo that includes an animal park, shows, restaurants and the opportunity to feed some of the animals. Here, the animals can roam around in their natural habitat, but they are separated by barriers for safety.
Plan to spend 2-4 hours exploring the zoo, depending on whether you visit Fort Bearizona and stay for lunch.
Read More: Which are the best Arizona resorts for families?
What’s So Great About Bearizona?
More than half of the animals who live at this safari park were rescued. They will spend the rest of their lives in big natural enclosures, digging, climbing, swimming and playing with one another.
The zoo is expanding to be able to accommodate more creatures in the future.
Are there COVID Restrictions?
The petting zoo is closed now, as is the Wild Ride Bus Tour. That’s a 50-person bus included with admission to the park. It’s led by a Bearizona staff expert and is a fun way to learn about all of the sights and sounds you’ll encounter at the zoo. There is no date for the bus tours to resume.
Where is Bearizona?
Bearizona Wildlife Park is located just an hour south of the Grand Canyon in Williams, Arizona. It’s an hour away from Sedona, one of our favorite places. It is also about an hour’s drive from Flagstaff, AZ and a two-hour road trip from Phoenix. That means Bearizona makes a great day trip from several major Arizona spots.
We drove from Prescott and it was a nice hour and a half drive. I have to say the drive from Flagstaff was horrible! It was not very scenic, except for a stop at the historic WigWam hotel in Holbrook.
When is the Best Time to Visit Bearizona?
We live in Arizona, so I know the weather quite well and I’d say that spring and fall is the perfect time to visit. Also, we got there around 10:30am (the zoo opens at 10am) and I think the animals were more active in the morning when we drove though.
The last time we went, we got there after lunch time and I don’t remember seeing so many animals out and about, so I think being there early was a bonus for us.
TravelingMom Tip: If you drive through and don’t see enough animals, you can drive through again!
What Will We See at Bearizona?
Expect to see these glorious animals up close from the safety of your car. The kids loved it!
As we drove through Bearizona drive-thru wildlife park, we saw an Alaskan Tundra wolf named Geronimo that walked around like he owned the place and then decided to lay down in the middle of the street right in front of us! If you are lucky, you will also spot an Arctic Wolf.
An American Bison and White Bison came up close to the car. I’ve seen bison up close before so I wasn’t startled, but they sure are big, beautiful creatures.
The junior bears will also just hang around your car without a care in the world. I even caught one snoozing in a tree!
The Bighorn sheep were majestic as they lied around.
Getting Out of the Car at Bearizona Wildlife Park
After we did the drive through, we parked in the parking lot at the animal park, Fort Bearizona. This is where the walk through park is.
It is a self-guiding tour where you can stroll through the pathways and check out the animals.
I loved watching the Sea Otters getting fed. They swim and play in a huge area where they can disappear. When it’s feeding time, they zip across the water and you can see them up close.
We saw the Javelinas but since we get them in our neighborhood and they chase the dog, I wasn’t thrilled.
Sadly, we didn’t see any bear cubs, but the adult Grizzly Bears are huge! They can grow to be about 700-900 pounds and stand up to a possible 7 feet tall!
We got to the farm animals last and that’s a hoot for the kids. They love seeing the ducks and chickens hanging out together.
Visiting the Jaguars
My favorite was getting to see the Jaguars up close. They are so beautiful and majestic and seem to be receptive to us. We saw them sleeping by the windows, which made it easy to get a close-up shot.
However, they spend a lot of time running around their 11,000-square-foot enclosure that includes a 30-foot waterfall. There is so much space, you can observe them from the second floor outside the restaurant.
Bearizona has employees all over the park and I spoke to one of them about the two Jaguars, Nacho and Libre, rumored to be named by Jack Black (according to the employee). They happen to be twin brothers born at a wild cat preserve in California. Nacho is the black (melanistic) Jaguar and Libre is the spotted tan one. Their bite is almost twice as powerful as a tiger!
It’s very easy for the kids to think that the Jaguars are just big kitty cats. However, a teenager with fiery red hair was facing one of them and the jaguar reacted instantly, jumping up and facing his paws in front of her, roaring.
It was quiet stunning for everyone. I’m not sure if he thought the red hair was blood, but I got a great shot, and it was a reminder to the kids that these are wild animals.
TravelingMom Tip: If you want to take pictures during the drive through, I suggest you clean your car windows before you leave to go there. The windows must be up for safety. There’s nothing worse than getting a great shot but the window is dirty!
There are two scheduled animal shows daily in the Central Park area of the zoo. We caught the 2:30 show with the porcupine. I would say the shows are appropriate for all ages. There were very young children there, grandparents and a mix of ages.
There also is a Birds of Prey show.
How Much Does It Cost?
Ticket prices in 2021 range from $27-$35 per person (not car), depending on the day of the week and the age of the person. Children 3 and under are free. Special rates are available for educational groups, tour groups and larger groups of 25 or more.
Are There Hotels Near Bearizona?
There are a few choices for hotels and motels in Williams. If you plan on taking the Railway to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, the All Aboard the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel is perfect.
We opted to stay at the The Lodge on Route 66. It’s a boutique motel just a two-mile drive from Bearizona.
It has wood and travertine flooring, solid wood furniture, top of the line pillow top mattresses and luxurious cotton linens. It has a rustic, warm ambiance, perfect for a good night’s sleep after a day in Bearizona!
There is a covered central cabana with a fireplace and a gift shop that is also set up for breakfast in the morning.
Are There Restaurants in Bearizona?
For dining, there are plenty of options at Bearizona. By the entrance you will find the Grille, which serves hot dogs, warm pretzels and nachos, along with ICEEs.
We ate at Canyonlands Restaurant for more of an Southwest experience. It is 6,000 square feet filled with canyon walls and ancient ruins. We ate on the second story where there is an amazing jaguar exhibit showcasing a 24-foot waterfall. You can see it through the windows and go out through the double doors.
Menu options include gourmet burgers, salads, sandwiches and soups/chili. I had the chili and it was delicious and perfect for the setting.
The bar offers specialty cocktails, local craft and domestic bears and Pepsi products. My friend had an Irish Coffee and it was delicious. They also had other specialty drinks perfect for the fall like a Hot Toddy.