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Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens

Santa Barbara Wedding Venue
500 Ninos Drive
Santa Barbara, California 93103
Contact: Private Events
Phone: 805/566-9933

Why We Like This Place

Sure, plenty of zoos have the requisite elephant or lion …but the Santa Barbara Zoo has something more: 30 acres of lush gardens laced with majestic ocean views. This isn’t your typical wedding venue, and this isn’t a typical zoo, either. For one thing, the meticulously maintained park rests between the beach and a bird sanctuary. For another, it’s got a surprisingly pleasant aroma, a mixture of roses, jasmine and the sea. This zoo also has experienced event pros who are particularly attentive and enthusiastic about helping make your day special. Oh, and one more huge plus—privacy! When the public leaves at 5pm, the entire place becomes your exclusive wedding playground.

Arriving wedding guests are escorted along a landscaped path to Palm Garden, a stunning ceremony site tucked away in a sunken, grassy courtyard. Surrounded by palm trees, agapanthus and leafy green thickets, it has the exotic air of a tame jungle hideaway. Couples tie the knot in front of a cluster of palms, sometimes adding a chuppah or bamboo arch, with a hint of ocean in the distance.

Next, while you and your wedding party pose for photos in the park’s scenic gardens, your guests take refreshments on nearby Lower Hilltop, a broad grassy “porch” set with cocktail tables and a bar. To make this time even more memorable, you might arrange some novel entertainment: Invite some flamingoes to join the party; hire the zoo train to take everyone on a tour (cocktails welcome); or have guests take turns feeding Michael, Audrey and Betty Lou, Masai giraffes who unfurl long purple tongues as they gently accept their food. Now that’s something most wedding guests don’t get to experience!

When it’s time to serve dinner to your friends and family, a short flight of stone steps leads to Upper Hilltop, a circular expanse of lawn gorgeously arrayed for the reception. Since the field is so spacious, the event staff creates “outdoor rooms” to lend a feeling of intimacy, using a variety of optional amenities—a dance floor, tenting, chandeliers, market lights, heat lamps, specialty linens, lounge furniture and props. They stage the festivities either overlooking Lower Hilltop, which offers glimpses of the Pacific through the palm fronds in one direction and the Santa Ynez Mountains in the other; or on the interior section, which enjoys two different Pacific vistas plus a pergola and splashing fountain. The event team will personalize your wedding, whether you prefer traditionally elegant styling or something imaginative. (One couple recently had an Alice in Wonderland-themed gala!) Pretty much anything you can dream up, the zoo staff will help you pull off.

The same is true of the cuisine. Zoo Catering Services by Rincon (ZCS) boasts “Wild Flavors with Civilized Service,” and they’re equally adept at delivering a relaxed barbecue or a sophisticated candlelit affair, global fusion or the freshest California cuisine. You’re in good hands with these culinary superstars!

The Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens is a private, nonprofit organization, which is perfect for green weddings—your special event fees help support the zoo’s conservation and education efforts. With its picturesque setting and impeccable service, this unique location is a “natural” for out-of-the-ordinary celebrations.



  • Max. Seated Indoors: 0
  • Max. Seated Outdoors: 250

Reception/Special Events

  • Max. Seated Indoors: 0
  • Max. Seated Outdoors: 600
  • Max. Standing/Cocktails Indoors: 0
  • Max. Standing/Cocktails Outdoors: 1000


  • Max. Seated: 0

CEREMONY CAPACITY: The facility holds up to 250 seated guests outdoors.

EVENT/RECEPTION CAPACITY: The site can accommodate 600 seated or 1,000 standing outdoors.

MEETING CAPACITY: Meetings do not take place at this facility.

Cost: Prices, Deposits, Etc.

Two fees are required at the time of booking your event at the zoo. The first is 50% of the site fee plus a $500 zoo security deposit and the second is $2,000 payable to Catering by Rincon. The balance of the estimated total is due 60 days prior to the event. The site rental fee is $4,000. Meals range $31–72/person. Tax, alcohol and an 18% service charge are additional. Custom menus are available; pricing may vary, especially for smaller events, so please inquire.

Location Uses

Wedding Receptions
Special Events, Parties
Rehearsal Dinners


Catering: in-house
Kitchen Facilities: n/a
Tables & Chairs: CBA
Linens, Silver, etc.: CBA
Restrooms: wheelchair accessible
Dance Floor: CBA
Bride’s Dressing Area: yes
AV/Meeting Equipment: CBA
Parking: provided, large lot
Accommodations: no guest rooms
Outdoor Night Lighting: CBA
Outdoor Cooking Facilities: BBQ on site; food action stations available
Cleanup: provided
View: fountain, garden, courtyard, landscaped grounds; panorama of hills, mountains, ocean and coastline
Other: picnic area, event coordination, animal options, zoo train options

Venue Views

Fountain/Water Feature
Garden Patio/Courtyard
Landscaped Grounds

Venue Type

Banquet Hall/Events Facility
Historic/Landmark Building
Waterfront/Beach Location


Alcohol: in-house
Smoking: designated areas only
Music: amplified OK
Wheelchair Access: yes
Insurance: liability required

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