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Visiting the Smithsonian National Zoo
Go wild at one of the nation’s most popular (and free) zoological parks right here in Washington, DC.
The National Zoo is right for you
It’s not all elephants and donkeys in DC. At the National Zoo, visitors can find all sorts of animals that don’t subscribe to party lines. Lions, tigers, giraffes and the zoo’s beloved giant pandas are just some of the 2,000 animals that call the 163-acre park home. The zoo’s habitats feature animals from 400 different species and about 25 percent of the zoo’s residents are endangered. All of the animals at the National Zoo – which is also a global research center and conservation center – are cared for by world-class zoologists and veterinarians.
The National Zoo is located in DC’s residential Woodley Park neighborhood and, like all Smithsonian museums, admission is free. The main entrance (you’ll know it by the two Instagram-friendly lion statues flanking the gate) is on Connecticut Avenue. The zoo is just a short walk from both the Woodley Park and Cleveland Park Metro stops on the Red Line and the L1 and L2 buses drop off right in front of the entrance. The National Zoo is open from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. (until 4 p.m. in the winter months) seven days a week. Be prepared to do lots of walking! The National Zoo, which is handicapped and stroller accessible, is a large park with 18 distinct areas to explore.
Meet the animals
The resident headline makers are the endangered giant pandas – adults Tian Tian and Mei Xiang and a male cub named Bei Bei – who attract many of the park’s 2 million annual visitors. The National Zoo is a leader in giant panda conservation and has been working with China to study, breed and care for these black-and-white beauties since 1972. The giant panda habitat always draws a crowd (and you can watch the playful panda cubs on the Panda Cam here)!
Of course, there are animals and habitats to explore beyond Bei Bei (though it can be hard to walk away from those cute pandas!). You’ll find animals from all over the world in various exhibits like the Elephant Trails, Reptile Discovery Center, Cheetah Conservation Station and Amazonia. Refer to the zoo map for specifics.
Special events and programming for the whole family
With world-class zoologists and conservationists on staff, every day offers an opportunity for visitors to learn even more about the National Zoo’s wild residents. Take a guided tour of the zoo with an animal expert (Saturdays and Sundays beginning at 9:45 a.m.); spend some time chatting with the animal keepers at the Great Ape House; or get up close and personal with the American farm animals at the Kids’ Farm.
Take a walk on the DC Cool side of the zoo
Want to go even deeper in-depth with the animals? The National Zoo hosts special Snore & Roar overnight summer campouts for kids 6 and over and their parents, as well as the trick-or-treating favorite, Boo at the Zoo, and ZooLights holiday spectacle. And, for the adults, the National Zoo hosts a number of year-round, grownup-friendly after-hours events like ZooFari and Brew at the Zoo.
There are so many Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC covering topics from American history to Asian art, discover them here.