Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens 500 Ninos Dr • Santa Barbara • CA 93103


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Why You'll Love This Place

A Here Comes The Guide Wedding Venue Review

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.

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 and Audrey, 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.


Video by Hoo Films.

Video by iheartmygroom.

Video by iheartmygroom.


PRICES: What's this going to cost?

Rental Fee
  • $6,500–8,500/event
  • Rental fee varies depending on:
    • Day of week
    • Time of day
    • Time of year
    • Space reserved
    • This rate is for the Hilltop site, and includes parking for up to 200 guests.
    • Small weddings and weddings for up to 225 guests can be held at the Discovery Pavilion & Patio and range $2,000-$3,750 depending on rooms reserved, and month/day/time of your event.
Meals (when priced separately)
  • $36/person and up
Service Charge or Gratuity
  • 20%
Additional Info
  • You can arrange animal encounters, zookeeper talks, lighting packages and other upgrades for your event--please inquire for pricing and details.


Indoors Outdoors
Ceremony Seated 225 250
Cocktails, etc. Standing 225 1200
Reception Seated 225 600
Meetings Total meeting capacity for this venue is 100.

Venue Details

Site Uses

  • Ceremony
  • Outdoor Ceremony
  • Wedding Receptions
  • Outdoor Reception
  • Elopement Packages
  • Small Wedding
  • All-Inclusive
  • Rehearsal Dinner
  • Special Events / Parties
  • Business Functions / Meetings

Essential Info


$ • $$





Amplified Music


Wheelchair Access

Wheelchair accessible



Venue Type

Buildings & other settings available:

  • Banquet Hall / Events Facility
  • Garden
  • Historic / Landmark Building
  • Non-Profit
  • Park
  • Unique
  • Beach / Ocean
  • Zoo / Aquarium
  • Patio / Deck / Terrace

Venue Views

Peep the views you’ll enjoy from this venue!

  • Fountain / Water Feature
  • Garden
  • Hills
  • Lagoon / Pond
  • Landscaped Grounds
  • Mountains
  • Ocean / Bay
  • Panoramic


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