Snow Leopards of the American Riviera

Santa Barbara Zoo will truck in 80 tons of snow for feline frolicking.

PRESENTS FOR THE BIG CATS: The Santa Barbara Zoo likes to spoil its resident beasties, but it is the feline population that has gotten the gifty treats as of late. There was the TARDIS-shaped plaything for a pair of African Lions -- that was in honor of the 50th anniversary of "Doctor Who," of course -- and, soon, the Snow Leopards will get their day in the snow. Literally, that is. Some 80 tons, which equals a bunch of flakes, you betcha, will get trucked into the American Riviera-based animal park for a little animal-style play. Humans get to play in the brrrr-y goodness, too, though quite separate from the leopards (of course). And the big cats aren't the only ones that will get the frosty treat: meerkats, elephants, capybaras, and Asian small-clawed otters will all get their crack at the cold fun (other animals around the zoo might as well). The long and the short and the furry of it? Zoo denizens get a little play in (and stimulation, natch) and we people can snap some perfect pictures.

OTHER WHISKERY HAPS: Sledding -- that's for the human kids, as you might expect -- and snapshots with a certain Mr. Claus are part of the Sunday, Dec. 8 to-dos. But there is, of course, an educational component to the day. You'll learn much about the leopards, as well as the "major conservation accord" that is now serving as further protection for the famed felines. The day is, after all, called the Snow Leopard Festival, so look for the spotted icons to gain the lion's share -- errr -- leopard's share of the spotlight.

MORE TO KNOW: If you do go, note that most of the happenings are separately ticketed, outside of admission, but admiring the animals as they burrow down in a drift or gnaw on a snowball is part of general admission.

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