on June 3, 2012
We made another pilgrimage to the Phoenix zoo on a beautiful day in May. The desert breezes were a bit stiff and we got a little windtossed as we pushed the stroller along the macadam and gravel paths. The hilly terrain made for some serious pushing - this is one thing that definitely gets harder with age. There is one hill that I gave up on and let my DIL take over. But this is one of the top zoos in the USA for a reason...it is a great place for a family, the animals are varied, easily seen,and the memberships are reasonable.This year we walked almost the complete zoo, only skipping a small area dedicated to the Arizona desert that just off the main entry area. It took us the better part of 4 hours. Most of the time was spent in the Children's Zoo area - petting zoo and playground. The splash pad areas near the carousel make for a wet and cooling end to the day and we spent about a half hour there, letting the kids splash and play. There are other splash pad areas around the monkeys and that makes for a great break area if it is needed.The Children's Zoo area consists of a trail that winds through shady groves where cages are spaced out and the kids can also play in a large, flat, open area that invites them to run and jump. The Harmony Farm area is the playground/petting zoo area. We spend quite a bit of time there since the kids wanted to groom the goats in the Big Red Barn, and tried to invite a peacock to play. There is also a concession stand next to the playground and several tables where you can eat and still keep an eye on the kids as they play. The menu ranges from fruit salad (many large chunks of melon, pineapple and grapes) to sandwiches and soft drinks. Most of the exhibits are in open areas where you can watch the critters interact with their companions...there are few real "caged" area like the ones in the older zoos, and the areas that do have cages are often large enough that the animal has room to play, swing, fly, etc.Plan to visit the Zoo as early in the morning as you can in the warmer months. The day warms up quickly and you will feel the heat radiate off the walkways and up through your shoes by early afternoon - besides, that is when the animals go to their dens to get away from the heat so there is not much to see. If you come during the winter, the mornings are very cool (but the animals are active) and the afternoons are comfortable.Memberships start at just over $100 for a family of four - 2 adults and 2 children (3-18yrs). Two bonus tickets are included that will allow you to take guests into the zoo without paying the $18/person entry fee. The next step up is $150 and includes 2 adults and 4 children...plus 4 guest tickets, 4 safari train tickets and 10% discount on snack bar purchases. Each step up includes more "bonuses". but these are the most reasonable unless you have a large amount of kids/grandkids. If you plan of visiting the zoo several times during your time in Phoenix, then a membership is definitely a good investment rather than paying $18/person each time you visit.One word of warning...if the parking lot is in "overflow" mode, you will have to fight the crowds to see any of the exhibits. The lot is large and once the "overflow" area is in use, it means that the zoo is fairly well packed.Be sure to take water with you into the zoo. There are several water fountains throughout the area where you can refill your bottles. If the taste of the water throws you (I don't find it bad at all, but I heard some people complain), take along some flavoring packets to cover the taste. Wear good walking shoes since some of the trails are gravel and sandals are not the best footwear for the desert terrain.
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