The 125-acre (50-hectare) Phoenix Zoo houses about 1,200 animals, including many endangered species. You can see most displays along three themed trails that take you from Arizona to Africa to the Tropics. A fourth trail is aimed at small children and includes interaction with farm animals. The family-focused zoo attracts about 1.4 million visitors per year.
Over 50 years ago, Phoenix resident Robert Maytag set out to collect funds for a local zoo. Sadly he died shortly before the opening in 1962, but his vision to have a non-profit zoo without government funding is still alive today. Initially it was called the “Maytag Zoo,” but his heirs later requested it be renamed Phoenix Zoo to reflect its community spirit. For a relatively young zoo, the Phoenix Zoo has already gained a reputation for its wildlife conservation efforts, such as a successful captive breeding program to reintroduce the once extremely rare Arabian oryxes into the wild.
Explore the 2.5 miles (four kilometers) of trails by foot or jump aboard the safari train for a narrated tour of the attractions. Check out the local coyotes and javelinas or visit the rainforest of Monkey Village on the Tropics Trail. Pay a few dollars extra to pet cownose stingrays in Stingray Bay, ride a camel or feed giraffes from the observation deck. Kids can learn where their food comes from and what farm life is really like at the Windmill House. If you visit during the Christmas holiday period, head to the zoo at night for the ZooLights spectacle, with lights in the shapes of animals.
The Phoenix Zoo is located in Papago Park, a 20-minute drive east from downtown along Van Buren Street. Opening hours vary according to season. Stay for at least three hours to walk all trails, and get there early during summer when the park closes at 2 p.m. Picnic areas are available and the zoo has many eateries. Several bus routes pass the zoo and there is a parking lot.