The Santa Barbara Zoo Has Lions, Meerkats, Otters, Penguins And Much More In A Lovely Setting

The Santa Barbara Zoo is a truly delightful place to visit, especially with young kids. The weather in Santa Barbara  is frequently sunny and warm, somewhere in the 70s with a cool ocean breeze. 

The Train At The Santa Barbara ZooThe Train At The Santa Barbara Zoo


about this zoo are:

  • it is small, easily navigable and you can easily do it in under 2 hours
  • the animals are usually awake and visible, if not active
  • they have a white snow leopard
  • a small train circles the zoo
  • the beach weather
  • it's rarely crowded

Kids love the (outrageously priced) Dippin' Dots, available at the little snackbar with outdoor tables at the top of the hill. This cafe also has mexican food and a kid's menu.

There's also an outdoor cafe near the entrance, across from the gift shop. They sell things like burgers, salads, sandwiches and hot dogs. Popcorn and churros are available near the train depot.

Some favorite exhibits are the gorillas, the otters, the meerkats, the penguins, the lion pair, and the Channel Island Fox.

The once very rare California Condors are slowly repopulating and we were treated to one of them flying from post to post, displaying its enormous wingspan.

You can get a chance to feed the giraffes at certain times, and hopefully the line won't be too long.

We once saw one of the gorillas pick up a piece of cloth and daintily spread it out on the ground, then sit on it.

Male Lion At The Santa Barbara ZooMale Lion At The Santa Barbara Zoo


Usually, you can enjoy the exhibits easily and peacefully, without the crowds of some zoos. But if you visit during holidays or summer weekends you may find yourselves having to navigate around all the strollers, but is still not as crowded as other zoos.

The Santa Barbara Zoo is located at 500 Ninos Drive in Santa Barbara. Take the Cabrillo exit, which will be on the left if you're coming north on Highway 101. The signage isn't very good, but head towards the beach and then it will curve around to the right past the beach volleyball courts. Then turn right on Ninos Drive. You'll see playing fields on your left and the zoo parking lot will be on your right.

Insider tip:
You can save in parking fees by parking outside the zoo along the street and walking in. It's only an extra 5-10 minute walk. But check the street signs to make sure you aren't in the 90 minute zone.

The zoo is open daily ten to 5, but closes at 3 on some holidays. There is a few dollars discount for seniors and children.  Train tickets and parking are extra. For the most up to date prices, check their website at 

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