The Smithsonian’s are just a tourist’s (and likely also a resident’s) best friend when visiting Washington DC. The US capital has such an amazing set of top class museums driven by the Foundation – which all have free entry. On the second day of my CMA Fest Trip 2019, I visited one of the wildest Smithsonian attractions – the National Zoo. This is likely the only place in the Western world, where you can watch Giant Pandas for free. My view.
Smithsonian’s National Zoo – Location, Times & Transport
The Zoo is located North of Washington city center. The main entrance is from Connecticut Avenue. You can also reach that entrance easily by the Washington Metro system, Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan station. I took an Uber from the hotel I stayed in to the Zoo and used the Southern entrance at National Zoo Drive.
The grounds of the are open from 8:00 to 19:00 hrs in summer months, 17:00 hrs in other times. The Visitor Center is closing one hour earlier. Animal / Exhibit buildings tomes are 9:00 to 16:00 (summer: 18:00) and restaurants and shops operate from 10:00 to 16:00 (summer 17:00). As stated above, entrance is free. There are of course chargeable services like zoo maps or strollers.
Smithsonian’s National Zoo – The Visit
During my visit, I entered the zoo from the Southern entrance (National Zoo Drive) and went to the Connecticut Avenue exit. Thus, the pictures are roughly in that order.
The first area I visited was the Kids’ Farm, which has quite some typical US farm animals and pets. Most of the other areas are themed as well. For example, the American Trail with typical US wildlife was quite interesting. I loved to watch the tigers as well. Lions are in the Lower Zoo area in the Southeast, the area is called Great Cats.
The Lower Zoo also hosts areas for apes and small mammals. The habitats are really nice and give a good view on the animals without being too small – there is still sufficient space for a hideaway.
The highlight of your visit (like mine) is likely visiting the Giant Panda. You are a bit more far away from that amazing animal, which I also recently saw at Zoo Berlin. Adorable!
The zoo also has some nice indoor exhibitions, which are very educative. I liked to look around the Think Tank, for example, also due to the way facts are presented in the States compared to German places.
Smithsonian’s National Zoo – Services
Of course, there are plenty places to spent some money. On a sunny day, you likely go for ice cream or chilled pops at one of the food trucks. But there are also cafes which allow a relaxing snack.
Last, but not least, there are three gift shops, one which is more on the Southern part of the zoo, while the ones at the Visitor Center and and Panda Plaza are quite close to the Connecticut Avenue exit.
Smithsonian’s National Zoo – My View
It is hard not to praise the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington. The place is just too beautiful – and how could you dare to rate a place low which gives you the chance to see Giant Pandas for free. I also liked just to stroll around and enjoy nature – the early opening times give you a perfect start for a day in the US capital.