1. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson
"Museum" does not elicit thoughts of a zoo, but you would be surprised. This three-in-one facility combines natural history museum, a botanical garden, and a zoo in one location. Since it focuses on regional fauna and flora, you'll find a large number of Sonoran desert animals here like javelina, prairie dogs, and tortoises.
2. The Camel Farm, Yuma
Have a desire to see some camels in person? Check out the Camel Farm in Yuma, where you can see and pet camels, as well as goats, a wallaby, and other animals. Admission is $4 for children and $7 for ages 13 and up. The farm is located at the corner of Avenue 1E and Country Road 16 in Yuma.
3. Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary, Prescott
This wild animal sanctuary is a place for both rehabilitation and placement for wild animals that had previously been critically injured, abused, or kept illegally. They are also known for being one of the contributors to the Mexican grey wolf survival plan. Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary is open daily; admission is $5 for children and $8 for adults.
4. Keepers of the Wild Nature Park, Kingman
This nonprofit animal sanctuary houses exotic and wild animals who were rescued from life-threatening situations. You can visit Wednesdays through Mondays with admission $12 for children and $20 for adults, plus you can add a safari-style tour for an additional charge. They are located at 13441 East Highway 66 in Kingman.
5. Navajo Nation Zoological and Botanical Park, Window Rock
For an indigenous perspective on wildlife, one place to visit is the Navajo Nation Zoo. The zoo features only rescued animals that have been injured, orphaned, or displaced and offers a perspective on each animal’s place in Navajo culture. The zoo is open daily and admission is free to all. It's located one mile north of State Route 264 near the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock.
6. Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, Phoenix
For a much more natural habitat to visit, check out the Audubon Center in Phoenix, which has been working to restore portions of the Salt River to its natural riparian habitat and home to hundreds of wild animals. It's a great option for urban bird watching and nature walks when you're unable to take the kids further into the wilderness. The Audubon Center is located at 3131 South Central Avenue in Phoenix and admission is free.
7. Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, Scottsdale
Another wildlife sanctuary that focuses on rehabilitation, this wildlife center works with animals of all sizes. They host tours on the weekends through reservation only, so be sure to contact them if you want to visit. You can find more information about upcoming tours on their website,
8. La Gattara Cat Café, Phoenix area
This place gets an honorable mention simply because it has not opened yet. If there’s any place my cat-loving niece and I are looking forward to visiting this year, it will be the La Gattara Cat Café. A popular concept that started in Taiwan and was popularized in Japan, cat cafés have started to pop up in major cities across the United States, including Oakland and Portland. The idea is a way to foster socialization for adoptable cats and encourage people to adopt. The details for the café are still being worked out but a fundraiser will be held October 3rd to make this vision become a reality.