Column: Family Fun: Take a trip to The National Zoo


Commentary by Jennifer Ingersoll

While planning a visit to The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., here are a few things to keep in mind. The 163-acre grounds are open daily, 8 a.m. through dusk, with exhibits opening at 9 a.m. Like the other Smithsonian Museums, the zoo offers free admission to visitors and is open 364 days a year.

Daily events guides are available, free of charge, from the Visitor’s Center, while maps are a $5 donation. A National Zoo app is also available to download. Consider exploring the zoo on one of the highlights tours held at 9:45 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The two-hour walking tour are offered free of charge, and must be scheduled in advance online or (202) 633-3056.

While everyone has their favorite animal, some of the most popular residents at the National Zoo are the Pandas, the Orangutans who travel across the zoo on a set of suspended wires or the O-line, and the sea lions who for unknown reasons, mimic their human audience.

Officially titled The Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, the main goal of the zoo is preservation of animals. The fear that bison were heading for extinction, led to a pair being exhibited on the National Mall and ultimately the opening of the Zoo in 1889.

Exhibits throughout the Zoo display the fight from extinction. Don’t dismiss any animal here as common. The bison on display are indeed direct descendants of those exhibited on the Mall and the Przewalski’s Horses are the last remaining breed of untamable wild horse, now being reintroduced to its native Mongolia.

A day at the zoo could easily extend beyond several hours. While there are places to purchase food, The National Zoo also allows guest to bring in their own snacks and beverages with multiple places to rest.

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