The dream of philanthropists Robert and Nancy Maytag became reality in 1962, and today, the Phoenix Zoo has welcomed more than 43 million guests onto its 125 acre oasis in the Papago Park neighborhood. It’s easy to spend an entire day here, strolling the 2.5 miles of walking trails or taking the tram, meeting and greeting more than 1,400 animals residing in state-of-the-art, humane habitats designed to mimic life in the wild. Some 30 species are endangered or threatened, including creatures being brought back to sustainable numbers like the Arabian Oryx, Black-footed ferrets, Chiricahua leopard frogs, narrow-headed garter snake, thick-billed parrots and Mexican wolves. Many critters enjoy the sunshine hours, but to best see the nocturnal natives, visitors will want to sign up for Twilight or Night Camp flashlight tours.
The giraffe smells a food pellet. He pokes his head just over the railing and starts sniffing for the guest holding his treat. Not far off, some brightly plumed parrots land on another visitor?s arm, spying the tasty apple slices in her hand. Though you can?t get this close to every animal at Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium?such as the lions and the wild Larry Fitzgeralds?the keepers do facilitate animal-human exchanges as often as possible with the zoo?s more than 600 species. They also give visitors novel views of some exhibits by welcoming them aboard the Skyride, the Australian boat ride, and the African train safari. The adjacent aquarium adds to the zoo?s impressive animal collection, housing more than 75 exhibits and enough water to start a new earth colony.
Further attractions include a children?s petting zoo, daily shows, and a baby-animal nursery. At the 15-acre Safari Park, guests stroll or ride the tram through animal habitats, where they can spy on species that live on the other side of the equator. Wildlife World also features two restaurants where guests can feed themselves and their own helpless progeny.
My Petting Zoo LLC offers children and adults alike the chance to interact with a variety of gentle animals. Miniature goats, a mini horse, and a pony named Riley cavort among rabbits, chickens, ducks, and potbellied pigs. Customers are welcome to visit the animals at a farm, or request a mobile visit that brings the animals to parties, events, schools, or homes.
Heritage Park and its volunteers are dedicated to the conservation and protection of wildlife, caring for more than 150 indigenous and exotic mammals, reptiles, and birds in a 10-acre haven. Many of Heritage Park's animals were previously injured, abandoned, or marked with a human imprint that prevents them from rejoining their packs without bringing personalized coffee mugs for everyone. While prowling through the sanctuary, visitors might spy a mountain lion that was kept as a pet, a black bear that was orphaned by his mother, or a fox rescued from a swimming pool. Emus, tarantulas, and ring-tailed lemurs also run free in their habitats, serenading onlookers with their wild cries.
Heritage Park also plays an important role in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, granting asylum to critically endangered Mexican gray wolves, which are being reintroduced into the wild after a 20-year absence. The zoological sanctuary is open every day, with extended hours from May 1 to October 31 to give guests a chance to see animals that are usually out running errands during business hours.
Aiming to turn the museum concept inside-out, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum contains two miles of paths spread across 21 acres of desert, where animals such as sun-bathing lizards, bobcats, porcupine, and grey fox make their home. However, it is the fusion experience of a zoo, botanical garden, natural history museum, aquarium, and art gallery that has earned it a top-5 museum honor by TripAdvisor.
The museum's exhibits intend to display the shared natural habitats of plants, animals, and geology. As many as 230 native live animal species and 1,200 types of plants fill the museum's many exhibits, such as mountain lions, prairie dogs, and river otters, and nearly 20 endangered or threatened species. Birds of prey that roam the skies are the subject of a twice-daily seasonal presentation. The gardens feature over 56,000 individual plant specimens native to several biomes and ecosystems of the Sonoran Desert. Also exhibited is the skeleton of a Sonosaurus, recovered in southern Arizona.
After their stint outdoors, visitors can wander innovative indoor exhibits. Inside a cool, dark replica of a limestone cave glimmer more than 14,000 minerals and fossils, which includes a moon rock on loan from NASA. Amongst an underwater view of beavers' habitat and a venomous reptile presentation, the Warden Aquarium showcases the region's marine residents, and an art institute aims to promote conservation through dynamic visual art.
Membership in the Reid Park Zoological Society grants you and your family (two named adults and any children under the age of 18) full access to the zoo for an entire year (open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas). Being a card-carrying member opens up numerous doors, behind which lie benefit after benefit, and sometimes tigers. From June through August, you'll get early-morning entry to the zoo grounds—a calm, crowd-free time to view feedings and animal care firsthand, as well as a chance to lick and groom one's own fur in peace. The "Zoo & You" newsletter will arrive quarterly in your mailbox, keeping readers up to date on all zoo-related happenings. You'll also receive advance notice, discounts, and VIP entry to all after-hours events. If travel plans are in the cards, use your family membership as a veritable Jedi mind trick to receive discounts of 50% to 100% off at 165 different zoos and aquariums throughout the United States. Concerned number-noshers and pachyderm pals should also note that this membership donation is completely tax deductible, and that a portion of the donation will support the construction of Expedition Tanzania, the new, expanded elephant habitat set to open in the fall of 2011.