The Smithsonian National Zoo is located in the Northwest of Washington DC and is a free tourist attraction you definitely don’t want to miss. The zoo spans 168 acres (66 hectares) and is home to many different animals from all around the world.
Here you can see elephants, reptiles, zebras and different types of birds. Right now is an ideal time to visit since there is a little baby panda called Bei Bei living there. Be sure to get there soon to see him before he’s all grown up!
Choosing where to explore
Keep in mind the zoo is located on a hilly slope, so you want to make sure you wear comfortable shoes to walk in. You can definitely spend an entire day exploring the entire zoo.
But, if you wanted to just spend a few hours then you need to first choose a few exhibitions to see like the elephant trails, giant pandas exhibit, mammal house and the Asia trail. The Smithsonian Zoo has an excellent map online to help you plan your trip before you even go.
Bei Bei weighed 9.5 pounds at his weigh-in on Friday! Mei Xiang has been leaving him on the rock work in her indoor...Posted by Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute on Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Visit the Elephant Trails
One place I would definitely recommend visiting is the Elephant Trails. The Smithsonian National Zoo is home to six Asian elephants and this is one of the most popular attractions at the zoo. The elephants can be seen both inside and outside of their enclosure giving you a unique view into the life of elephants.
The elephants all come from either Sri Lanka or India and give the researchers at the zoo a chance to observe and learn more about these magnificent animals. There are also interactive exhibits where you can learn about elephants’ physical characteristics, intelligence and the zoo’s commitment to taking care of them.
Make sure you stop by to see Bei Bei, the baby panda
One area that you must not miss is the giant panda exhibition where you will get to see two amazing full sized pandas, and of course, the newest addition to the family named Bei Bei. Bei Bei was born in the zoo in 2015.
The panda, like the elephant area, is also indoors and outdoors. The viewing area for the pandas opens at 9:00 am and I would suggest getting there around this time to avoid the crowds.
It is not guaranteed that you will be able to see Bei Bei, but if you get there early enough in the morning you most likely will. I had to come back and check on the panda area three times before seeing him, so patience is needed. But, seeing him is definitely worth the wait.
Most of the time he likes to explore outside for a bit, and then come back to hang out with his mom in the panda house. Bei Bei will be at the zoo for about three more years till 2019 before he is sent back to be released in the wild in China. If you have a chance to go to the zoo before then, you definitely should.
Getting to the Smithsonian National Zoo
The Smithsonian National Zoo is located at 3001 Connecticut Avenue NW, which is a prime location situation near two metro stops: Woodley Park or Cleveland Park. Both of these stops are located on the red line metro and would be about a 10-minute walk to the zoo.
Upon exiting the metro, just follow the signs for Smithsonian National Zoo exit and follow the signs down Connecticut Avenue to the zoo. Admission is free.
The zoo’s exhibit buildings are open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm (4:00 pm closing in the winter).