It’s not the biggest zoo in the state, but the Santa Barbara Zoo (500 Ninos Dr., 805/962-5339, www.sbzoo.org , daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m., adults $11, children $8). is a cool little municipal zoo. It shelters its critters in enclosures that resemble those of the San Diego Zoo , including a multi-species habitat that mimics an African savannah with giraffes, tortoises, cranes, and rodents all hanging out together. Granted, the pride of lions next door are corralled away from the giraffes, but you can get close to them and occasionally hear them roar.
The Santa Barbara Zoo also takes pride in its local, endangered species—the Channel Island foxes are indigenous to an area only 20 miles from the zoo. The new California condor exhibit shows off one of the rarest birds in the state, still an endangered species.
As you slowly stroll along the paths, you’ll also see cute lemurs, huge elephants, monkeys, and gibbons. One of the best-named kids’ exhibits ever, “Eeeww!” showcases reptiles and wonderful slimy amphibians at children’s eye level.
If you need a stroller or wheelchair, you can rent one just inside the zoo. Also close to the gate you’ll find the Ridley-Tree House Restaurant, which offers plenty of outside tables and a walk-up arrangement that sells sandwiches and burgers. In season, small carts ply the pathways, selling coffee, popsicles, and more. The gift shop offers cute souvenirs for both kids and adults.