There is a hidden gem on the Southern California coast that can often be overlooked by out of town visitors. It’s a perfect destination for families and it’s location captures the beauty of Southern California. Just 90 minutes north of Los Angeles, the Santa Barbara Zoo has beautiful views and animals to match. If you are looking for a way to entertain the little ones, this is the place to go and if you are a local, I highly suggest purchasing the family annual pass.
If you are thinking of visiting a zoo in Southern California, the Santa Barbara Zoo won’t disappoint. Unlike other SoCal zoos, the Santa Barbara Zoo is rarely flooded with visitors. Sure, on the weekend, you may run into some private use areas reserved for birthdays but they rarely impede your visit. However, I do advise to arrive early to ensure you obtain parking in their main parking lot. It is a little smaller and tends to fill up fast.
Once you’re in the zoo, you’ll notice there is plenty of sprawling space to set up your own picnic. Enjoy the fresh ocean air, and watch the kids have fun in the play area. With the money you save from having a picnic, you can enjoy two of the zoo’s best features: feeding the giraffes and riding the train. Although, children over 11 may not be into the train as much as the smaller children. Regardless, both attractions are worth the extra money. Just be prepared to experience a giraffe tongue like you never have before. They eat the food right out of your hand. It’s amazing.
For a family of four with children two children between the ages of 2-12, you’re looking at spending close to $95 bucks for this one visit (train ride and giraffe feeding included). If you’re in the SoCal area often, I suggest springing for the Family Membership Annual Pass. It’s $90 a year and includes entrance for two registered adults within the same household and dependent children under the age of 18, free parking, and various discounts throughout the zoo. In addition to receiving discounts within the Santa Barbara Zoo, your family membership will help you gain free or discounted access to other zoos.
My parents purchased the Family Membership Annual Pass for us on Loca #2’s birthday. It’s been great to use when we don’t want to spend money but want to entertain Las Locas. With just two visits, we’ve already received back the value of the membership.
I hope you enjoy your visit as much as we do, and if it’s a nice day, don’t forget your bathing suits. The beach is just on the other side of the road.