The zoo is one of the best free things to do in D.C., particularly for families. While most of the museums in the D.C. area are free (the ones run by the Smithsonian, at least… the other museums cost an absurd amount of money, as if they have to make up the difference), few hold kids’ interest as much as the zoo. And personally, it’s one of my absolute favorite places to visit, and I always stop by when I’m in the city. Some people I know knock the zoo, saying it’s not a very good one. Well, sure, it’s not Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, but you don’t have to pay $20 for admission, now, either! Which makes it a sweet place you can go again, and again, and again.
The zoo is constantly evolving, and recently has been undergoing some dramatic updates. When I left D.C. a year and a half ago upon graduating college, the zoo had recently opened the new outdoor Elephant Enclosure, was working on the Elephant House, and was also developing a new American Trail, with new enclosures for animals like seals and sea lions. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to go back to the zoo since they undertook that phase of construction, and they’ve made great progress.
Above you can see the new American Trail. When I went recently it was pretty chilly so most animals were indoors, but I’m looking forward to checking it out again when I’m back in the city in less than a month. There was actually still snow on the ground, so my pictures turned out pretty nice!
Above, cheetahs. Below, the lion. A year and a half ago there were tons of baby lion cubs at the zoo; most have now moved on to new zoo homes. Such a remarkable story! The zoo is actually in the process of introducing two tigers, so maybe there will be tiger cubs in the not-too-distant future!
The zoo is one of my favorite places, and I hope that you choose to check it out if you are in D.C.! It’s such a wonderful place. I’ll leave you with some of my top tips for visiting.
1. Take the Metro! Unless you have six kids with you (which personally I wouldn’t want to keep up with), it’s INFINITELY easier to take the Metro. You can walk from Cleveland Park or Woodley Park-Zoo on the Red Line.
2. Check the website before you go! The official zoo site is http://nationalzoo.si.edu/ and not only can you find hours and info on there, there is also a schedule showing what’s going on by day of the week, so if you really want to see a feeding or zoo talk, you can plan for it.
3. Bring your own food. The zoo is really chill about this and it’s so much cheaper. My personal plan of attack is grabbing Starbucks across the street and taking it in with me, but to each his own…