We do love our neighbors in our exclusive Kalorama neighborhood, but we must admit a certain fondness for the friends who live less than a mile away – all 1,500 plus of them! The furry, feathered and scaly residents who call the National Zoo home are certainly unique – and a highlight for visitors to the District.
The National Zoo’s mission of educating visitors, as well as conducting some of the best animal research and conservation in the world makes for a wonderful day for people of all ages. Part of the Smithsonian Institute the National Zoo provides visitors with a great combination of exploring, experiencing and learning. And, since it’s a national museum admission is always free.
The most popular residents are the Giant Pandas. These adorable animals, with their black and white markings have been a presence at the zoo since 1972, when the Chinese Premier sent two of them to Washington as a gift, following President Nixon’s historic trip to China. Since then other pandas have been brought here in the interest of science including breeding and habitat studies. (These pandas are on loan from China to the U.S. They are slated to return to their home country when the current agreement expires Dec. 7, 2020.)
Millions of people have seen their antics on the panda cam livestream feed provided by the zoo, but there’s nothing like seeing them live. Hidden amid the bamboo, they eat and roll around and climb over the boulders in their enclosures. It’s easy to see why this is arguably the most popular attraction at the zoo.
But there are many other animals and sections of the zoo to visit. The 368-acre site is divided into three sections and each has its own specialty. The Upper Zoo features the pandas and elephants, the Valley features the American Trail and includes bald eagles and bears, while the Lower Zoo includes the small mammal house, reptiles, great cats and the Think Tank feature.
The best way to see the National Zoo is to take a highlights tour, offered daily at 9:45 a.m. (There is also a tour specially geared for children on Saturdays and Sundays at the same time.)
Attractions at the zoo include a summertime ‘tide pool’ for young explorers to cool off and the popular Conservation Carousel which is solar-powered and divided into habitats – allowing riders of all ages to learn and enjoy the ups and downs of life in the animal kingdom.
Having the National Zoo as a neighbor is just one of the many privileges we at American Guest House enjoy through our location in the heart of Washington D.C. Come see for yourself.
Insider tips for visiting the National Zoo:
Wear comfortable walking shoes.
Enjoy outdoor and popular exhibits early in the morning.
Walk or ride share over from American Guest House to avoid paying a $25 parking fee.
You can bring in outside food and drink, although there are also restaurants in the zoo.
Hours for the grounds are 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., but exhibit buildings are 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., dining and shopping 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Most of the facilities close an hour earlier during winter: Oct. 1 – March 15.) Click here to use the zoo’s time machine and check hours for a specific date.
Dress in layers, but no lockers are available.
Strollers are available on-site to rent.