Unlike many around the nation, entrance to the National Zoo is free. Arrive early for a limited spot in the zoo's parking lot or enter on Connecticut Avenue from the equidistant Woodley Park or Cleveland Park metro stations (it's slightly uphill from Woodley Park). Visit the giant panda and elephant exhibits first, which tend to get crowded. If driving, you will be closest to them in parking in lots A and B. The pandas are symbolic diplomatic gifts to the U.S. from China. Plenty of food and drink concessions are available, but visitors are welcome to bring their own picnic. Lay it out on a grassy area by the Big Cats Exhibit, where you may hear roars, or on a table by the Think Tank, where you can observe orangutans while you eat. Hundreds of conservation volunteers stand by all year to help you learn and enjoy the 163-acre, 400-species park. Download the National Zoo app to plan your visit with interactive maps, animal information and demo schedules.
Never underestimate the number of activities available in Rock Creek Park, which spans 1,752 acres from Georgetown up into Maryland. There are 30 picnic areas, hiking trails and paved bicycle paths along memorials, wooden areas and streams. There is also a summer concert venue in the woods (Carter Barron Amphitheater), a world-class tennis facility (William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Stadium), Rock Creek Golf Course, a horse barn and the Rock Creek Nature Center (complete with planetarium!). Evening star gazing sessions with the National Capital Astronomers run during the summer and fall, and there are regular astronomy shows for children on weekends.
The single, concave screen in this movie theatre, which opened in 1936, is about 2,800 square feet and one of the biggest in the area. Its location near the Cleveland Park metro and across from a strip of local eateries is perfect for date nights and pre- and post- movie munching. On opening nights for new blockbusters, expect lines out the door and possibly down the street. Once inside this DC institution, grab a plush red seat on the mezzanine so you can comfortably watch the action without kinking your neck.