AAA Editor Notes
Santa Barbara Zoo is at 500 Niños Dr. This zoo with a view was once a posh estate owned by a coffee and tea merchant; now it's the lush domain of more than 500 animals representing 160 species. The pink stucco mansion that once presided over manicured lawns and gardens is gone—replaced by open-air habitats built for the less refined but still exacting tastes of giraffes, elephants, gibbons, snow leopards and gorillas. What hasn't changed is the surrounding scenery; the Pacific and Santa Ynez Mountains are just as spectacular as they were back when this was the setting for civilized galas instead of the wild antics of monkeys and meerkats.Among the zoo's most prized residents: California condors. On the verge of extinction in the 1980s with less than 30 birds left, condors have made a remarkable comeback and now number more than 400 in the wild and in captivity. The California Trails complex describes their success story and lets visitors see the enormous birds up close. You'll also get to see other endangered native animals here such as bald eagles, Channel Island foxes and desert tortoises. Nearby, the zoo's barnyard lets you feed Guinea hogs, Navajo-Churro sheep and San Clemente Island goats, domesticated critters from the Golden State's ranching past. Discovery Pavilion houses a changing exhibit and offers views of staff preparing food for the animals.Humboldt penguins live in a facility complete with underwater viewing windows. Duncan, a roaring 16-foot-long Tyrannosaurus rex, offers insight into a zoo keeper's duties as part of the seasonal How to Train Your Dinosaur presentation at the outdoor Rolling Hills Stage. Don't miss the zoo train, which makes a roundtrip along the park's perimeter, a journey that's particularly popular with kids.Guided tours are available. Food is available.