Sometimes smaller is better. The Santa Barbara Zoo is small but it has the best animal encounters available versus other larger zoos we've been to. It is close to downtown and easily accessible by the very inexpensive waterfront shuttle. Usually we have a hard time finding the lions at our local zoo. At the Santa Barbara zoo, there's a rock that rises in the middle of his habitat and he was standing right on top of it! Of course I would prefer viewing lions in their natural habitat in Africa, but until we can get there, this will have to be the kind of lion sighting available for my kids.