Phoenix Zoo was founded by Robert E. Maytag (yes, like the appliances!) in 1962 and is the largest non-profit zoo in the United States. It is considered a "Phoenix Point of Pride," one of 33 attractions that are supposed to represent the best of the city. The zoo stretches over 125 acres (50.6 hectares) and displays over 1,300 animals. It is divided up into four walking trails: Africa, the Tropics, Arizona and Discovery. The 2.5 mi (4 km) connected trail is easy to walk and offers numerous exhibits along the way. In addition to standard zoo animals, such as zebras, elephants, and giraffes, the Phoenix Zoo features Stingray Bay, a guided Safari Train, carousel, petting zoo, and camel rides.
The zoo focuses on animal preservation and youth education, hosting numerous community events to help encourage, educate, and inspire. The Discovery trail is specifically designed for children, featuring elaborate play areas. Youth Camps and other programs are hosted regularly as well as numerous private events such as concerts and even weddings.
The Phoenix Zoo’s main 'claim-to-fame' amongst locals does not involve animals at all. Each year the Phoenix Zoo puts up a spectacular display of holiday lights known as ZooLights. The event runs for six weeks, beginning late November and continuing through January. Because the event is at night, real animals are not available to see. Instead, elaborate light sculptures are combined with holiday music as people walk through the Zoo. Attracting thousands every season, ZooLights is extremely popular and is considered a regular holiday tradition for many locals.