Bearizona is an incredible experience in Williams, Arizona, where families drive through the Pondersoa Pine Forest to witness bears, bison, wolves and other native Northern American animals through the windows of their minivan.
Today we’re sharing all about visiting Bearizona with kids (both tots and tweens), and a few of our best hacks for maximizing the adventure.
Is Bearizona a zoo? Is it a drive-thru experience? Yes to both.
There’s two parts of the experience: The first part is a three mile driving loop where families stay in the car and drive through the middle of more dangerous animals (including bears, wolves and more).
Then, there’s a 20 acre walkable experience more like a traditional zoo experience.
Keep reading for our best tips for experiencing this unique Northern Arizona experience with kids of all ages.
East Valley Moms
Where is Bearizona?
Bearizona is in Williams, Arizona, and is a full day trip experience for families to experience wildlife in a unique drive-thru setting.
Do you really drive through bear habitats at Bearizona?
Yes! Older kids definitely will find this exciting and a bit unnerving–there’s a good chance a bear, wolf or bison will walk right up to your family vehicle! (Yes, there are employees everywhere and ample safety precautions in place to keep cars, guests, and wildlife safe and happy).
You’ll see signs posted saying thing like “windows closed and doors locked” or “hands inside the vehicle” on the drive-thru portion of the experience.
Bearizona staff are stationed at each exhibits entrance and exit to keep vehicles moving, so it’s a very slow drive, similar to if you were browsing holiday lights through a neighborhood. Sometimes traffic can back up if the animals get up close to the cars, but in general, it’s a 5 mph type drive.
We’ve seen some families let their children out of boosters and car seats during the drive-thru, others keep the kids bucked up.
Is Bearizona worth it in winter?
Yes! We have been in the summer and winter (during a trip to the Polar Express in Williams) and in both seasons the animals were active. Bearizona says their bears remain active in the winter and don’t hibernate.
The walking zoo portion is obviously chilly in the winter, but with weather appropriate clothing, we had a great time. We brought the stroller in (very stroller friendly) and bundled up and had a great time.
Bearizona with toddler hacks:
Amy (toddler mom): The best way to organize the day (in my opinion): Start and end with the drive-thru portion of Bearizona and do the walking experience (and lunch) in between to break up car time and let your toddler get some wiggles out.
Bearizona opens at 9 a.m., to maximize that morning prior to nap time, arrive right at opening. We did this both times we’ve visited and it isn’t crowded first thing in the morning, plus then after the walking portion and another drive-thru, you’ll score a car nap for your toddler. 😉
The walking portion of the zoo is very stroller friendly and many of the encounter viewpoints are low enough that you won’t have to constantly take kids in and out of the stroller.
Bearizona with school aged/tween tips:
Amanda (toddler and tween mom): With school aged/tweens I would suggest starting with the drive-thru portion and ending at the walking experience. You are more likely to hold their attention on the animals outside of the car, if you do it first.
After the walking experience their attention span is gone and they could care less about the arctic wolves outside the car’s door. It’s best to leave at that point.
The walking portion has always been my kids favorite part. They love being up close with the bears, seeing the jaguar, and watching the otters slip and slide around their play area. There are quite a few animals you don’t get to see at the Phoenix Zoo, which makes it fun for them.
Jessica (mom with elementary aged kids): Make sure your car has clean windows. Sounds silly, but you’ll look through them a lot. Also, our kids stood up and were able to look through our sun roof and thought that was really fun to do.
Bearizona budget tips for families
- Families can do the drive-thru portion of the as many times during your ticketed day as you wish, so if you didn’t see an animal during the first driving loop, you can circle back around.
- Pack a picnic lunch: there’s snack bars, a restaurant and drink stations (including alcohol) for sale throughout the walking portion of the zoo, but there’s also picnic tables to picnic.
- Prices increase on the weekends, so if you’re looking for a deal, plan a week day visit
- All shows/encounters are included in the general admission price.