We took a drive up to Williams, AZ to Bearizona on Homeschool day. With $5 per person admission, I just couldn’t say no to that price!
Williams, AZ is about 2 1/2 hour drive from Surprise. It is a beautiful, but hilly drive up, up and up some mountains. There is a good long distance between rest stops, so if you are going with kids, I highly suggest making a plan to use the bathroom along the way. Unfortunately for my passengers, I’m the one that needs to use the bathroom the most.
Luckily, Bearizona is pretty much right off of I40 in Williams, about 20 minutes West of Flagstaff.
When you arrive at Bearizona, there are signs everywhere. Very good for weary travelers!
I was the driver, photographer and entertainer so my pictures on the driving part of the adventure weren’t the best. This is where you pay and check in. Since we went on Homeschool day, there were LOTS of minivans!
After you check in (AKA pay) you can go through the drive through experience or take a left into the parking lot. The parking lot will bring you to the area where you can walk through a mini zoo. I found this out after we went through the driving experience. I think next time we go we will do the drive thru experience afterwards. My kids really needed a break from being in the car.
There are lots of “cow grates” so the animals don’t escape from areas. We were warned that some of the animals were in their mating season, so we shouldn’t linger too long.
All dirt roads, and some workers zip by on gators and trucks,, so make sure you are watching the road along with the scenery and animals. I kept my window locked so my kids couldn’t open the windows. Some families were opening up their windows even though the staff said not to. We heeded directions.
Cool caves for the bears to hang out!
Just a few donkeys hanging out!
Yay More Buffalo! There were even all white ones!
And a black bear just hanging by the gate to get to the walking area. The staff did warn that the bears like to climb onto the cars, but they didn’t seem to interested. There were also wolves that like to go at the cars, but they didn’t care either. I’m glad they didn’t!!
The roads were twisty and turny in the driving area and you do get right up close to the animals if they want to be near you. So, they don’t want you getting out of the car or rolling down your windows. And, of course, NO FEEDING! Very pretty sights all around the driving area.
Bearizona entrance, and a good photo op! There is no “check in” area here since that is taken care of at the drive thru entrance. There is no check in here as you already paid at the beginning. However there was a little shed that had some artwork to the left. There was a HUGE dream catcher at the entrance of the small log cabin, pretty much blocking the entrance. It also said “Do not hang or pull on dreamcatcher” (I am paraphrasing here as I don’t remember what it exactly said). I hurried my kids along because I knew they would want to hang and pull on the dream catcher.
We first went into a cave (they called it “Mine Shaft”) to the right that had some Nocturnal animals and creepy crawlies. Dimples wasn’t a fan of the darkness so we left pretty quickly. It wasn’t a large building! Across the way was where some of the bears were, and that was fun to see!
The Bears up close! So cute.
This was a haunted house that was no longer up and running (they were taking it down), but we took a little peek!
Don’t mind the Mincraft chicken in the air. HA!
This was probably the kids favorite area! The goats and sheep walking all around us. However, it is good to note that their pee and poop is also everywhere so step carefully. The area is entered through a double gate system. Open one gate, walk into a small area, close first gate and then open the second gate. This was a bit confusing for some folks, and the “between gate” area is quite small-so strollers are almost a no go.
There is also a small man made pond in the middle of this area (looks like a koi pond repurposed). My oldest got ahold of the hose and it went beserk. The hose was really powerful and we almost got soaked trying to get it back into the water, and then it kept popping out. Oh my gosh, it really was embarassing trying to get this thing back into the water. I didn’t see anyone around who could help (or really cared), but luckily one of the keepers came around eventually and we apologized and she started laughing. I guess the hose comes out ALL the time and starts going crazy. So, just be careful and carry an extra set of clothes in case you end up in the middle of a goat splashpad.
This little fella allowed me to do a close up. Reminds me of the story “Three billy goats gruff”.
There were also wolves and badgers, but I didn’t get any really good pictures. The poor badger kept going to the edge and looking like he wanted to jump and was running around looking spooked. I believe all the animals at Bearizona are rehabilitated, but the poor badger made me feel really sad.
There were also peacocks roaming. My kids love them. Some other kids were chasing the poor things 🙁 .
There were plenty of areas to sit and have a bite of food-either that you brought yourself into the park or bought there. There was a small cafe to the right when you walk in and one by the Panther exhibit/gift shop. Both Cafe areas also had the only bathrooms nearby. The bathrooms by the cafe near the entrance were large and easy to get to.
This isn’t a real bear, no worries!! This was on the way to the Panther exhibit and gift shop/cafe. It looked like they were making additions to the building. I’m not sure if you will eventually be able to go around the gift shop to the panther exhibit, but right now you have to go through it.
The indoor cave area around the restaurant (called Canyonlands Restauraunt) was really beautiful to see. We walked around the restaurant area. It seemed like they were trying to make it a destination for adults as well as kids, with a full bar and interesting indoor scenery. It was really beautiful, but felt a little out of place after going through the cabin like gift shop. The gift shop is huge, by the way. And there are lots of breakables. And it is packed with stuff. So, be careful. The bathroom near the cafe had the cave like feature which may make it a little more cumbersome to maneuver with a stroller.
This really was a beautiful area with plenty of places to watch the Panther while eating (carefully-it won’t get your food). The caves and glass enclosures make it safe to watch the Panther from a distance. There are two levels you can see the panther, and there are lots of places to sit and eat.
Throughout the park were plenty of areas to sit and eat, and greenspace that kids could be a little more active. That was a very important thing for my boys! There was also a little stage that was made out of wood and recycled metal that my kids decided would make an excellent drum.
The Gift shop also had a small area that had a show talking about animals and a train (it wasn’t running)
It looked like an awesome train representation.
We did catch the birds of prey show which was pretty cool. My boys were super tired, but loved how the birds flew right over us. One of my friends had told me to sit in the middle of the three section area. We got there a little late, but got good seats. However, you cannot enter once the show has begun so that you will not hurt the birds. They also want parents to sit with children, and if you have a wiggly one that may run off, this may not be the show for you. If a person stands while the bird is in mid flight, it can hurt the person or kill the bird. You can also watch the bird show from outside of the seating area if you have a wiggly one.
Bearizona also has Wild Wonderland, Similiar to ‘Zoo Lights” in the winter.
We did the drive up and back from Williams in one day, and it was only me (mom) that was driving. Woof. not something I would particularly recommend, but the kiddos were good and had their tablets and videos to watch. We brought all of our own food, minus a coffee I stopped in Flagstaff for on the way back.
Bearizona was fun and easily a day trip if you want it to be. We went in November and it was pretty chilly, about 50 degrees. I would recommend looking for discounts for it, and checking it out during the summer!
1500 E Route 66