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Katrina Brown Hunt

Del Mar, California

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Santa Barbara Zoo

500 Ninos Drive, Santa Barbara, California

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  • Big kids (6-8)
Visited: April 2013 | Submitted: Apr 12, 2013 | I traveled with big kids (6-8)

Compact, fun zoo

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This is not a huge, state-of the art zoo--you can pretty well cover it in three hours or less, and the rates are reasonable, compared to bigger zoos ($14 per adult, $10 per child) And that was why we loved it: no huge fatigue, but plenty of great animals that you can see fairly up close. The big hits with us were the lions (one male named Chadwick, three females), a leopard (Samantha) and the fabulous meerkats. We loved that most animals had a plaque with his or her name posted next to the sign with the animals' more general info. The zoo has a small train tour/ride, and two casual restaurants (one where you just order a the counter).

Tips for Families

Call ahead to see what time giraffe feeding is that day--for a small surcharge, you can help feed them. Take the Waterfront Trolley to the zoo to save on parking ($6) and get a nice, fresh-air ride: trolley rides are just 50 cents per person.

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Hotel Oceana Santa Barbara

202 W Cabrillo Boulevard, Santa Barbara, California

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KID-FRIENDLY AMENITIES

  • Smoke-free property
  • Babysitting
  • On-site restaurant(s)
  • Refrigerator in room
  • Microwave in room
  • Complimentary breakfast
  • Cribs (infant beds) available
  • Outdoor pool
  • Bikes available
  • Video game system in room


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  • Big kids (6-8)

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Visited: April 2013 | Submitted: Apr 12, 2013 | I traveled with big kids (6-8)

Pleasant, relaxed boutqiue hotel has easy access to downtown, and the beach across the street.

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We stayed at this hotel after taking the train to Santa Barbara from San Diego, and it was a pretty easy (despite some expected complaints) four-block walk from the train station. The hotel exudes that relaxed, Spanish-style, bougainvillea-covered vibe that you expect in this lush, lovely city. The hotel is spread across six small buildings and rooms have been nicely updated, with bright, colorful accents, little balconies and they have lots of natural light. There is a huge lawn, perfect for lounging or kid cartwheeling, and two pools, one with a hot tub. The hotel also has a fitness center, free wifi and bookings come with a two-hour use of two beach cruiser bikes (which we didn't use, since the bikes are grown-up sized, and here were four of us). The rate includes a decent continental breakfast (hard boiled eggs, fruit, toast, pastries, juice and coffee), but the hotel is also next door to the original (and last remaining) Sambo's, which offers a reasonable pancake breakfast for kids (and without any memories of the controversy). The hotel is on the oceanfront Cabrillo Blvd., so public beach access to just across the street. State Street, with lots of shops, eateries and family-friendly bike rentals (such as surreys) is a just a few minutes' walk from the hotel. Hotel staff were always friendly and helpful We would totally go back!

Tips for Families

Ask for a room in one of the buildings near a pool; the junior suite (king with sleeper sofa in an alcove) was not ready when we checked in, so we switched to a regular two-queen room and were better for it, since it was above one pool and the other would have been quite a walk from the pools (the hotel's building are basically in a line along Cabrillo). To visit the Santa Barbara Zoo--which would be a pretty long walk for kids--you can pick up the Waterfront Trolley across the street; it's just 50 cents per person, and it goes along State Street, too. We were pleasantly surprised that it was pretty easy to go car-free here, since trolleys and cabs are pretty plentiful if you're staying in the main part of town.

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