It’s officially the holiday season, and Santa Barbara offers several unique activities, especially for families and animal lovers.

But do they fly?

Two real reindeer are in residence at the Santa Barbara Zoo through New Year’s Day: Holiday, an adult male with a huge rack of antlers; and Lightning, a frisky calf. Winter-themed and holiday-related activities are held throughout the season, and Santa is on-site Wednesdays through Sundays until Christmas Eve. There is no extra charge to view the reindeer.

What’s the difference between a reindeer and a caribou? Reindeer fly, of course! Caribou are actually wild reindeer that live only in North America and Greenland. Reindeer refers to wild populations in Europe and Asia, and to all of the species in human care worldwide. (962-5339,

Candy Cane Train

South Coast Railroad Museum’s Candy Cane Train is taking on passengers through Christmas Eve. Tickets for the festively decorated train are only $4 and include holiday treats and favors, plus a coupon for a future ride. Kiddies must be 34 inches tall to ride.

Also, check out the annual Toy Trains and Teddy Bears exhibit, open through December. The Waiting Room is filled to the rafters with toy locomotives, cars and a menagerie of stuffed animals.

Hours are Fridays through Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.; closed Christmas and from Dec. 28 to Jan. 7. (300 N. Carneros Road, Goleta; 964-3540,

New 'Cat Tails'

Twenty years ago, Jeffyne Telson founded RESQCATS, which rescues, cares for and arranges adoptions of stray and abandoned cats and kittens. Her new book, “Cat Tails,” reveals heart-warming stories about some of the 2,800 cats and kittens her nonprofit group has helped over the years. Meet Telson at a book signing at the Montecito Pet Shop (in Santa Barbara) on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The books would make great holiday gifts. All proceeds from sales benefit the good work of RESQCATS. (2020 Cliff Drive, 965-6780).

Cat yoga

Santa Barbara now has a cat yoga class. To clarify: It doesn’t teach yoga to cats, but is a yoga class for humans, conducted among the adorable cats at Cat Therapy. This unique cat café allows fans of felines to cuddle and play with adoptable shelter cats in a coffee houselike setting (must be aged 7 or older) for $10 weekdays, $12 weekends. It’s so popular that reservations are highly recommended at any time, but especially for these 9 a.m. cat yoga classes Sundays. Enjoy an hour of gentle yoga and deep stretching, followed by 30 minutes of kitty encounters (ages 13 and older) for $25. Guaranteed to make you purr. (1213 State St., 560-1996,

QUICK TIP: Explore off-the-beaten-path eateries in the three-hour Funk Zone Food Walking Tour offered by Santa Barbara Tasting Tours. It meanders around this popular industrial area now housing art galleries, wineries, restaurants, a brewery and a distillery. Tastings in six yummy locations. Check the schedule at

Julia McHugh can be reached at