By Laura Latzko, 

In the summertime, people aren’t the only ones who are looking for a break from the heat. Animals also want to cool down.

Phoenix Zoo’s annual Winter in July is Saturday, July 13, and will offer a slight respite with snow, a splash pad, water play areas, snow targets, sloth and Komodo dragon mini showers, anteater bubble baths, a mister maze and icy treats for the animals.

Throughout the day, the zoo will have interactive Creature Features, where guests can interact more closely with animals. Guests can see over 3,000 animals, including endangered or threatened species.

The event has multiple benefits, other than staying cool. July tends to be a slower time of the year, and the event draws about 7,000 guests to the zoo, says Linda Hardwick, director of communications for the Phoenix Zoo.

The event is included in the price of zoo admission. Activities such as carousel and camel rides, admission into Stingray Bay or the 4-D theater and Safari Cruiser rides have additional costs.

During the event, children will have a chance to play in about 50 tons of snow, spread out around the zoo. The Lakeside area will have snow piles for children to jump and romp around in throughout the morning.

Hardwick says many young people experience snow for the first time at the event.

“I love to see the kids get creative. They make snow angels. They are building snowmen,” Hardwick says. “I think it’s really fun to see kids in their summer gear and snow boots or their summer gear and their snow hats and gloves.”

Some animals even get a chance to play in snow.

During the event, zoo creatures will receive frozen fruit or ice treats made fruits, vegetables, insects, sports drink, gelatin, meat and/or blood.

Hardwick says the animals appreciate having something different to eat.

“I have seen the animals enjoy something new and different, because they don’t get ice treats on a regular basis, especially ones that are as creative and colorful as these,” Hardwick says. “They like to experience it. It’s a new smell. It’s a new sight.”

Treats such as blood-sicles are designed especially for the animals by commissary staff members, who also prepare their daily meals.

Lead Animal Diet Technician Dustin Kinsman said the commissary staff works closely with the keepers on the treats.

“We take into account what the animals eat for their diet and their favorite foods. The keepers will let us know,” Kinsman says.

The staff has a soft spot for animals and try to make the day special for them.

“Just like the keepers, everyone in here loves the animals. So, we have our own favorite animals that get a little bit more attention,” Kinsman says.

Nutrition Services manager Jennifer Ortlepp says the commissary staff starts preparing the treats ready over a month in advance. They still perform their regular jobs while preparing for Winter in July.

The large frozen treats for the elephants are made with different layers, including lemons and sports drink. Kinsman says these treats take time because they are frozen in sections.

The icy treats let the staff members experiment and try new things more than they can with the daily meals.

“It’s something everyone enjoys because it is something different. You can get creative, instead of having to follow very specific recipes,” Ortlepp says. 

Winter in July

Phoenix Zoo, 455 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, 602.286.3800,, 7 to 11 a.m. Saturday, July 13, $14.95-$16.95 for children 3 to 13; free for children 2 and younger.