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National Zoo

3001 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, District of Columbia | 202.633.4240
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70 Reviews
Type: Animals, Hiking & Walking, Nature & Gardens, and Seasonal Events
Ages: All Ages
Cost: Free
Hours of operation: 10:00am-6:00pm (Apt-Oct), 10:00am-5:00pm (Nov-Mar)

The National Zoo is part of the Smithsonain Association of Museums. It features pandas, lions, tigers, elephants, a small mammal house, reptiles, gorillas and several animals native to the Americas on the American Trail.

70 Reviews for National Zoo

December 02 2015
1 family found this helpful

My 6-year-old daughter has been obsessed with pandas for years now, so I knew that making a trip over to the National Zoo was a must during our DC visit. We visited on Thanksgiving, close to the time when the animal exhibits open and found street parking near the entrance. We started at the uphill end of the zoo, near the panda exhibit. Our timing was perfect- when we walked up to the panda exhibit, the keepers were out, putting out treats and toys for the pandas. And just a minute later, a giant panda was walking towards us! We got to see him walk, slide down a hill, climb a tree and enjoy a snack. It was entirely too cool.

We live in a city with a very good zoo, so many of the other animals in the zoo were familiar to us and we didn't spend a whole lot of time looking at them. Still, we enjoyed seeing elephants and lions and the many interesting creatures in the small mammal house. The rest of the family also liked visiting the reptile house, while I kept far away from the creepy crawlies and enjoyed relaxing on a bench outside.

The zoo is free, so if you're in the area, you have nothing to lose by visiting! Be prepared for a uphill return walk if you go all the way from the beginning to end of the zoo.

May 11 2015
2 families found this helpful
"Family fun with the zoo animals."

I haven't been to the zoo in ten years. I went when my Niece was 8 years old and I was able to take my daughter at 8 years old. The zoo is free. The food is pricey so it's good that you are able to take coolers and bring food inside the zoo. There is plenty of places to sit down and eat. The zoo is so huge that it's not enough for kids to see everything. The kids were complaining about there feet hurting. We did sit down and relax a couple of times. We went inside the think take building and it was amazing to learn and see multiple brains of multiple animals. There is a carousel ride for a $3 price. We did a  scavenger hunt with the kids and took pics of all the animals that was included in the scavenger hunt. My one complaint is that when we went to see the Asia Elephants the space was cramped and families was bring strollers in the small cramped space which I wouldn't recommend.  I would recommend this for all families.

December 11 2014
1 family found this helpful
"I was impressed. Be prepared for a lot of hilly walking"

We recently moved to Maryland from the San Francisco Bay Area. After multiple trips to both the San Francisco Zoo and Oakland Zoo, the National Zoo is impressive. It has different animals than we are used to seeing at our California zoos - which is fun for both me and the kids.

It may have been the time of day that we visited (10-noon) but it seemed that everywhere we looked animals were visible and active. This wasn't because the enclosures were small; the animals we saw just seemed to be happily moving about.

The food inside the zoo is your average zoo/children's museum fare - avoid it if possible.

This is a very hilly zoo, and if you arrive via metro, you'll be doing a lot of walking. My active 4 year old wanted to be carried back to the metro station - and he walks a full day at Disneyland. Make sure you arrive via the Cleveland Park station and leave via the Woodley Park Zoo station.


We enjoyed ZooLights during members week this year. During members week, members get free parking (if they normally get free parking), 4 carousel tickets, and 4 tubing tickets.

There are lights decorating the main walkway from the very top entrance of the zoo by Connecticut Ave to the bottom entrance by Rock Creek Pkwy. The Small Mammal, Great Apes and Reptile Houses were open. It was fun to see the nocturnal small mammals out playing and the gorillas asleep. The American and Asian Trail sections are closed off.

The café down at the bottom of the hill is open serving both it's normal menu and holiday treats.

Considering that the lights are completely free (once you've parked), this is really a great event.

April 23 2014
1 family found this helpful
"Free, Fabulous and Fun!"

You can never beat free things, but you certainly can't beat free and fabulous! The National Zoo is so much fun, with almost every animal you could imagine, even farm animals, a new-ish elephant walk where you see the elephants up close, and air conditioned spaces for the hot DC summer days.

The zoo is very hilly, and parking is almost non-existent, so be prepared with your walking shoes and taking the Metro is probably the easiest way to get there. Be sure to get some 'zookie's', zoo animal crackers, they are yummy and all the kids love them!

July 01 2013
0 families found this helpful
"Wonderful Zoo"

Staff is super friendly and there was so much to see.  Thankfully we live relatively close to this Zoo! Strollers are definitely recommended. And it would be a good idea to check the website so you can see what time they do feedings or hold special events that you can see.  

April 02 2013
0 families found this helpful
"Fun Day"

The zoo is easily accessible from the metro station a few blocks away which is how we got there.  Admission is free which always makes for a great family outing in my opinion :)  

The highlight of visiting here is the Giant Panda Bears.  My 10 year old loves pandas and so this alone made our trip worthwhile.  

We happened to be visiting on what they call "enrichment day" and so there were a lot of playthings in the exhibits that are not normally there.  This added to some of the animal activity and enjoyment of observing them.   We spent a good 20 minutes just watching the otters play because they were just fun to watch.  

The zoo is a bit hilly and spread out so wear comfy shoes and bring a stroller for the little ones.  We were all tired from walking by the end of the day.  

There are plenty of food carts around and a few larger eating areas.  I believe you can also bring in your own food.  

Definitely a zoo worth the visit.  

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March 18 2013
0 families found this helpful
"Big zoo"

First off this place is huge.
It's FREE. All you have to pay is a $20.00 parking rate. Which is not bad at all. There is limited street parking, but for a family of 4 to go to the zoo for $20 bucks its awesome.
Because its sooo big you will do a ton of walking. The food isn't too pricey. Comparable to any other fast food place. Around $6 something for a kids meal & they get a reusuable lunch tote. Which by the way they LOVE.
You can also brown bag as they have picnic tables through out the park.
They also have in the summer time areas where they have water sprinklers misting for kids to cool off.We have been here a ton of times & continue to go year around.

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February 07 2013
0 families found this helpful
"Wonderful Zoo"

We live about 3 hours away from D.C.  We try to make the trip every couple of months.  We love the zoo!!!  There are so many different types of animals and buildings here.  The price of food is cheap for the type of place and area it is in.  The admission is FREE and you can expect to pay about $20 for the day of parking.  What a great deal for a family!!!  Some up and down hills, so bring a stroller for the little ones!!!

January 23 2013
0 families found this helpful
"Great family trip"

The National Zoo is great for families - easy metro access with parking available, free, and entertaining. They opened up a new part of the zoo over the summer of 2012 where they have a little area for kids to run in water. It's so fun. There are a lot of hills though so be sure to bring your walking shoes. If you walk a few minutes in either direction on Connecticut Ave, you will find lots of restaurants.

November 16 2012
2 families found this helpful
"Perfect Morning Outing"

My family has a membership to the zoo (which gives you free parking!) so we go there several times a year. If you get there early, park in one of the lots toward the top of the hill, and make your way down to the small mammal house. This is a true highlight for very young children. All the exhibits can be seen without needing a parent to lift the child up. Although it officially opens at 10:00, almost every time we've gone before then, it has been open early. We also love the pandas and at the very bottom of the hill, there are two play areas - a pizza and some prairie dog tunnels. My kids can spend a lot of time at both, running around and letting extra energy off. We've taken tons of kids to visit this zoo, and always had fun.

August 19 2012
0 families found this helpful
"Lizards and seals and cows, oh my!"

The National Zoo is fabulous. First, it's free. Yes, you have to pay for parking or take the metro, but it's worth it. Lots of fun animals and exhibits. My son loves the Reptile House, my daughter loves the farm animals, and both love the seals! In addition to animals, there are lots of places for children to play (including play structures) and run around.

Best tip: the zoo is on a huge hill. Start at the bottom and tour your way up. By the end of your visit, your exhausted kids will do better walking downhill back to your car. Or, if you took the metro, you will already be near the entrance.

July 01 2012
3 families found this helpful
"Free & Fun for the Whole Family"

My boys range in age from 4-10 and this desitnation has something for every one of them to get excited about.  We visit it every summer and we are always as excited as if it were our first time.  5 Things to Know About the National Zoo.
1.  It's free to enter.  But the snacks inside can get costly.  We suggest you bring your own food.  There are plenty of shady benches and areas to eat.
2.  There's A LOT of uphill walking.  Be prepared, especially when it's time to go home and everyone is tired.
3.  Easy access from the Metro.  Get off at Cleveland Park when you arrive.  When you leave head to Woodley Park.  This way you can avoid a little uphill walking!
4.  Go early, get coffee across the street.  Starbucks is directly across the stree from the zoo entrance so you can head out, bright and early, and grab your coffee when you get there!  It's a great way to avoid the summer afternoon temps.
5.  Take a baby carrier.  Some of the exhbits doon't allow strollers.  If you have an infant that can't walk yet, you may want to also bring your baby carrier so don't have to carry baby through in your arms.

June 27 2012
0 families found this helpful
"Fun, but be prepared to walk!"

I had to give this zoo 5 stars simply because it's FREE!  I hadn't been to this zoo since I was a child myself, but while passing through DC with the kids this summer, we stopped in.  The park is huge...LOTS of walking...and even some big hills.  Definitely bring your stroller.  Our kids walked for most of it, but needed a piggy back ride at the end.  
We were there around lunch time which happened to be a time when many of the animals were being fed.  So fun to hear the lions roar from inside and then see them rush the giant pieces of meat.  
A Huge plus on the hot day were the misters all over the park.  What a great way to cool off on a hot day!  
We were there for almost three hours and didn't quite get time to see the whole park.  Much bigger than I remember..and hope to go back soon.  
A last caveat...parking is NOT free unless you try to park on the street.  However, if you are in the city and follow signs, it takes you to the parking lots which you pay for.

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April 03 2012
1 family found this helpful
"Pandas, pandas, pandas!"

There is probably a zoo in your city, but does your city have pandas?  Probably not since only four in the country can claim that honor.  The National Zoo is probably best known for having giant pandas, but the other animal exhibits were top notch too.  The best part, it is FREE!  Plus, you are allowed to bring in your own food and snacks.  If you take the Metro to the zoo you will also get a chance to ride a gigantic escalator from the subway to the surface.  My kids liked that as much as a ride at an amusement park.  There is a lot to see in D.C., but this should definitely make your list!

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March 24 2012
0 families found this helpful
"Fantastic Zoo"

This is one of the best zoos we've ever been to and it's free! It was the first stop we made in our trip to DC and it was one of our favorites. It was a little bigger than we anticipated so the kids got tired by the end of our visit, but they had a good time. There were too many animals to list. The gift shop had a great selection for reasonable prices.

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September 17 2011
0 families found this helpful

I love going to the Washington Zoo. With where I live, it is about an extra 30 minutes or so from the closest zoo (Baltimore) to here. However, it is worth every minute! The admission is FREE!!!!! You obviously cannot beat that. One downfall is that parking is $20 dollars, but there is usually some free 2 hour parking around the neighborhoods that is great if you are willing to walk a little bit. (Compared to the walking you have to do within the zoo, the walk to a free parking spot is nothing!) Bring a stroller for sure, even if you think your little one is a good walker. The hills are steep and long, but the animals you get to see are very worth it. The park always seems clean, and full of friendly help. One last note: Try to  look up the feeding times, etc. as they are the best times to see active animals!

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February 05 2011
1 family found this helpful
"Lions and Tigers and Panda Bears! Oh My!"

Let’s all go to the ZOO! Its fun and exciting for kids of all ages, including us grown up ones. I love zoos, and I have been to many of them. This one is in my top three of all time. You can see animals from all over the world, in well-kept habitats. Although the pandas are always a big draw, I find the big cats more interesting, and my daughters love the giraffes and elephants. Luckily, here we can enjoy them all.  You should plan to spend the whole day, as it takes that long to see everything. Also, parking is not free, so if you can and you feel comfortable doing so, take the Metro. It is clean and safe. While the zoo is open year round, I recommend you avoid visiting in the summer (May-August) because it is ridiculously crowded and DC can get very hot during those months.  I don’t know about you, but heat and crowds are two of my vacation pet peeves. And the winter (December-February) because many of the animals are inside because of the cold and you will not get the full experience during those months. Also, if your child will fit in a stroller, bring it! The zoo is on 163 acres of land, which means a lot of walking and little legs get tired fast. You can’t take them in all the buildings, but I felt completely safe leaving ours outside in the cart area while we enjoyed those exhibits. We were allowed to bring in bottled water and snacks, and I recommend you do the same. Snacks can be pricey here. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, you’ll walk a lot. Bring sunscreen and hats (especially during summer months) to ward off the sun.

February 01 2011
0 families found this helpful
"Great place for all ages!"

This zoo is fantastic! Kids and adults will enjoy it. Parents will love the fact that's it's free. The National Zoo is famous for it's Panda Bear Exhibit,  but there are so many other animals here, you could easily spend a whole day. Plan to do a lot of walking, so bring plenty of water if it's a hot day. We found the best way to go is by Metro and avoid the DC traffic. The station is within walking distance. We went here as part of a week long trip to all the places in DC. It is not within walking distance of the mall area so don't plan to visit the zoo while seeing the museums on the mall in DC. We found it best to plan this as a seperate day or half day excursion.

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September 10 2012
0 families found this helpful
"Family fun in DC"

During our visits to Washington DC we typically do they typical
visits to monuments and museums.  So as a change we decided to go to the National zoo.  I was preggo with our son at the time so didn't get to see everything but it was so fun!  We loved the pandas which are a zoo rarity.  Plus admission is free--so that's unbelievable!  We didn't feel like it was a 'waste' leaving without seeing everything cause no money involved!  Can't wait to go back and take my little boy!

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January 24 2011
0 families found this helpful
"Loved it"

This Zoo was an unexpected stop on our honeymoon. My husband and I were strolling around D.C. just taking in the sights and happened upon it. Best of all, it was free admission. We got there right before closing, so we didn't get to stay long, but enjoyed what we did see. Very clean and well laid out! And family friendly!

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Time to plan

(5 replies) - on February 28, 2012 16:12

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