By Teresa Bitler
Humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy Phoenix’s sunny, 80-degree spring days—animals love them, too! During the spring, you’re more likely to see giraffes sauntering through their savannah habitat, tigers sunning themselves in the grass and even dolphins frolicking in the waters than almost any other time of year.
You’ll have to trek roughly 2.5 miles through the Phoenix Zoo, one of the largest non-profit zoos in the country, to visit all of the zoo’s 1,400-plus creatures, including its 30 endangered or threatened species. Highlights include the African Savannah, where giraffes mingle with zebras and other safari animals and the Arizona Trail, featuring animals of the Sonoran Desert, like the mountain lion and the Mexican grey wolf. The zoo is also home to Asian elephants, Sumatran tigers and the nation’s only walk-through squirrel monkey exhibit, Monkey Village. If you’re visiting with kids, drop by the Red Barn at Harmony Farm to pet goats; then head to Stingray Bay to touch and feed 30 stingrays. phoenixzoo.org
WILDLIFE WORLD ZOO, AQUARIUM & SAFARI PARK
This nearly 100-acre zoo not only boasts the largest collection of animals in Arizona, but a 90-exhibit aquarium, a safari park with African lions and 10 rides, including a zip line and log flume ride. You can also feed apple slices to lory parrots in their walk-in enclosure and drop pellets on the extended tongues of the world’s tallest land mammal at the giraffe feeding station. But, what really sets the Wildlife World Zoo apart is how intimate it is. The zoo prides itself on letting visitors get as close to the animals as safely possible. Come early and plan to spend the day. wildlifeworld.com
Located next door to OdySea Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the Southwest, Dolphinaris lets you swim with eight Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in their 900,000-gallon saltwater tank habitat. Several experiences are available, including a land-only option, but the most popular is the swim experience, which begins with changing into your bathing suit or a provided wetsuit in colder months. Following an orientation, you’ll spend approximately 20 minutes in the tank playing, shaking hands and even sharing kisses with the dolphins. Reservations are recommended. dolphinaris-arizona.com