From bark scorpions and Gila monsters to coyotes, javelinas, and many, many others, the Sonoran Desert is home to some pretty cool creatures. Want to see them? You can, along with zoo favorites like elephants, orangutans and more.

Phoenix Zoo

455 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix

Phone: (602) 286-3800

Hours: Open daily with seasonal hours. (January 9 – May 31, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; June 1 – August 31, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; September 1 – October 31, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; November 1 – January 8, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Admission: $20 for adults, $14 for children (3-13). Packages that include extra attractions are also available.

The Phoenix Zoo is the place to go if you want to see a mix of native wildlife, hippos, tigers, and other expected zoo animals. More than 1,400 animals, including 30 species that are endangered or threatened, can be found on five trails: the Arizona Trail, the Africa Trail, the Tropics Trail, the Discovery Trail, and the African Savanna.

Highlights include Monkey Village, only walk-through squirrel monkey exhibit in the nation, and the Red Barn, where younger children can pet goats, cows, sheep, and horses. Stingray Bay, a 15,000-gallon tank filled with stingrays that you can touch, is also popular as is the 4-D Theater, which adds smells, water, wind, and other theater effects to movies. There are also two water play areas, a playground, a carousel, camel rides, giraffe encounters, a train ride, and a lake with pedal boat rentals.


Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park

16501 W. Northern Ave., Litchfield Park

Phone: (623) 935-9453

Hours for the zoo: Open daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Hours for the aquarium: Open daily, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Admission: $37 for adults, $16 for children (3-12).

It’s a bit of a drive from Chandler, but if you get a thrill out of seeing exotic animals, it’s worth spending a day at Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park. On display are more than 600 exotic and endangered species—some 6,000 individual animals total—in an open, natural environment. Picture monkeys on an island in the middle of a lake or kangaroos with minimal barriers. (Of course, you’re safely separated from the animals, as they are from you.)

Don’t miss the giraffe feeding platform where you can purchase pellets to pour on their outstretched tongues or the baby animal nursery where the zoo’s youngsters are often on display. Wildlife World Zoo also has a 15-acre safari park that you can walk through and an aquarium with three separate buildings, featuring 150 aquatic and semi-aquatic species.

Before you go, note that despite everything the World Wildlife Zoo has to offer, it is home to very few Arizona species.


Veterans Oasis Park

4050 E. Chandler Heights Rd., Chandler

Phone: (480) 782-2890

Hours: Monday - Thursday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Fee: None

If you want to see native species in the wild, head to Veterans Oasis Park in Chandler. The 113-acre park features 4.5 miles of trails that loop past a lake, several wetland areas, a hummingbird and butterfly habitat, and a burrowing owls habitat. Keep an eye out for coyotes, jackrabbits, and the more than 150 species of birds that have been documented in the park, including osprey, waterfowl, and hawks.

Can’t tell a cactus wren from a roadrunner? Don’t worry. On the first Saturday of every month, November through April, the Desert Rivers Audubon Society leads free, one-hour bird walks from 8 a.m. to noon through the park.


Environmental Education Center

4050 E. Chandler Heights Rd., Chandler

Phone: (480) 782-2890

Hours: Monday - Thursday, 8 a.m. to 8p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Fee: None

Before you leave Veterans Oasis Park, drop by the Environmental Education Center near the parking lot. Inside, you can learn about the Sonoran Desert and the animals that live there. Six different species of snakes are on display, and if you’re lucky, you may be able to watch the staff feed them. (There is no official schedule for these periodic public feedings.)

Outside, there’s a desert tortoise habitat, too.


San Tan Mountain Regional Park

Main Entrance: 6533 W. Phillips Rd., Queen Creek

Phone: (480) 655-5554

Hours: Sunday - Thursday, 6 a.m. to 8p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Fee: $6 per vehicle

The 10,200-acre regional park south of Queen Creek is home to javelinas, coyotes, Gila monsters, jackrabbits, owls, and more. Watch for them and others as you hike one or more of the nine trails in the park.

Or, check the San Tan Mountain Regional Park’s website for animal-related events. The park regularly hosts animal encounters at its visitor center, after dark scorpion hikes, and animal spotting hikes led by rangers who point out the clues that animal, such as kangaroo rates, leave behind.