The National Zoological Park (commonly called the National Zoo) is one of the oldest zoos in the country. It was created as part of the Smithsonian Institute and like the rest of the museums in the Smithsonian it is completely free. I find this completely remarkable, especially when you are there and surrounded by the 2,000 animals and miles of walking paths.
The zoo is located inside the DC Metro area and I highly recommend using public transportation. We rode the Metro from our hotel and then walked a couple blocks. It was easy and we didn't have to deal with finding or paying for parking.
If you are visiting with young children, I recommend a stroller or carrier. It is a large zoo and quite hilly, which can quickly take a toll on little legs. We were grateful to have ours for when they needed breaks.
Much like other larger zoos, I highly recommend looking at the map online (link above) before hand and making a plan. If you can spend all day, this isn't needed, but we were trying to get back to the hotel for the kids to nap. We saw a little over half of the zoo in the morning and then ate lunch at one of the Mane Grill - one of the restaurants at the zoo. It was your typical attraction food, but varied and they did have Dairy Free options for our kid with allergies.
Our kids loved the zoo. They loved the elephants and the panda bear. They loved the lions and the bird area. They were pretty thrilled with it all.
They also loved the Farm area that we missed in the morning. We made a special trip back the next day in the afternoon to visit again. I highly recommend the National Zoo, both for families visiting the area and for anyone living in the area. What a fabulous FREE resource for people of all ages.
*The Zoo recommends using the METRO to reach the zoo. The Woodley Park and Cleveland Park Metro stops are within walking distance of the Zoo.
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