The Smithsonian National Zoo is not only considered one of the best zoos in the country, but it’s also one of the oldest. It first opened in 1886 as the National Museum’s Department of Living Animals.
The zoo is famous for its Giant Panda bears, not only for the bears themselves but also for what their arrival in 1972 symbolized for relations between the U.S. and China. The Giant Panda Habitat is a must-see for anyone visiting the park.
You can view the pandas from outside or stroll through the building where they’re housed to catch glimpses of them napping. Inside, you can also watch as scientists observe the pandas on a number of video screens. Want a glimpse now? Check out the live Giant Panda Cam at the zoo.
In addition to the pandas, the zoo features the Asia Trail, Elephant Trails, Great Ape House, Great Cats, and the Reptile Discovery Center.
There are two campuses to the National Zoo, including the D.C. location, which houses most of the species on exhibit, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, which is located a couple of hours away in Front Royal, VA. This non-public facility is devoted to wildlife conservation and the propagation of rare species through natural means and assisted reproduction.
- As with all of the Smithsonian museums, admission to the zoo is FREE.
- Want to give the kids a glimpse before you go? Check out the zoo’s live web cams: Lion Cam | Giant Panda Cam | Elephant Cam
| Naked Mole-Rat Cam.
- The zoo is easy to get to by Metro. Get off at the Cleveland Park Station and the zoo will be about a half-mile walk downhill.
- Arrive early, pack water (and maybe some lunch), and give yourself 2-4 hours to explore all the park has to offer.
I’m a former Marine and ran the Marine Corps Marathon as my first marathon in 2010, and I’ve run it three more times since then. I’ve run a total of 10 marathons and at least 15 ultras including the JFK 50 miler and several 100 milers. After spending a few years in recovery from Lyme’s disease, I have recently been accepted into one of the world’s most difficult ultras: the Fat Dog 120. I run every race in support of a wounded warrior organization called the SemperMax Support Fund. For me, this is a personal journey. In 2004, Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell was wounded just 50 yards from me. Since then, I have focused my life on reducing wounded warrior suicides. It’s a humbling journey, and you can read more about me and my efforts on the organization’s website.