Location: Washington, DC
Cost: Free – as is common with other Smithsonian facilities. Donations are appreciated
Stay Length: a minimum of 2 hours – you could easily spend the whole day.
Season: Open 364 days a year.
Food Services: There are a number of places throughout the park where you can buy food, snacks and drinks. You can also bring in your own food. Some seating is reserved for restaurant guests.
Age Range: All ages.
Parking and Transit: Parking is extremely limited – on nice days the lots are full by 10am. Public transportation is recommended. The Zoo is located between the Cleveland Park (flat walk) and Woodley Park (uphill walk) Metro stops.
Highlights: The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is part of the Smithsonian Institution (the world’s largest museum and research complex). The zoo houses more than 1,800 animals from over 300 species.
The Zoo is located in North West Washington, DC on a hillside making a trip to the zoo a bit more of a hike than you might expect.
Throughout the Zoo you’ll find informational signs that provide you information about the exhibits and animals.
There are also stations with ‘view-masters’ that you can look into.
And informational panels at the animal habitats which provide educational information about the different animals.
The Zoo is organized into three sections.
The Orange section includes the Asia Trail, Bird House, Elephant Trails, bison, cheetah, and giant pandas.
The trails take you past several animal habitats and have visual maps at the beginning of the trail.
The habitats are really fantastic. This is the sloth bear habitat. You can see on the upper left where they have indoor viewing areas as well.
The zoo also has animal statue artwork all over like these otters.
The Elephants are a big feature of the National Zoo. Three of the six elephants are from our own Calgary Zoo!
You can see the elephants up close in the Elephant Community Centre.
The Elephant trail space is huge spanning almost 9000 square meters of indoor and outdoor space.
Another example of one of the animal habitats – Panda enclosure
You can see the indoor viewing areas even better in this picture.
The cheetah area is large and many mornings you can see the cheetah being exercised. As the cheetah is the fastest land animal it would definitely be impressive to see running!
Also in this area are zebras, gazelles and vultures. Don’t worry though, the cheetah’s are separated by a fence from the other animals.
Other great habitat example – this pond is in the Bison area.
The Green section includes the Small Mammal House, the great apes, Reptile Discovery Center, great cats, carousel and the Think Tank.
One of the highlights in this area is the great apes.
The orangutans can move from the Great Ape enclosure high up in the air across the O-line to the Think Tank.
At the Think Tank researchers look into how animals think. Visitors can learn about the scientific process and learn to understand animals as thinking beings.
This area also has an animal themed carousel. Rides cost $3 (2015).
The great cats area includes tigers and lions. The zoo has 3 adult lions and 6 cubs were born last year.
The Purple section, is the final area, which includes the American trail, Andean bears, giant anteater, Kids’ Farm and Amazonia.
The grey wolf along the American Trail.
The river otters are also part of the American Trail and lots of fun to watch.
I only had a couple of hours at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo so wasn’t able to see all of the animals and exhibits. The zoo has multiple entrances so if you are short on time you may want to pick one next to the animals you are most interested in seeing. If you get the chance to visit the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, I highly recommend it.
Stephen has a day job that is way less fun than writing about zoos, is the dad of the Calgary Playground Review kids (Gordie, Nicky and Robbie) and occasional Calgary Playground Review contributor.