S.I. National Zoo, Washington D.C.
It's worth making the trip out to the National Zoo just to see the Giant Pandas, some of the coolest animals on earth. There are two at this zoo, on the way in there was a queue to see them in their outdoor habitat but the line went pretty quickly. On the way out, it was after they were brought indoors and you get a much closer view of the fascinating creatures.
I took the metro to Cleveland Park, there is a slight incline on Connecticut Avenue so it's easier walking from that direction. Just past the Woodley Park metro there are a bunch of interesting looking restaurants if you don't want to eat zoo food, I tried Lebanese Taverna.
The Smithsonian National Zoological Park is another Zoo where you can see small and big animals like in every zoo. The difference is that in DC you don’t have to pay for the entrance, so you can save some money and buy some souvenirs for the kids. :)
There were supposed about 2000 animals from about 400 different species but don’t get so excited only a few are mammals unless you are interested in small fishes and birds :) The elephant seemed very tired, the gorilla was funny, the tiger wanted to sleep but during miday that’s what most of the animals want to do anyway. I liked the laid back feeling in this zoo but some people may find it boring, not really a lot of action and where’s those ippos I’ve heard about? But they have pandas there so if you want to see them eating the bamboo non stop it’s worth to visit this zoo like all these dozens of little devils that really love to see pandas.….
The Zoo is open daily 10.00-18.00(10.00-16.30 during winter)
UPDATE: On August 22,2015 the National Zoo's giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth to TWO panda cubs. Ultrasound tests taken last week indicated the appearance of a fetus, but now we find out there were two! The Panda House at the National Zoo will remain closed while the mother and newborns are being cared for. The Pandacam is always operational and you can still see the Pandas outside, but don't expect to see the mother or the cubs soon.
This is by far the most popular of the exhibits at the National Zoo. We have had Mei Xiang and Tian Tian at the National Zoo and every year there is great speculation and excitement to see if the pandas will breed. Two years ago a healthy cub was born and now in springtime the cub is finally coming out with its mother.
You may not get to see the baby panda very much yet, they tend to sleep a great deal.
If you want to get a good chance at seeing the pandas make sure to arrive EARLY! I just went in early spring and the place was absolutely mobbed by 1030. Later in the day the lines get very long and it will be harder to get close enough to see the pandas (particularly if you have children that aren't very tall.)
Please bear in mind, the Zoo has instituted a few crowd control mechanisms.
a. You used to be able to go into the Asia Trail from the exit, which is closer to where the pandas are. That is no longer possible. You can only go in through the start of the trail and traffic is only one way!. Go slowly, there are several different viewpoints.
b. the Panda House is open from 10:30 am to 430 pm, BUT the times will be limited so as to permit everyone in line to be able to see the pandas. This means that opening times may be shortened.
The Giant Panda is one of the rarest animals. Only about 1600 live in the wild in Central China.
Panda House updates
The National Zoological Park is part of the Smithsonian Institute and formed in 1889 was a huge departure from the concept of zoos they existed prior. Predating similar zoos in New York City and Munich. It is the first natural setting zoo in existence where the concept of giving animals the closest approximation of their normal habit possible. With some 2000 animals of 400 species, the 163 acre facility is none-the-less a very pleasant place for us humans to spend an afternoon too and with it being part of the Smithsonian complex, it is free.
I had been here in the 80s and was happy to see it had gotten even better since that visit. The animals were in great shape, seemed reasonably happy, and quite active on top of it. The pandas are a rare and indeed special sight and well worth heading out to this zoo to see in themselves.
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed in the National Zoo. I think the one we have in Atlanta is larger, laid out better and more enjoyable. Having said that, we had a great visit with our 12 year old granddaughter. Also, they are doing extensive work on enlarging and improving the zoo. Also, they have some unusual animals here, like Przeqalski’s horse. This is the only living relative of domestic horses, the “wild” herds of Australia and North America actually being domestic escapees. The breed is virtually extinct in the wild except for a few zoo-bred animals who have been released. Another unusual species is the Brazilian Golden Lion Tamarin. These small (1.5 pounds or less) have a reddish golden coat and mane-like tufts of hair around their faces give them a lion look, hence the name. Their native habitat in Brazil has been largely decimated and they are endangered with less than 1200 remaining in the wild. Without human intervention the likelihood is that inbreeding would have caused the species to become extinct. In the National Zoo they have one pair living June-October in a recreated outdoor habitat which is a wooded area where food is provided. Since they are tropical animals, they are brought indoors in the winter months.
Some folks say that a lot of taxpayer money was wasted on this zoo. They say that all they needed to do was put a fence around Washington and you have your zoo. That may be true for some parts of the city, but I enjoyed the National Zoo so much that I went twice. The first time was part of a series of day trips in August, 1979, which we took as an alternative to original holiday plans that went awry. The second was in April, 1982, on a seventh grade field trip to Washington, which included the zoo. There were all different kinds of animals, but I remember the bald eagle on the first trip most of all.
The National Zoo in DC is a must see, especially for nature lovers and families with children. You can find in there from sea lions, macaws, cheetas, Asian elephants and their stellar guests, the panda bears. The zoo has organized several trails and ways not only to show the animals they take care of, but to teach about their environments, and why most of them are endangered species.
During my last visit, my main focus were the pandas. The Zoo got two pandas, Mei-Xiang and Tian-Tian, as a ten-year loan from China Wildlife Conservation Association. The zoo is taking very good care of them and doing research to improve the species' life chances in the wild and their life quality. Hope they can achieve their goals, because it is somehow sad to see them behind a glass, eating bamboo in a reduced and fake environment...
Entrance to the zoo is free.
I know some people object to zoos, but if you like them, the National Zoo in upper northwest DC is a fine choice (and it's FREE!). From the rare white tigers to the playful seals to the smelly elephant house there's an animal for everyone. My favorites are the big cats and the reptile house. BE ADVISED: the zoo is adjacent to Rock Creek Park and the terrain is extraordinarily hilly. Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to do a lot of walking. Wheelchairs are available (free, but deposit required) for those needing them; strollers may be rented.
My first visit to the National Zoo after dozens of trips to DC and even four months living in the area. We cut our visit short due to lack of time, so we only saw about a third of the park, but I already have plans to come back in a month! During this shortened visit we started with the cheetahs, one was sitting in her cave eying us while three others paced restlessly. Then we moved on to the Pandas, both your giant variety and the small red pandas that seem more like raccoons. After that we spend a good deal of time in the bird area, until we realized the majestic birds of prey were located in a different part of the zoo. Our second last stop was the under-construction elephant and hippo area, and we ended this visit at the great ape enclosure which featured a month-old baby gorilla, as well as several orangutans.
Officially known as the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, this zoo was founded in 1889.
Entrance is free, and it attracts about two million visitors a year.
Click here http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/15861/b9776/ to see many more photo I took at the zoo... and more to come!
One of the best places to spend a pleasant Washington day is the National Zoo. First of all, it's free, which adds to the pleasure. But most importantly its a great way to enjoy a nice day outdoors and see some beautiful animals. Some of them are rare (or getting rarer) like tigers, golen lion tamarins, pandas and cheetahs, while others are common North American animals, such as bald eagles, bison or prairie dogs. If you're not from North America, these are good animals to focus on.
The reason we mention that it should be a nice day is that the hot, humid summer heat in Washington generally drives the animals inside or to sleep. On a temperate spring or autumn day (preferably in the morning or evening), most of the animals are more inclined to be active (including the pandas). The spring and fall also have the added advantage of fewer visitors to contend with. If you have to come in the summer, you definitely want to avoid the heat of the day.
And, of course, the zoo is a great place to take kids. We went with our 1-year-old nephew Scott, who loved all the rodents. He's a rat kid!
Unfortunately, in recent years, you may have read that Zoo incompetence has led to the death of some of the animals. The worst example of this is when attendants buried rat poison in the red panda pens, forgetting that red pandas dig for their food. This caused the death of these rare and beautiful creatures. Happily, the Zoo has installed new management and Washingtonians are hopeful that this will result in improved animal care
If you're in DC in the spring, fall, or on a warmer winter day, consider a trip to the zoo. It's got lions and tigers and panda bears, oh my! (bad joke, I know). The zoo's three giant pandas are the main attraction. DC as a whole is somewhat obsessed with the pandas-- for a while there were painted pandas all over the city, similar to the cows that are often found in other cities. The metro cards also have pictures of pandas on them. The zoo offers a lot more than just the pandas, though. During your visit you can see elephants, cheetas, zebras, reptiles, small mammals, apes, and more.
Early in the morning and later in the afternoon are the best times to go, both to avoid the crowds and to see the animals moving around. They tend to sleep midday.
Zoo hours are 6am to 8pm April to October and 6am to 6pm the rest of the year. Buildings like the reptile house and small mammal house close early, so don't save those for last if you're there late in the day. Admission is free.
The National Zoo has a great birds. There are many varieties with a focus on Australian birds.
The zoo is free. Parking can be very expensive though. Take the metro or come with a group because the charge is only per vehicle. It's 16 dollars for the day.
We also had the chance to take a tour of the Washington Zoo. This is a great zoo, with the animals given quite a lot of freedom in their enclosures. This gave us the chance to think back on our African days and also look forward to new adventures in the Far East!
The National Zoo is part of the Smithsonian Institution,as such it is free to the public and one of Washington's most popular attractions.
Getting to the Zoo- there is parking, but the easiest way to get to the Zoo is by public transportation. RED LINE stop at Woodley Park/ZOO will leave you on Connecticut Avenue, just follow the crowds, its about 4 blocks up the road. Though it is uphill, it is by no means a steep uphill climb that some people make it out to be!
Coming in the main entrance, there is a visitor center on the left hand side. Maps of the Zoo are available for $3 but really the Zoo is well labelled so you probably won't need a map. If you have something in particular that you want to see you might start by asking at the Visitor Center. The Zoo also has a good app for tablets and smartphones.
NOTE- there are bathrooms all over the zoo, no need to worry about that.
Your first stop will probably be the most crowded. The Asia Trail will show a few different exhibits, but the star of the show is by far the Panda House. The National Zoo has two adult pandas and their recently born offspring that is just now starting to come out on exhibit. This exhibit will be the most crowded, so go early, especially if you have children! (Given the recent births of the twin giant pandas there will be limitations on appearances by the mother (Mei Xiang). The cubs most likely won't appear in public for several months at the very least. If you want to see them go to the Pandacam on the National Zoo's website.
Here is a map of the Zoo:
Also bear in mind that during the hottest part of the day you will not always find the animals outside! I remember going to the Zoo closer to summer and not seeing any of the big cats at all.
From the Panda House you will most likely head down to the Elephant Exhibit. Due to the larger area of this part of the zoo you may not always see the elephants together. (outside, the fence makes it hard to take unobstructed pictures of the elephants)
Small Mammals is inside, you will find some adorable gibbons and other monkeys (though really not as many as i remember from previous years) and the adjoining exhibits hold the Great Apes.
You might think this alarmist, but the orangutans have a wire that they can cross from one tower to the other over the public accessway. If you are underneath the orangutan watch out! Some visitors encountered sudden showers.
To see the zoo you will want to start as early as possible, give yourself at least 4 hours or more if you can. Particularly in early spring all the popular exhibits will be very crowded as the day wears on.
If you are hungry, there are lots of concession stands but these are quite expensive within the Zoo. If you can wait til you are leaving there are lots of more reasonably priced places to eat near the Woodley Park Metro
Please see my National Zoo pages for more information.
The National Zoo is another great, free place to visit affiliated with the Smithsonian. Although it's probably not the best zoo in the US, it is free and they do have pandas, which are not found at most zoos. Parking is expensive and can be difficult so your best bet is to ride the metro and walk a half-mile to the Connecticut Street entrance. The zoo itself is rather large and not set up as a loop so seeing the zoo will require some walking. And the food is expensive and slow, but what can you expect. But it is free and they have some great exhibits.
When we visited, I forgot the memory card for my camera and had to walk a ways to buy another one, so we didn't end up seeing everything, but the exhibits we did see were great. The giant pandas are probably the most popular exhibit and we saw two busily eating bamboo and playing while we were there. The elephant exhibit was under construction, but we did see a few walking around in their outdoor habitat. The Great Ape house had some active gorillas and a very cute little one. We also visited the Bird House, Small Mammal House, and Reptile Discovery Center and then ran out of time. We missed a few of the other exhibits, including the Great Cats, but did see the cheetahs near the entrance. Overall, I really enjoyed visiting and would visit again and spend a little more time.