Santa Barbara Zoo

Santa Barbara Zoo is located a little way south of downtown along the 101. Situated as it is, almost on the ocean, the zoo has some great ocean views as well as the 30 acres of spacious parkland that comprises the zoo. With 500 animals in large, naturalistic habitats, Santa Barbara zoo enjoys a reputation for working hard to conserve the environment.

The Santa Barbara zoo has many exhibits where visitors can get up close and personal with the animals, from feeding the giraffes and the lorikeets to petting some domestic sheep. The feeding times are based on the animals’ behavior and are not guaranteed, but you can check for updates when you get there.

The zoo also has a “green” policy, helping the visitors by providing recycling for paper, plastic, aluminum and used cell phones! The zoo also uses solar panels for their energy requirements, recycling the products they use in the work areas and providing sustainably produced, recyclable flatware. The portion cups in the zoo restaurant are made from corn products, and the flatware from potatoes.

In keeping with their conservation work, the Santa Barbara zoo has done a great deal of work in helping to keep the California Condor from becoming extinct. The Condor, the largest soaring bird in North America, almost disappearing in 1985, when there were only nine birds left in the wild. With such drastically low numbers, a plan was made to capture all remaining Condors and institute a breeding program with the goal of eventually reintroducing them to the wild. The Santa Barbara zoo became official partners of the California Condor recovery team in 2002, since then they have played a large part in keeping track of the released birds by radio transmitter and volunteering in many different aspects of the program.

Santa Barbara zoo has a huge and impressive range of educational programs, from day tours especially designed for children of different ages, to family programs and zoo summer camps. On Mothers’ day they have a program on how mothers in the animal kingdom interact with their young. For the younger children there are programs that teach using games and songs: for the teenagers there are introductory courses in wildlife photography.

In addition to hosting numerous special events of its own throughout the year, from wildlife workshops to the annual fundraising “zoofari” ball, the Santa Barbara zoo also makes its grounds available for hire for private events and parties. For the visitor on vacation, the average visit to the zoo takes about two and a half hours, but many visitors like to spend up to half a day, enjoying a light lunch in the zoo restaurant. Zoo parking is cheap–$3—but the parking lot does tend to fill up rather quickly. There is additional parking outside. Zoo hours are 10am to 5pm every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas.