What’s free, open 354 days a year, kid friendly, and within walking distance of the ACHA 2018 host hotel? The Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Center! This extremely popular tourist destination is so much more than the traditional zoo; it’s also home to the Smithsonian’s global research center which focuses on species conservation and ecosystems.
The National Zoo currently cares for approximately 1,800 animals of 300 species. Scientists here study and breed some of these species, notably the black-footed ferret and scimitar-horned oryx – both of which were once extinct in the wild. While the National Zoo is heavily focused on conservation and research, they also aim to inspire their youngest visitors to follow these footsteps. Interactive programs run daily and include meet-a-reptile, farm animal, small mammal, and more, animal feeding demonstrations, training demonstrations, and zookeeper talks.
Of course, the National Zoo is equally enjoyable for adults as well. Since it’s free and small – and within walking distance of our host hotel – it makes for a quick and easy break from the hustle and bustle of downtown Washington.
For easy navigation, the National Zoo is broken into three sections with a main path running throughout. There’s also a helpful map available on the web to help you plan your trip.
The most notable exhibit that enchants both kids and adults alike is the giant pandas. The National Zoo was the first U.S. zoo to provide a home for giant pandas in 1972. This exhibit is always crowded, especially in the middle of the day, so be prepared to wait in line to get a glimpse of these crowd favorites. There are also typical zoo standards which are always fun such as big cats, elephants, great apes, sea lions, and a reptile house.
For more information about the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, as well as frequently asked questions, visit their website.