Sited on 163 wooded acres along the slopes of Rock Creek Park, the 120-year-old Smithsonian National Zoological Park is one of the most scenic zoos in the country.
The park’s two lovable giant panda bears — Mei Xiang and Tian Tian — usually get top billing, but there’s much more to discover among the 2,000 animals and 400 different species represented here.
See, for instance:
- Orangutans swing from 50-foot-high outdoor towers
- Sea lions train at 11:30 am daily
- Two-toed sloths play peek-a-boo in the Amazonia rainforest exhibit
- Parrots swoop by in an indoor flight room.
There’s plenty here for a full day’s outing. To see the pandas when the crowds are lightest, plan to stop by between 8 and 10 a.m. or after 2 p.m. If they’re awake, the pandas will likely be munching on bamboo.
The Zoo has undergone a lot of improvements lately. In 2006, a $53 million eco-friendly Asia Trial opened to rave reviews, expanding outdoor habitats for sloth bears, fishing cats, red pandas, clouded leopards, Asian small-clawed otters and, of course, the giant pandas.
In 2009 the Zoo welcomed the births of a western lowland gorilla, a giant anteater, and two clouded leopard cubs. Another newcomer drawing crowds is a young bespectacled bear named Billie Jean.
Click here to view the Giant Panda Cam.
For more, visit http://nationalzoo.si.edu
The Zoo has an ample supply of eating options. On top of your typical hotdog stands, the Zoo has restaurants and cafes scattered throughout, serving food from burgers to grilled chicken sandwiches. The Zoo also encourages visitors to picnic. Picnic areas around the Zoo grounds work on a first-come, first-served basis. Be aware that, besides coolers, cooking devices (such as grills) are not allowed on Zoo grounds.
Strollers are available for rent for use at the Zoo. Ask for information at any Zoo kiosk.
Zoo maps are available at the Visitor Center and any information kiosk for a small fee. If you want to carry around a map, but not pay for one, you can print one ahead of time from the Zoo web site.
The National Zoo has many special events throughout the year. From Woo at the Zoo for Valentine’s Day, to ZooLights in December.
Hours: Open daily 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. April through October and 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. November through March. On occasion, the zoo will close early for a special event.
Parking: The Zoo’s parking lot costs $16 for the first 3 hours, and $22 for more than 3 hours. Parking is free for FONZ members. Visitors are encouraged to take public transportation seeing as the parking lots fill up quickly.
Metrorail: Red Line stops for Cleveland Park or Woodley Park/Zoo-Adams Morgan. Woodley Park is slightly closer but the walk is uphill, as opposed to the slight downhill from Cleveland Park.