5 Exhibits We Love at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.

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Disclosure: This is a leftover post from our adventures in 2019. I fact checked; all information should be up to date or linked to up to date resources.

The only zoo in the Smithsonian’s collection of 19 museums in Washington DC and New York City, the National Zoo is home to almost 400 species and 2,700 animals in a 163 acre park in the northwest section of Washington DC.  The zoo was founded in 1889 and is free to visitors all year.

Travel Tips:

  • The zoo is FREE to explore 363 days a year; check here for updates on seasonal hours. 

  • There are several ways to enter the zoo by car and on foot but the main entrance is on 3000 Connecticut Avenue NW. Information on accessing the zoo by car, public transportation, bike, and walking can be found here

  • There is a shuttle that runs between Panda Plaza and Kids Farm every 15 minutes.

  • We strongly recommend bringing a stroller for the toddler set and definitely wear comfortable sneakers. Visitors can also rent a stroller- more information here

  • Information on accessibility and sensory services can be found here

  • Gift shops and kiosks are located in the Visitor’s Center, Panda Plaza, and near the carousel.

  • Restrooms are located at the Visitor’s Center, Panda Plaza, Amazonia, Elephant Outpost, and near the Kids’ Farm. 

  • Dining options include the Mane Grill, Hot Dog Diner, Seal Rock Cafe, Panda Grill, and Panda Overlook Cafe. There are also several food trucks that rotate daily. More information on dining can be found here. Visitors are allowed to bring food (no alcohol) into the zoo; there are plenty of outdoor picnic tables throughout the exhibits.  

  • Check here for daily programs and here special programs and family activities. Check here for information about a daily guided tour. 

  • Kids might enjoy the Zoo Webcams so they can check on the pandas, elephants, and lions once they are home.  There is also a great mobile app and self guided narrated tour- find it here

Our 5 favorite Animal Exhibits:

1. The Rubenstein Family Panda Habitat is home to a pair of pandas, named Mei Xiang and Tian Tian and their cub Bei Bei, born in 2015. There are daily programs featuring the pandas. 

2. Elephant Trails is a large exhibit home to a multi generational herd of Asian elephants. There are daily demonstrations featuring the elephants in their Community Center or Elephant Trek. 

3. The Cheetah Conservation Station is home to some of the most endangered species in the world, including cheetahs, Dama Gazelles, zebras, and scimitar-horned oryx.

4. The American Trail allows visitors to visit up close with everything from sea lions and North American Otters to Bald Eagles and Brown Pelicans. Kids will enjoy cooling off in the nearby splash area. 

5. Kids’ Farm provides opportunities for kids (and adults) to meet and pet many types of farm animals including alpacas, cows, donkeys, goats, hogs, and chickens. There is in indoor barn and Me and the Bee Playground in the complex. 

If you’re in town and looking for more family fun, check our out posts on

And if you’re interested in some of the other zoos we have explored, check out our posts on the Roger Williams Zoo in Rhode Island, and zoos in Philadelphia, Memphis, Dallas, and Dutchess County New York. 

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