Santa Barbara is a popular weekend getaway for those of us living in the LA area, and for good reason. There are plenty of things to do from the beach to shopping, loads of great restaurants and of course, there is the Santa Barbara Zoo. Located on 30 acres of prime ocean view property, the zoo has been ranked as one of the nation’s top small zoos numerous times. Everyone raves about the LA and San Diego zoos due to their size and scope, but Santa Barbara’s has always been my favorite.
One of my friends once told me that the Santa Barbara Zoo is the perfect 2 hour zoo, and she is absolutely right. It is large enough that you can enjoy seeing a variety of animals but not so big that it feels overwhelming or daunting to tackle with small (or big) children. The zoo is open every day from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day when the hours are from 10:00 a.m. – 3:30p.m. It is always good to check the zoo’s online calendar because they are constantly hosting special event. On our recent visit, they had a photo-op with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The Santa Barbara Zoo first opened in 1963 and has more than 500 animals on exhibit. Our family’s favorites have always been the flamingos and the giraffes. The giraffes were a special treat on this trip because the zoo has a new baby, Chad, who arrived in March of this year (there is another baby on the way this summer!). Seriously, there is nothing cuter than a baby giraffe! The boys were a little disappointed that they didn’t have giraffe feedings on this particular day but they said that getting to see the baby more than made up for it.
While they didn’t get to participate in giraffe feeding, they did get to have a front row seat as we watched a presentation on feeding the elephants. Sujatha and Little Mac have been in residence at the Santa Barbara Zoo since 1972 when they were both just 18 months old. We also enjoyed watching an anteater feeding. Anteaters eat up to 35,000 ants and termites every day in the wild, but at the Santa Barbara Zoo they enjoy a steady diet of insectivore mash that contains all of the vitamins and minerals that an anteater needs to remain healthy because sourcing that many ants and termites each day would be a challenge.
Of course, the Crawford Family Penguin House is always a popular attraction and they are especially fun now that you have to work to spot Lucky, the little penguin who sports a custom Teva shoe on his right food because his right foot started developing abnormally after hatching. The shoe allows Lucky to live out a normal life in the exhibit along with the other penguins.
The boys have always been fascinated by the bird exhibits and aviaries. Their interest has been piqued in recent years due to the success of the movie Rio. Prior to the movie, the boys might have said, “Look at that pretty blue bird,” but now they say, “Check out the blue Macaw!”
Aside from the animals, one of the most popular attractions for the children is the play area and the Ant Hill in particular. I think the boys could have spent all day practicing their tricks and jumps.