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Washington, D.C.'s Top 10 : National Zoological Park

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One of the most visited destinations in Washington, the National Zoo is a beautifully landscaped 163-acre urban park as well as an innovative center for animal care and conservation. Children and adults delight at seeing rare giant pandas, a playful Asian elephant calf, or a Sumatran tiger cub. More than 2,700 animals live here, increasingly housed in habitats that allow more natural behavior. The zoo, which opened in 1889, was the first in the world to be founded partly with the goal of preserving endangered species.

  • 3001 Connecticut Ave, NW

  • 202 633 4888

  • www.natzoo.si.edu/

  • Open Apr–Oct: grounds 6am–8pm, buildings 10am–4pm daily; Nov–Apr: grounds 6am–6pm, buildings 10am–4:00pm daily; closed Dec 25

  • Dis. access

  • Free


Zoo Horticulture

The zoo is a lush park for both human visitors and its animal residents. Satisfying both presents challenges for the zoo’s horticulturists. In the Amazonia exhibit, for example, living avocado and cocoa trees help to re-create the tropical environment of this diverse river basin, while cheetahs wander around a re-creation of the grasslands of their native African habitat.


National Zoological Park Plan

Entrance sign

Most children’s tour groups arrive between 10am and noon in the fall. If you wish to see the popular giant pandas, visit after 2pm when the lines tend to be shorter. However, the arrival of the baby has added to the pandas’ popularity.




Top 10 Features
  1. Giant Pandas

    Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, two giant pandas from China, made their first appearance at the zoo in 2001. Their lively curiosity, social interactions, and physical beauty are fascinating. Their offspring, Tai Shan, was born in July 2005.

  2. Sumatran Tigers

    This extremely endangered species has been successfully bred at the National Zoo. Estimates put the population of these dark, striped beauties at less than 500 in the wild and 170 in zoos.

  3. Elephant House

    A variety of animals including Asian elephants, hippos, and giraffes are free to roam here. View-points are close enough to appreciate their great size.

  4. Bird House and Great Flight Exhibit

    Here, numerous species of birds display their spectacular colors and elegant motions. The flight exhibit is a netted structure that gives even birds of prey enough headroom to show off.

  5. Golden Lion Tamarins

    In summer, these squirrel-sized primates run free in the trees around Valley Trail. These Brazilian animals have been the subject of one of the most successful conservation efforts.

  6. Think Tank

    Orangutans are taking part in a long-term study of their cognitive and language abilities in this large building. Visitors can watch researchers investigate the animals’ use of symbols.

  7. Amazonia

    This exhibit recreates the tropical habitat of the Amazon basin and features a variety of animals including piranhas, poison arrow frogs, titi monkeys, and a two-toed sloth.

  8. Red Wolves

    Related to the gray wolves, the endangered red wolves are native to America. Currently, there are only around 300 in existence and of these, approximately 220 live in captivity.

  9. Komodo Dragons

    These lizards can grow as large as 200 lbs (90 kg) and 10 ft (3 m) long. The zoo has been important in preserving these predators; in 1992, 13 dragons hatched here, the first born outside their native Indonesia.

  10. Great Ape House

    Western lowland gorillas are among our closest relatives, sharing about 98 percent common genome. Their deliberate movements and human-like manner mesmerize observers. The primates are outdoors in the mornings and mid-afternoons.

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