Boys and girls in costume meet princesses and amphibians. (Courtesy photo)

Frog kissing is optional but a schedule change was required for the Santa Barbara Zoo’s Princess Weekend, which is now set for 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 23-24. Santa Barbara Zoo members only are allowed early admission at 9 a.m.

At the event, young females of royal birth don tiaras, step into their glass slippers, and wear their finest sparkly ball gowns to this celebration of all things princess.

But it’s not all dress-up. Princess Weekend also is designed to bring attention to the world’s many frogs, toads and other amphibians that face possible extinction.

Attendance at Princess Weekend is free with zoo admission: $18 adults, $13 seniors aged 65 and up, $11 children ages 2-12. Parking is $11. For more information, visit

The date change is due to newly scheduled Cabrillo Boulevard closure for vintage car races.

Princess Weekend highlights include a Kiss-a-Frog booth, face painting, bounce house, crafts and activities, all with a princess theme. DJ Hetick will spin tunes for an expanded dance party, and makeovers are available for the young princesses from Santa Barbara City College Cosmetology Academy.

Activities are held at the Cabrillo Lawn area, adjacent to the Cats of Africa exhibit area. Real princesses like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, along with mermaids, fairies and other fairytale characters, will be present.

A princess will lead Story Time, and the zoo’s live show, featuring Duncan the T. Rex and his friends, is princess-themed.

Costumed boys are welcome, be they dressed as knights, princes, cowboys, pirates or astronauts. Live animal encounters and keeper talks focus on several of the zoo’s amphibians including milky frog, marine toad, blue tongue skink, caiman lizard, and Western toad.

Guests can also learn about and join FrogWatch USA, in which citizen scientists are trained to identify and count frogs and toads in local wetlands, creeks, or other habitats.

During the breeding season — February to August — these volunteers listen for the croaks, peeps, trills, and other calls of common species and report their findings, which go into a national database. The commitment is just three minutes twice a week. Visit

Created by the Santa Barbara Zoo in 2009, versions of Princess Day have been staged at other organizations accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) including the Georgia Aquarium, Houston Zoo, Franklin Park Zoo (Boston), Calgary Zoo, Grand Rapids Zoo, Oregon Zoo,
and Knoxville Zoo.

What do sparky crowns have to do with frogs?

“There has been a shocking drop in populations of the world’s amphibians,” said Santa Barbara Zoo CEO Rich Block. “If only there was a fairy godmother with a magic wand to fix the problems they face.

“In the absence of that, accredited zoos and aquariums are working to address the issues in the wild, and are creating temporary captive ‘lifeboats’ of some of the most threatened species.”

Estimates are that at least one-third of known amphibian species are threatened with extinction, a rate higher than that for birds or mammals.

While the major culprits historically have been habitat loss and degradation, the main challenge today is the rapidly dispersing infectious fungal disease chytridiomycosis, which is causing population and species extinctions at an alarming rate.

AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are committed to ensuring the survival of all amphibian species and are already an active force in amphibian conservation. For more information, visit

For more about the Santa Barbara Zoo, visit

— Julia McHugh for Santa Barbara Zoo.