As I looked behind my car, small faces can be seen plastered against the windows of an old school bus. This is not a typical scene where you might imagine a school bus. Instead, it is a succession of cars in line to view two large bears in a disagreement on the dirt road ahead. Yes, I said it. Bears!
Welcome to Bearizona, the ‘Big Kid Zoo’ located in Williams, Arizona just 30 minutes outside of Flagstaff. Kids will love to travel here! Although there’s nothing barricading your car from the fur-ocious, shaggy mammals, park rangers are close enough to detect any real danger. Visitors are offered a rare opportunity to see wildlife in their natural habitat just on the other side of a car door.
Drive on the wild side
While entering through the Bearizona archway, keep your eyes peeled for signs of wildlife. As you roam through the terrain in your car, your toddler may spot black horned mountain goats nibbling leafy greens in the distance or a large bison taking its daily dirt bath mere feet from your vehicle. Grab your camera because further along the trail lives the arctic wolf and the grey wolf. Your toddler may get lucky enough to help you snap a photo of a wolf pack or even just a lone canine basking in the sun.
The final loop around is the reason why so many families journey to Bearizona. Time to witness real North American Black bears at an incredibly small distance. As you near the first bend, play a game of “who can spot the first bear.” These impressive five-toed creatures can be seen napping in the shade, sharpening their claws on the nearest tree and even interacting in a playful dispute. Take this opportunity to teach your child that black bears come in many different and interesting colors: white, blonde, cinnamon, chocolate, black and grey!
Get in the action
The fun isn’t over yet. After making the final loop around, be sure to park your car and explore the walk-through exhibit which features baby animals such as bear cubs, small foxes and sleek otters. Check out the porcupine exhibit to find this little loner blending in to his surroundings—typically at the top of a pine. Show your toddler that the fuzzy bear cubs aren’t much bigger than themselves. These curious creatures are extremely mischievous and playful. Be sure to stay long enough to watch the trainers play and feed these adorable cubs.
If you really want to impress your little one, be sure to participate in the High County Raptor show. Sit in a small arena and enjoy an educational tutorial all about raptors and owls. The sound of fluttering wings swooping inches past your head will make you feel like you are really in the wild. Not only will you learn about the different birds of prey, but you’ll come face to face with hawks, owls and falcons.
Grub for your cubs
If you are feeling hungry after the excursion, be sure to explore your food options in the historic town of Williams, Arizona. Stop into Twisters to send your kids back in time to Route 66 retro America with a ‘kiddies’ menu featuring characters from the movie “Cars.” In this 1950’s style diner, put a dime in the juke box and sing along to time period music. Twisters encourages families to sit down, stay a while and lose track of time in a small town atmosphere topped off with fries and a shake.