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Santa Barbara Zoo

Visiting the Santa Barbara Zoo


  • Hours: Open every day except December 25. Check current hours
  • Reservations: Not required
  • Cost: Admission charged Check current prices
  • Location: Near East Beach, driving directions below
  • How Long: The average visit is about 2.5 hours, but if you're in an even bigger hurry, the map you get at the entrance highlights the must-see exhibits
  • Best Time to Visit the Santa Barbara Zoo: Any time

The Santa Barbara Zoo is a small zoo with a limited selection of animals and displays. It's one of the prettiest zoos we've seen, very clean, with lots of shady trees and so nicely landscaped that parts of it look like a botanical garden. On the positive side, the Santa Barbara Zoo has one of our favorite critters on display: penguins. Because it's smaller, the kids won't wear out walking around.

Santa Barbara Zoo Exhibits

The Santa Barbara Zoo is home to more than 500 animals. Besides the expected elephants, gorillas, big cats, monkeys and birds on display, you may like these areas and exhibits:

  • The Miniature Train runs along the zoo's borders and is a favorite of young and old. The small Santa Barbara Zoo carousel is perfect-sized for the smallest guests.
  • Feed the Animals: In summer and on weekends the rest of the year, you can feed the giraffes with special biscuits or serve up some nectar to the lorikeets. These activities require a small extra charge.
  • Eeeww!: A cute name for an old-fashioned reptile house, isn't it? The good thing here is the informational signs that explain why we need all those snakes and lizards.
  • Penguin House: You can watch the Humboldt penguins that live here from above and below the water, and they're a more active species than those I've seen in other places.

Santa Barbara Zoo Review

Whether you should go or not depends on how you feel about animals in captivity. My attitude toward zoos has changed since I was a kid, and increasingly I feel uncomfortable to see animals confined into spaces that seem too small for them, with little stimulation or room to roam. Coming from that perspective, I found the Santa Barbara Zoo uncomfortable.

Therefore, we rate the Santa Barbara Zoo 1 out of 4.

What do you think of the Santa Barbara Zoo as a tourist destination?

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Getting to the Santa Barbara Zoo

Santa Barbara Zoo
500 Ninos Drive
Santa Barbara, CA
(805) 962-5339
Santa Barbara Zoo Website
The Santa Barbara Zoo is located near the beach, on the east side of town (the end that's closer to Los Angeles). From Cabrillo Boulevard (the road that runs along the waterfront), take Ninos Drive away from the water.

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