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This post is about the Smithsonian National Zoo. We'll tell you how to get there, what animals you can see at the National Zoo, how to visit the Pandas, and tours of the National Zoo.

The National Zoo is OPEN 7 Days a week starting Thursday, March 10, 2022. Free timed passes are required. Can be reserved 30 days in advance for up to 6 people (groups larger than 6 prohibited).

The National Zoo is part of the Smithsonian Institution so you'll find no admission prices or tickets (usually) to visit.

As one of the oldest zoos in the United States, the National Zoo is sure to be a highlight of your visit to Washington, DC, especially for the young and young at heart. Use this post to explore the options at the National Zoo.

Exhibits at the National Zoo

National Zoo Map


Giant Panda Habitat:

The Giant Pandas at the National Zoo are the most popular exhibit. There are two adult-Giant Pandas on loan from China, named Tian Tian (male) and Mei Xing (female).

Their offspring born at the National Zoo are kept for a few years and then moved to a conservation center in China.

The Giant Panda Exhibit has two parts for visitors - an outdoor viewing platform and an indoor exhibit where you can also view the pandas if they are inside.

The inside area also has exhibits about Giant Pandas and the conversation efforts to protect them.

On busy days, the trail through the exhibit is one-way allowing visitors to walk through the outdoor exhibit and then the indoor area.

Expert Tip: Check out the National Zoo Panda Cam to find them before heading over! The Panda Cam offers two cameras so you can watch the Pandas wherever you are.

You'll also find sloths, red pandas, and Asian elephants nearby on the Asia Trail.

Elephant Trail

The National Zoo is home to 6 Asian Elephants which can be viewed on the Elephant Trail.

Asian Elephants are currently an endangered species and you'll see that they are smaller than African elephants.

The Kids' Farm

Experience life on the farm with goats, donkeys, hogs, and cows.

Great Apes and Primates

You'll find three types of lemurs on an island surrounded by a moat, including the well known ring-tailed lemur. The Zoo is also home to gorillas and orangutans. 

The orangutans have the ability to travel from one enclosure to the next via the O-line, which from a guest's perspective means they walk right above you!

You can even play tug of war with them in the Think Tank. There is a tall outdoor section to allow gibbons to swing around as they would in the wild.


The Small Mammal House

A variety of foxes, rats, and smaller monkeys are housed in the Small Mammal House.

The American Trail

Along the American Trail, you'll be able to experience the variety of animals and plant life native to North America.

There are seals and otters, wolves, and bald eagles, among others. There are also two American bison at the American Bison exhibit.

Great Cats

Lions, Tigers, and ... Cheetahs. (Don't worry, the zoo has bears, too). On Lion and Tiger Hill, you can find African lions and two types of tigers.

Next door is the Cheetah Conservation Station which mimics the Savannah. You'll find cheetahs but also wolves, gazelles, vultures, and more.



You can walk through this exhibit to experience the flora and fauna found in the Amazon.

There are many corals, frogs, and other aquatic animals, but also sloths and monkeys.

The Reptile Discovery Center

There are over 50 species of reptiles and amphibians in this exhibit. You'll find tortoises, snakes, alligators, and even a Komodo dragon.

Hours & Admission

The National Zoo is part of the Smithsonian Institute and is open every day but Christmas (December 25).

The outdoor parts of the Zoo open earlier and stay open later than the buildings so you can explore many of the outdoor areas before the rest of the Zoo opens.

  • Grounds: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last admittance 4 p.m.) | 7 p.m. closing in summer* (last admittance 6 p.m.) (some days during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions the Zoo will close at 3pm.
  • Exhibit Buildings: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. | 6 p.m. closing in summer* (Amazonia opens at 10 a.m. all year)
  • Important Note: There are often changes to what areas of the Zoo are open, especially during inclement weather. If there is a particular animal you want to see, be sure to check their website first for updates.

The best time of day to visit the National Zoo is in the morning. With the heat of the afternoon and full bellies from lunch, many animals will be asleep and hidden from view.

The National Zoo is free! There are no tickets (except during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions) required and no security.

During certain peak times, the Zoo may set up security tents to enter.

This is usually around Easter but can be done at the zoo's discretion.

How to get to the National Zoo

The National Zoo's address is 3001 Connecticut Ave NW.

How to Get to National Zoo

We highly recommend taking public transportation to the National Zoo.

The National Zoo is in the Woodley Park neighborhood of NW DC, so a bit further afield than most tourist attractions, but it is worth the journey.

Tip on Public Transportation to the National Zoo:

There is a Metro Station called "Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan " on the Red Line. However, we recommend taking the Metro one stop further to Cleveland Park.

It is a 10-minute walk from either stop but from Cleveland Park, the walk is downhill instead of uphill from the Woodley Park stop!

Parking at the National Zoo

There is parking at the zoo. Advanced reservations of $30 (as of Nov 2022) required per car. While there is street parking, it is a residential area so many of the spots will be taken.

Tours of the National Zoo

Join an animal-loving guide for a highlights tour of the Smithsonian's National Zoo.

Get up close to some of the Zoo's cutest and most majestic animals, including our beloved Giant Pandas!

The Zoo sits on 163 acres in the heart of Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park, and is home to more than 2,700 animals representing more than 390 species, so we won’t be able to see everything!

But you’ll see the highlights and, if you have any favorite animals, let us know and we’ll focus on your preferences, even if snakes are your thing!

Depending on the time of day, we’ll encounter daily zoo life for the animals and their keepers, including ZooKeeper talks and animal feedings, meet-a-small-mammal demonstrations, and even Asian elephant training! 

Learn all about how the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is working to save species.


  • Asia Trail
  • Cheetah Conservation Station
  • Elephant Trails
  • Small Mammal House
  • Great Apes
  • Reptile Discovery Center
  • Great Cats
  • Giant Panda Habitat

Duration: Tours last about 2 hours.

Where: At the National Zoo main entrance (3000 Connecticut Ave, NW)

When: This tour is offered as a private tour only for small groups. Please contact us with your date, time, and group size for rates and availability.

About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Canden is a historian and tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. She has written for HuffPost Travel and has been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. She's also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. Canden is the producer of the podcast, Tour Guide Tell All With a M.A. in History from University College London and a B.A. in History from Elon University, she is an authority on D.C. history, and has led tours in the city for over 10 years. She currently resides in DC, but has also lived in London and South Korea, and has travelled to over 28 countries and every US State but Hawaii. She homeschools her 2 children by exploring the plethora of museums in DC.
Updated: January 22nd, 2023
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