Housing over 3,000 animals, including 30 species that are endangered or threatened, across 125 acres, the Phoenix Zoo is an entertaining and educational way to take advantage of Arizona’s cooler temperatures while getting your 10,000 steps for the day.

The zoo is located in the Papago Park area of Phoenix and is one of the largest private nonprofit organizations in the country with 2.5 miles of walking trails connecting its four themed areas – the Arizona Trail, which features American Southwest flora and fauna; the Africa Trail, which showcases animals from the region; the Tropics Trail, which houses rainforest residents; and the Children’s Trail, where the petting zoo can be found. Visitors can also embark on the Dinosaurs in the Desert exhibit through April 30, a self-guided expedition through the land of the lost where animatronic dinosaurs roam the Arizona habitat.

There’s no wrong way to explore Phoenix Zoo. The $24.95 admission ($14.95 for kids 3 to 13) gives guests access to most of the zoo’s features with the Dinosaurs in the Desert feature available for just $4 more.

There are guided tours for a personalized look through the zoo, plenty of shopping and dining options (guests are welcome to bring outside food and nonalcoholic beverages for consumption at the many picnic areas found throughout the grounds), as well as a 4-D theater that utilizes smells, water, wind and other elements for an immersive viewing experience.

In addition to the dozens of animal displays are “animal encounters” that provide an up-close-and-personal experience. Monkey Village is the country’s only walk-through squirrel monkey exhibit where squirrel monkeys scurry through bushes and trees mere inches away from passersby. There are no fences here – just humans, monkeys and foliage. Red Barn is a hands-on experience that lets guests pet and brush goats as well as get up close to cows, sheep and horses.

While most of the exhibits are free, paying a little extra for a chance to interact with certain animals is highly recommended.

Guests of all ages can participate in one of Phoenix Zoo’s most popular attractions: camel rides. For just $6, riders can hop on the hump of a camel for a unique experience. Stingray Bay allows visitors to touch cownose stingrays for just $4 and feed them fish and shrimp, which can be purchased for $2.

But arguably the best option offered is the chance to feed giraffes!

Quite possibly the best $6 one can spend, Giraffe Encounter lets guests interact with the tallest mammals at the Phoenix Zoo, feeding them pellets that are taken right out of their hands by the giraffe’s tongues, which typically measure 18 to 20 inches long.

This alone, is worth a trip to the Grand Canyon State. 

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