TRAVEL: Santa Barbara Zoo - Private Tour & More Good Eats!

Tory Burch Miller Sandals with lululemon althetica WU Leggings and Essie Splash of Grenadine Pedicure

I wanted to share with everyone my special Santa Barbara trip before I uploaded my January Favorites video tonight, so I hope you do not mind the back to back photo diaries! Here you will find the vast majority are animal stills, since my boyfriend surprised me with a private "behind-the-scenes" tour of the Santa Barbara Zoo. We learned so much from the keepers, who were kind enough to answer all our questions, guided us through the animals' sleeping quarters, and even allowed us to give treats to some of the animals. I have visited the San Diego Zoo, which is by far larger, but the Santa Barbara Zoo is well edited and immaculately maintained.

Now for the animal who stole my heart.. Beau, the resident Channel Island Fox at the Santa Barbara Zoo. He was apparently abandoned by his mother immediately after his birth. They assume it is because the mother saw some sort of genetic flaw or simply did not want to nurse him, but they found him alone and sickly. He is now a healthy one year old, rambunctious to say the least. He is as affectionate as a puppy but jumps like a cat. He sniffed my sneaker and climbed up my thigh, keeping me company as he rested his face on my upright hand (see the photo on my Instagram). It was so endearing!

time to show off his 'mad skillz'

stalking his 'prey'

mmm, mealworms! I actually touched a few.. can proudly claim I fed him by hand

sniffing the mister's hand - denim by Theory

with Desiree, our fun guide for the day

after he affectionately nipped my ankle and before he climbed up my thigh

Now for the elephants. After Beau, the two elephants Sujapa and Mac were the most fun because again, we got to feed them treats! We felt their trunks wrap around our hands as they retrieved their tomato slices.. it was the most unique and memorable experience. I had no idea what it would feel like to feed an elephant, but I must admit, I was awestruck at the strength of their grasp, the muscles in their trucks. An overwhelming sense of joy came over me as I fed Sujapa each slice, and I could not stop smiling.

The mister told me as we headed to our next stop on our tour that he saw a young girl peering over the ledge and heard her sigh, "She's so lucky," as I fed Suzy. It is undeniable that I have been blessed, and I am grateful for all the advantages and opportunities I have been granted throughout my life even if they were simply the results of my work ethic. I am most grateful, however, to have found someone who loves me for everything I am, entirely as I am. I am grateful to have the constant company of the most exceptionally smart, talented, funny, and genuinely LOVING people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. We are all lucky to have met each other, to really know one another, and to be able to make the time to show each other how much we care.. so live your life to the fullest, love fiercely!

 the mister feeds Sujapa aka Suzy another tomato slice

last one! look at all her teeth

And here we go with the giraffes. There were three, but only Betty Lou below was interested in spending time with us because the other two were preoccupied with other zoo patrons. I loved examining her lustrous coat. She is pregnant but has not started showing quite yet. We fed Betty Lou fresh Romaine Hearts. You can see her dark tongue wrap around the leaf.. she snapped up more than two large handfuls in several minutes!

wearing a lululemon athletica Scuba hoodie, Run For Your Life crops, Nike Frees

And last but not least.. my favorite, the lions! We did have to stand behind the mesh, as even the keepers never experience direct contact with the lions. Still, it was very interesting to hear how the lions are trained. The tennis ball atop the club is used as a means to encourage the lions to open their mouths for the keepers. This way, the keepers can maintain a close eye on the conditions of their animals' teeth and gums. It also allows the keepers to check the undersides (aka the bellies) when they stand on all fours to reach for the ball. Pretty cool, right?

 exam time!

model mane

hungry hungry hippo.. err, lion! feeding is completed with a flat palm only

affectionately licking the Lionness Gingerbread 

Gingerbread is mean muggin' the camera

One of the zoo's newest arrivals! A young lionness ready for breeding.. fully grown at 2!

Mr. Lion angrily scratching away at the metal door, behind which the new lionnesses are stowed away!

Now for some random zoo photos.. because who doesn't love more animals?

 I snapped this photo behind glass, hence the reflection at the top!

the power of manual focus with a 50 mm lens.. I worked so hard to frame this right! Snow Leopard <3 i="" nbsp="">

 again, full manual focus. snow leopards are so majestic..

last zoo photo.. meerkats! because tammy loves them hehe

And because no travel post would be complete without some good eats, let's take a break from nature and talk food.

We drove into Santa Barbara late due to the incredibly heavy traffic, picked up Freebirds to go by UCSB. Really delicious nachos, decent burritos.

Tupelo Junction Cafe.. the most delicious, freshly prepared sweet granola I've ever tasted. Not quite vacation fare, but the yogurt was perfectly tart and the soft blackberries and cranberries added just the right amount of balance to to crunch. Coffee and the special baguette French Toast were mediocre, but the chicken fried steak was executed fairly enough. Granola was the stand out, go figure!

Dinner at Bouchon (not related to Thomas Keller) the second night. It was a very cramped restaurant, but it had an open kitchen which is always appreciated. My rack of lamb was sweet, perfect medium rare, and the mister's kobe steak arrived on the most delicious polenta potato cake, smoky yet light. The highlight of our meal, however, was the blueberry upside down cake with lemon ice cream above. Definitely one of the Top 5 desserts I have ever eaten! The mister is not even fond of blueberries, but he enjoyed this as much as I did. And no, we are adults so we did not fight over who got the last bite :)

The next evening, we dined at San Ysidro Ranch's Stonehouse. This restaurant is just as romantic and beautifully set as the rave reviews claim, but it was a touch too dimly lit for me. I took the photo above with flash using my iPhone 4S. The butter lobster was prepared exceedingly well, steamed I believe. I was hesitant about ordering this because lobster oftentimes is served too salty or too rubbery, but that is not so here at Stonehouse. The risotto was smooth and fully cooked. I highly recommend this dish! The mister had the halibut, which was unfortunately not cooked through. The situation was rectified almost immediately, and the house took the dish off our bill, which was very kind of them. Great food, great service!

 The mister's Sunrise Surprise at D'Angelo's Bakery. He enjoyed it! I loved the poached eggs..

I ordered the Eggs Rosa. Great for olive lovers! I am not a big fan, but I still enjoyed it. Apparently, it is former Iron Chef Cat Cora's favorite Santa Barbara dish.

Now for a few snapshots of the Botanical Gardens! We took a brisk walk through before heading to the Zoo..

Wow, what a post right? I will leave you with some of the images I snapped of the Santa Barbara pier. This place is definitely worth a visit if you have never been!

We hope you enjoyed this photo diary.. And it is finally time to release the Favorites video, thank you so much for reading!


  1. Adorable animals but I can't stop obsessing over your Tory's!!! Such a gorgeous color. I been wanting the sandals and the wedge sandals for quite some time now. Can't justify the price tag haha Although I know they are worth having. :)

    1. They're my second pair of TB sandals! I really love her shoes for daily wear.. they're long lasting, so the price is easy to justify ;)

  2. Hi! I'm from Germany and last september I visited Califonia and Santa Barbara which is such a special place. I enjoyed my stay a lot and maybe I will come back in the future :) Your pictures remind me of my journey and it was great to see them! Nice greetings from Germany.

    1. Jule - I'm glad you had a lovely time in SB! It is such a sleepy little beach town hehe Thanks for stopping by to enjoy the photos!

  3. I don't like seeing animals in places like this ): They should be free. I hate zoos ):

    1. I hate seeing animals caged as well since they are not in their natural environment and unless they are housed in a conservation area as big as Jurassic Park (LOL) where they can roam more freely, it really makes me sad seeing them in zoo's. With that said however, I can understand why we hold these creatures in captivity. Humans have and continue to invade their territories and with poaching/excessive hunting these animals will eventually go extinct :( Awesome pics Rae and those TB sandals are gorgeous...my fav color too!

  4. Your tory burch sandals are so pretty!!! :) Perfect for spring/summer time. Cute cute! How cool is that, a special tour. Sometimes I feel bad for animals in zoos, since they are caged and all. But when I think of their safety these days, they're better in zoos in some way. If they are left in the wild, chances of survival are pretty slim, especially in human populated areas.

    1. Thank you! I understand that people don't like seeing caged animals, but a lot of them end up living healthier and longer lives! It's not all bad, like you said :)

  5. Rae:
    Hi from a long time lurker. I really enjoy your blogs and videos. I admire your ambition and work-ethic and it looks like everything is going well for you now. I'm glad you had a great time on vacation, you are lucky to have found your "mister".

    1. I love that you can label yourself a lurker! hehe Thank you so much for seeing and appreciating it.. and yes, life has never been better. I could not ask for more! Wishing you the best, too <3

  6. Omg, I love your Nike Frees! Where did you get that color? I can't find it anywhere at Nordstrom!


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