Discovery Pavilion

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Discovery Pavilion features 2,300 square feet of classroom space, an art gallery, animal kitchen, volunteer and staff library, volunteer lounge, and more.  Last year, the Zoo celebrated its 50th anniversary, set an attendance record (at nearly 500,000), and provided more public programs than ever before. More than 250,000 children, teens, adults participate in formal and informal educational offerings, and more children visit the Zoo than any other single institution in Santa Barbara.

The funding for Discovery Pavilion came entirely from the community, businesses, foundations and Zoo members. The Santa Barbara Zoo is a private nonprofit corporation, and depends on community support, not tax dollars, for operations and improvements.

Donation and naming opportunities are still available.  If you are interested in learning more about this project, please contact Elaine Mah Best, Director of Development.

What’s Inside

Discovery Pavilion stands on the site of the former capybara exhibit (which moved to a new space near the Zoo Train Station) and a staff lounge, which was gutted and integrated into the new building. Construction began in August 2012, and included improvements to the adjacent walkway leading to the popular Eeeww! reptile, amphibian and insect exhibit and the small-clawed otter exhibits to bring it into American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. More than 30 solar tubes allow natural light throughout the building, and a solar panel array on the roof generates electricity for the Zoo.

Let’s take a look at what’s inside:


Frank Jordano Classroom/Sharon and David Bradford Classroom

At the heart of Discovery Pavilion is 2,300 square feet of open space, which can be configured into two classrooms or left as one large area. The inspiration for the space’s curved wall of windows and

doors came from Santa Barbara’s historic railroad roundhouse, once located nearby on Cabrillo Avenue. Fully integrated audio-visual systems feature projectors, video screens, and a hearing loop system, which allows people wearing hearing aids to tune in to the room’s audio.

The versatile classrooms serve as the hub of the Zoo’s many education programs, including the award-winning Zoo Camp, and also overnight Zoo Snoozes, school field trips, keeper talks, and new offerings including a pilot program for local homeschoolers, and after-hours and overnight Safaris for kids. New programming for adults includes evening “At the Watering Hole” talks by experts in conservation and the natural world, debuting Friday March 21.


Ridley-Tree Animal Kitchen

Just down the hallway from the classrooms, guests can observe the preparation of food for the 500+ animals at the Zoo from a large window overlooking the new Animal Kitchen. An AV system allows guests to hear staff talk about how they create healthy and balanced meals for the Zoo’s animals. Prep work starts early in the morning in order for all of the animals, from cockroaches to condors, to get fed. Tours of the kitchen are offered on a seasonal basis; schedule is available at the Zoo’s front gate.


Volentine Family Gallery

This beautiful, white-walled gallery, open to the public during regular Zoo hours, lines the hallway of Discovery Pavilion. It features changing exhibits that relate to the natural world and the Zoo’s mission of conservation, education, research, and recreation. “Islands of Change” is the debut exhibition, featuring photographs of the Channel Islands by Ralph Clevenger and the Galapagos by Mike Verbois.


Children’s Activity Zone

A new outdoor play space adjacent to Discovery, sponsored by Deckers Outdoor Corporation, is a popular spot for Zoo Campers.


Crawford Family Terrace

Overlooking the beautiful Discovery Pavilion gardens, the terrace, in conjunction with the classrooms, is an ideal location to host an indoor/outdoor reception.


Diane Pearson Volunteer Lounge

Behind the scenes, the new lounge has couches, lockers, resource materials, a small refrigerator, and a sink. Volunteers now have a comfortable place to socialize and relax between shifts, and can receive trainings, conduct research, and read in this space.


Mimi and Dennis Muraoka Library

The library houses digital and online resources as well as unique animal artifacts. It is a resource for students, teachers, volunteers, and staff, open by appointment only.


Dreier CFO Office/Staff Areas

Opposite of the classrooms are offices for the Zoo’s CFO, and staff for the education, conservation & research, human resources, and volunteer departments. Brand-new locker rooms and restrooms are a major upgrade.