Okay okay. I was totally ready to post today’s final post on DC today. So ready in fact, it’s already written. I was going through my iPhone snaps to share and guess what I realized? I have thousands of pictures from one of my very favorite places in DC and I never wrote a post on it!
Sooooo today isn’t my final DC post. That’s coming next week. Today is all about one of my favorite places, The National Zoo. (Don’t worry. They have more animals than just Donkeys and Elephants. HAHA Get it? I’ll be here all night.)
I thought about it a bit, and realized 95% of people traveling to DC with kids are going to head to the Zoo at one point or another. I know for a fact that traveling with kids can be stressful in general, but being in a busy place like DC and not knowing where to go would probably take that stress level to the absolute max.
So with that in mind, today I bring you my Kid Friendly Guide to The National Zoo!
Know Before You Go
Admission LOL JK. There is zero admission charge to the National Zoo! How freakin’ cool is that? If I lived in DC I’d be there every dang day. No joke.
Hours The National Zoo is open 364 days a year. (The only day you can’t visit is December 25th.) The grounds and visitors center open at 8:00 am and close at 7:00 pm. (Last admittance is 6:00 pm.) The exhibits,dining and shopping all open at 9 am. Which is actually really great because it gives you time to figure out where you’re going if you arrive at 8 am!
*Hours vary in the Winter. Winter Hours go in effect October 1st and last until mid-March. Click here for the winter hours schedule, as it changes often.
Getting There Arriving at the Zoo is as simple as any other Metro ride. Just know, you will have to walk a little bit. You can choose between Cleveland Park or Woodley Park metro stops. There are some serious debates online which is closer or a better walk. So I’m going to sit back and let you make the best choice for your family. We chose Cleveland Park because the walk was more “down hill”.Then, we walked to Woodley Park when we were ready to leave, because it was more “down hill” again. We were happy with our choice… but other’s will tell you that was dumb and Woodley Park is a better option. Either, you’re going to walk about a half mile to the zoo. So be prepared for that!
Parking If for some insane reason you decided to brave DC traffic and drive to the Zoo, there is a parking lot. Just know that parking is limited (as the Zoo is in the middle of a city) and the lot tends to fill up really fast… especially during the summertime.
There are a few exhibits that you simply can’t miss at The National Zoo. Let’s start out with the obvious…
PANDAS! I could have spent our ENTIRE DAY sitting at staring at the pandas! Okay. Story time. When we were there, Bao Bao was still a cub and she was the cutest thing EVER. We watched her literally roll out of a tree and run for a treat. Seriously… nothing cuter. Oh. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
YUP. You’re welcome for making you a giant heart eyed emoji 😉
But seriously. The pandas are adorable and entertaining. Not many Zoos have them. So chances are, this will be your little ones first time seeing a Panda in real life. To be sure you get to see them, head there early. The lines for the Pandas are always long, and if you wait too late, they tend to cut the line off as closing time nears. I can’t stand the thought of you not getting to see these precious little fur babies!
Another must see in my book? The O Line. The O Line, AKA Orangutan Transportation System, is how the Zoo’s orangutans travel from one building to the next. You and your children will NEVER forget watching them swing across the line above you. It is so freakin’ cool.
The Kid’s Farm is the perfect place for your little ones that love animals. It’s a petting zoo. And it’s adorable.
Other animals and exhibits I loved? The Asian Elephants, The Small Mammal House, and The Great Cats. Trev really loved the Primates too.
Tips for Visiting the Zoo
Get there early. If you arrive as soon as the grounds open, you will have time to sit on a bench with your map and make your plan of attack. We found out pretty quickly that not many people arrived as soon as the grounds opened. We loved having all that extra time to figure out what were were going to see first (Pandas!) and where we would go after that. It’s also a great time to get pictures by sculptures and signs because there won’t be anyone else in them 🙂
Wear your walking shoes. Like with any place in DC, you’re going to be walking a lot. Be sure to wear comfy shoes, and have a stroller for little ones. The main trail is a mile long, and that’s not including all the side trails that run through the Zoo.
Plan on staying awhile. The Zoo is massive, and you could easily spend the entire day there. However, I would plan at least 3 or 4 hours at the Zoo, plus travel times. (These will be different for everyone depending on where you’re staying, and how you plan to get to the Zoo.)
Bring Water. If you’re visiting in the summertime like we did, you’re about to find out that the Zoo is stupid hot. I mean, you’re on blackish pavement all day. You will literally bake. Luckily, there are plenty of places for cool treats, little mister that mist out icy cold water at you. I would recommend packing your own water bottle, but if you’d rather purchase it at the Zoo, you can.
You don’t have to eat Zoo food. If you want to eat at the Zoo, you totally can. There are three grills, a cafe, a diner and a restaurant that overlooks the pandas to choose from. Or, if you’re looking for a bit lighter fare, you can stop by any of the many snack stands and kiosks. You can learn more about all Zoo dining options here. OR, you can pack your own lunch if you’d rather. This may be your best option if your looking to save a little money. However, for us, it was easier to get food there because it was one less thing we had to carry.
Check the forecast. Be sure to check the forecast before you set off to the Zoo. While there are indoor exhibits, most of the Zoo is outside. Personally, I like to leave a day completely blank when planning our trip, so we can shift plans if we need to based on weather.
You don’t have to bring your own stroller. If you don’t feel like bringing your own stroller, you don’t have to. You can rent them for $9. However, the are only available on a first come, first serve basis. So I’d plan on getting there early if you’re counting on a Zoo stroller. (However, if you’re riding the metro, I’d bring your own. You don’t want your little ones to have to walk to the Zoo from the station.)
There is always something happening at the Zoo. Before you go, check out to see what programs are being offered that day. From animal training and feeding demonstrations, to Zoo Keeper talks and educational programs, there are tons of awesome programs you can take part in on a daily basis. Click here to see what’s happening, when.
The National Zoo is a must see if you ask me. It sits on 163 acres in the heart of Washington DC’s Rock Creek Park. More than 1,500 animals (300 species) call this place home. The Zoo effortlessly instills each visitor with a passion for a lifelong commitment to conservation through engaging experiences not only with the animals but the people working to save them. It is a truly unique experience, and you will smile the entire time. You know how sometimes at zoos, you feel sad for the animals because they’re stuck there? That isn’t how you feel here. Here, the animals seem happy. They’re taken care of, loved, and saved.
Alright. Next week… it really will be my final post on Washington DC!
I’m off to get a few things done before my BFF comes over tonight. We’re going to be watching some PLL and of course it’s the DWTS finale! On a side note… who watched The Bachelorette last night?! I adored Rachel. But some of those guys had me eye rolling SO HARD. Like seriously. What was with Whaboom dude? Were the producers trying to find the male Corinne? Because if they were they failed BIG TIME and now we’re stuck with the most annoying “catch phrase” (I really wouldn’t even call it that) ever. I’ll just be sitting on the couch with my cheese pasta rolling by eyes until the producers let Rachel say goodbye to him.
Have a great Tuesday everyone! I’m back tomorrow.