Located just a few miles from the usual tourist hot spots in Washington D.C, like the white house and the capital building, there is the perfect addition to any trip to the DC area, the Smithsonian National Zoo. Not only does it provide a fantastic break from exploring monuments and museums, but it can also provide a welcome break for all the family whilst escaping the heat of the city. Another plus is like virtually all the Smithsonian properties, entrance is free, which is a big bonus if you are a family group.
Set among 163 acres in the south of Rock Creek Park, 5 miles to the North of the National Mall, the Biological park and Zoo is home to over 200 different species of animals including the very popular and endangered Giant Pandas. The Park and Zoo provide the perfect place to spend an a summers day with plenty of spaces to have lunch with the family and given that it is free to visit, on arrival you just walk straight though the gates and get set to explore.
Given the park is reasonably large it is often nice to visit several times, exploring a different area in detail with each trip. This is obviously only convenient if you are staying nearby but if you are looking to just visit for the day it is wise to plan for a whole day, you will need it.
Smithsonian Zoo is subdivided into various themed areas, each designed to provide natural environments and give visitors a helping hand where to look for certain species as well as educating as to the animals origins at the same time. For example the Giant Pandas are located along the Bamboo lined Asian trail next to the Asian Elephants.
As the Zoological park is a working research facility there is often the chance to see or even take part in some of the extremely important research that takes place year round. All of the staff at the zoo are extremely keen to chat and answer any questions you may have and we encourage you to do so, it will make you visit unforgettable whilst learning personal accounts on the lives and history of some of the animals that call the zoo home.
A selection of the Smithsonian’s favorite animals:
- Giant Pandas, Red Pandas, Sloth Bears
- Great Cats including Lions and Tigers
- Great Apes including Orangutans and Gorillas
- Reptiles including Anacondas, Cobras, Tortoises, Turtles and Alligators
- American Bison
- Grey Wolves
Obviously this is a tiny selection of the animals available for viewing, there is much more to explore at the park and as it is a working facility there are many new arrivals, exchanges and newborns so there is always something new to see even if you have visited before.
Being set in the grounds of a park the Zoo, unlike many others is spacious with large enclosures,all of which offer unrivaled views of the animals. Many enclosures are designed in such a way that few have fences obscuring the view making you feel closer to the animals. This also leads to less crowded viewing areas with plenty of time to observe the animals behavior.
Food, Drink and Amenities at the Smithsonian Zoo:
There are several restaurants and cafes available located around the park serving a range of meals. Burgers and fast food, children’s meals, salads and sandwich’s are all available at reasonable prices. There is also a few grill offering sit down meals in a slightly more formal setting whilst food kiosks and stands are located around the park for a snack on the go.
The zoo also welcome visitors to bring in their own food into the park but please remember to be careful with waste.
Zoo opening times and dates:
The zoological park is open everyday with the exception of December 25th. Hours vary by time of year but are generally 8am-7pm (5pm in winter). Dinning, Shopping and some exhibit halls have earlier closing times.
The park often has special events surrounding holidays so please be sure to check the Zoos website before visiting.
Getting to the Smithsonian Zoo and Parking
Visiting by Car – So we mentioned entrance is free, Parking however is not and is currently charged at around $22 per day. Not a bad price considering that is per car. Entrances to most zoos is often more than that per person. All main car parks are located along the North road which is accessible from both the scenic Beach Drive and the Connecticut Ave NW.
Metro – The zoo is easily accessible from three Metro stations within a few minutes walk, the closest is the Woodley Park-Zoo station with the Columbia heights to the west and Cleavland Park on Connecticut Ave to the north a 10-15 minute walk.
For More information visit the Smithsonian Zoo Site here.
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