day trip travel Uncategorized washington dc

National Zoo Washington DC

Did you know that there is a National Zoo? It’s true and it is located in Washington, DC and is only two and a half miles away from the White House. Oh, and did we mention it is free. 

National Zoo, Free, Smithsonian, Washington DC, Capital, Animals,

While parking is a bit on the expensive side ($25), the zoo itself is free. Like most of the other attractions in DC they just ask for a donation to help keep things running. 

If you are planning a trip to DC, you NEED to put the National Zoo on your to do list. If you are not planning a trip to Washington, DC. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? This city is amazing and is loaded with great sites for both kids and adults to enjoy. 


The Smithsonian National Zoological Park is one of America’s oldest zoos. It was founded in 1889. Still to this day the zoo is free to enter. That is not something you find a lot. While many zoos are not expensive to enter. They do have an entrance fee but like many of the attractions in Washington, DC they just ask for a donation. 

The National Zoo is home to many animals. Around 400 species, 30-40 species being endangered. Out of the 400 species there are over 2,000 total animals. 

It will take a couple of hours to walk around the entire zoo. The zoo is 163 acres and is very hilly. The hills are not very steep but you will notice them. I wouldn’t suggest letting go of the stroller or wheelchair. You’ll end up running after it.

National Zoo Map, National Zoo, Free, Smithsonian, Washington DC, Capital, Animals,


This is probably the biggest draw for anyone who visits the National Zoo in Washington, DC. I don’t blame you one bit. My first visit here was the first time I had ever seen a Panda (other than pictures). They truly are beautiful animals. 

Giant Pandas, National Zoo, Free, Smithsonian, Washington DC, Capital, Animals,

You really want to just go up and hug one (but don’t, Pandas can be VERY dangerous). Around the entire exhibit you can read all about the different efforts that are happening to keep the Panda Species around for a long time. 

Kids and Adults will both love watching the pandas. Can’t make it to the zoo anytime soon? Fear not the National Zoo has got you covered with their panda cams. Check out the link here to go to the zoos website and watch the pandas anytime. 


Elephants, National Zoo, Free, Smithsonian, Washington DC, Capital, Animals,

When looking at the map the Upper Zoo is the section in orange. Here you will find the Connecticut Ave entrance where you would enter if you took the metro. The Upper Zoo is home to the Giant Pandas, Cheetah Conservation Station, Asia Trails, Bird House, American Bison and Elephant Trails.

If going in the cooler months many of the animals on the Asia Trails are inside and you are unable to see. But the Elephants were out and very active the day we went in late December. There are 7 elephants that call the National Zoo home and for good reason. They have plenty of space to move around which is nice to see. 

Elephants, National Zoo, Free, Smithsonian, Washington DC, Capital, Animals,

Sadly when we visited the Bird House was closed for renovations. I’ll just have to go back and see it when they are done. I have a good feeling it will be spectacular as all the other areas and buildings were wonderful. 


National Zoo, Free, Smithsonian, Washington DC, Capital, Animals, American Trail, North America

The Valley is the purple section when looking at the map. Here you will find the Elephant Outpost, Kids’ Farm, American Trail, Bald Eagle, Andean Bears and the area my daughter was most looking forward to….. Amazonia. She just really wanted to see some Piranhas.

National Zoo, Free, Smithsonian, Washington DC, Capital, Animals,
Elephant Outpost

When walking the American Trail you will come across Seals and Sea Lions. Both groups looked to be having a ball the day we went. It was starting to rain a little and they were just swimming around and around. I even think one was laughing at us because we forgot the umbrellas in the car. 


The Amazonia section was a great place for us to dry off and warm up a little bit. Inside the building you will find all different kinds of species. Frogs, fish, turtles and much much more. My daughter enjoyed seeing the piranhas however she was a little disappointed when the zookeeper said that the piranhas won’t eat people since they are well fed. 

National Zoo, Free, Smithsonian, Washington DC, Capital, Animals,

The zookeeper in the Amazonia building (don’t remember her name) seemed very knowledgeable and was letting people know fun little facts you would never even think of asking. 

It’s a little humid inside the building but that is to be expected. After all, it is supposed to mimic the Amazon Rainforest or maybe Florida in the summer (just kidding). 

National Zoo, Free, Smithsonian, Washington DC, Capital, Animals, llama, Alpaca,

If you know someone who loves Alpaca’s, you’ll want to stop at the Kid’s Farm. My daughter loves Llamas and Alpacas and I am sure yours do too. Who knows they might even get to fulfill a lifelong dream of theirs and pet one. 


Great Ape House National Zoo, National Zoo, Free, Smithsonian, Washington DC, Capital, Animals, Monkeys,

The Lower Zoo (Green) houses some of the most popular animals at any other zoo you would visit. Of course we are talking about the Great Apes and Great Cats. Who doesn’t love watching and learning about tigers, lions, and gorillas?

Besides those magnificent animals, you will also find the Reptile Discovery Center, Small Mammal House, Bennett’s Wallaby and the Think Tank which explores animal thinking, problem solving and tool use.


One of my favorite animals to photograph at a zoo has got to be the Orangutans. I just find them so interesting. Always a little camera shy covering up their faces with blankets or buckets. I see it all the time at the Philadelphia Zoo and now here at the National Zoo in DC. Why do you think they do this? Let me know in the comments. 

Orangutan, Hiding, National Zoo, Free, Smithsonian, Washington DC, Capital, Animals,

In the Lower Zoo area you will also find the Conservation Carousel. It’s a pretty cool looking old carousel. You can’t miss it while walking back to see the Lions and Tigers. Oh and the day we went. The lions were loud. You could hear them from pretty far away roaring. Another thing I don’t hear often when I visit the different zoos around my area. 


Gift Shop, National Zoo, Free, Smithsonian, Washington DC, Capital, Animals,

Around the zoo you will find a couple gift shops, cafes, food trucks and pressed penny machines. We ended up picking up a small stuffed panda cause my daughter just had to have it. The price was good though. In fact the prices on most of the food and souvenirs were good. I’ve been to places where they have cost much more for the same types of stuffed animals. Very happy with that.

The gift shops were loaded with t-shirts and stuffed animals and other cute little souvenirs. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t see a National Zoo pin. Since I collect pins for the different places I go I’ll have to look a little more carefully next time I go. I know they must have them. I just missed it.

National Zoo, Free, Smithsonian, Washington DC, Capital, Animals,

Now I was not impressed or happy with the Mane Grill in the Lower Zoo area. The cost wasn’t too bad. Around $10 for a kids meal with 3 chicken tenders, apple sauce and a Panda cup. The chicken tenders even tasted pretty good. My problem was with how slow the service was. It was around 11am and we were the only people in there. It took about 15 minutes to cook 3 chicken tenders. When the food finally came out didn’t even get a simple sorry for your wait or anything. And to top it off the people who came in at least 5 minutes after us and ordered 4 different meals had their food done first.            

Overall we really enjoyed our time at the zoo. Even with it raining most of the time we were there it was still very enjoyable. We loved seeing the Giant Pandas. I think I could easily spend an hour just watching them sit and eat. You too will be amazed and amused by them. They are truly wonderful creatures and we really need to step up and help them and all other species survive and thrive. 

Have you ever been to Washington, DC? Planning a trip soon? If you haven’t you need to. It is a wonderful city to visit filled with many unique and amazing things to see and do. Check out our post on the Top ten sites to visit. All our within walking distance to each other. Or head down 95 a little to see the best Military Museum around. Of course I have to be talking about the National Museum of the Marine Corps. And if you are planning on staying for a day or more check out Hyatt Place Washington DC/National Mall. It is a great hotel in the perfect location.

We started a new Facebook group called US Travel Bloggers. Join if you would like to post your own travel blogs or are looking for different unique content. We will post out last articles and fun tips, hints and tricks. It’s new and we are just now starting to try and build it.

National Zoo, Free, Smithsonian, Washington DC, Capital, Animals,
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