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Summer Adventure: San Diego Zoo Wildlife Explorers Basecamp

When the scorching summer temps begin to take over Scottsdale’s otherwise envy-inducing weather, there’s one destination everyone in the Valley can agree on for a drivable escape to a cooler climate, Pacific Ocean breezes, and an impressive array of attractions: San Diego.

For many, Balboa Park—the cultural heart of San Diego—is the perfect spot in which to spend time, thanks to its diverse museums, ample gardens, meandering walking paths and, of course, the world-famous San Diego Zoo. And just a few months ago, the Zoo unveiled Wildlife Explorers Basecamp, its newest experience.

The Cutest Creatures and Hands-On Learning

This space, which is included with the price of Zoo admission, comprises 3.2 acres of education-disguised-as-fun for the whole family. You’ll move through four unique worlds of ecosystems that most people would only encounter during a trip around the world—and you’ll build empathy for nature and an appreciation for creatures big and small along the way.

Marsh Meadows provides a peek into life below sea level, where you can view crocodiles, turtles, and fish comfortably housed in replicas of their natural habitats. Desert Dunes comes with playful fennec fox, curious prairie dogs, lumbering desert tortois,e and bashful burrowing owls doing their best to blend into their Arizona-esque surroundings. Wild Woods offers plenty of kid-friendly exploration in the form of a rope bridge and climbing boulders, plus splashing jets and a waterfall grotto for a quick cool-down. It’s also where you’ll find the adorable squirrel monkeys and coati.

The Rainforest zone displays caiman, ocelot, and prehensile-tailed porcupines, but be sure to head indoors to the Spineless Marvels building—here, you’ll learn all about invertebrates (scorpions, arachnids and crustaceans, oh my!) and observe pollinators at work, complete with giant honeycombs that fill the air with the scent of beeswax. Don’t miss the fascinating leaf cutter colony, as these underappreciated ants are always hard at work building their fungus farms.

End your tour by perusing the Cool Critters Reptile House, with immersive environments and digital game tables, among the lizards, snakes, iguana, and amphibians.

Getting Up-Close and Personal

Throughout your visit, you’re bound to run into various ambassador animals accompanied by their handlers, where you’ll learn so much more about their personalities, diets, and habits. Some guest favorites include an umbrella cockatoo named Mickey, a tamandua named Maní, and a sloth named Tornero—and each animal encounter will leave you with a newfound appreciation of nature’s abundance.