Hands-On Fun with the Santa Barbara Zoo’s Camp Program


Designed for children between the ages of 3 and 12, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s camp program offers a number of opportunities for hands-on experience with zoo animals in a safe and controlled environment. Camps change according to the season, and parents can choose between a number of different options, including half, full, and extended day camps.

During the camp, young children will learn about science topics related to zookeeping and animal care, and they can explore relevant issues through fun games and crafts. In addition, each day includes a guided tour of a specific part of the zoo and at least one up-close encounter with an animal. Over the course of the week, participants can feed giraffes, explore the zoo playground, and ride the train. Children in first grade and up can engage in behind-the-scenes experiences and learn about the intricacies of animal care.

Zoo Camp strives to maintain a small counselor-to-camper ratio. While the specific ratio varies according to the specific session and age group, the typical ratio is eight campers to one counselor. Younger groups tend to have fewer campers. In addition, each camp has teenage volunteers who supervise campers and give them direction in various activities.

Throughout the week, the camp offers a great deal of flexibility to accommodate the needs of each child. A snack comes with the price of the camp, and parents can also order daily lunches prepared by the zoo’s restaurant. If preferred, parents can send a lunch and snack with their children. While nap times are not specifically built into the day, the younger-age groups have quieter activities throughout the day during which they can rest, if desired.

The extended day option is only available for the zoo’s summer camp. Through this option, children can arrive as early as 7:30 a.m. and stay as late as 4:30 p.m. The morning typically involves more time at the playground, while the afternoon offers more hands-on crafts and science activities in a less structured environment than in the 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. full day option.