Time: Grounds are open from 6am to 8pm and Buildings are open from 10am to 6pm.
The National Zoological Park is a part of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum and research complex. The Smithsonian includes 18 museums and galleries, as well as the National Zoo.
The words “National Zoo” represent a large, complex, and diverse organization with a multifaceted mission: demonstrate leadership in animal care, science, education, and sustainability.
The National Zoo is far more than a place where people can see wild animals. It is a 163-acre zoological park set amid Rock Creek Park in the heart of Washington D.C. Open to the public 364 days a year; they are home to 2,000 individual animals of nearly 400 different species. The best known residents are the giant pandas, Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, and their cub, Tai Shan.
The Zoo is one of Washington’s and the Smithsonian’s most popular tourist destinations. They welcome up to two million visitors – from the local community, the country and the rest of the world – every year, free of charge.
They are a place where people can marvel at wonderful animals, learn about wildlife, and its conservation and enjoy a beautiful, peaceful experience among the gardens. They are also a research, conservation, and education center for endangered species. And, they boast a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital and extensive research facilities.
The National Zoo covers a large area. It takes several hours to see all of the animals and exhibits – more time if you stop for lunch or a snack, spend extra time in an area of special interest, or talk with a zoo keeper or interpreter.
While many of the animals are always or usually in indoor exhibits, many others, including giant panda bears, seals, and sea lions, and great cats, are usually outdoors. To make your walk around the Zoo more enjoyable, comfortable shoes are recommended. The Zoo is set on hilly terrain and some paths are steep.
We always suggest arriving early in the day, before 10am, or after 2pm., when the Zoo is usually less crowded. Weekdays tend to be less crowded than weekends, and fall and winter are less crowded than spring and summer. The Zoo grounds open at 6a.m. all year round.
The zoo’s food services offers meals and snacks to suit every appetite, with meal menus ranging from burgers, hot dogs, and pizzas to grilled chicken sandwiches, made-to-order subs, and salads, as well as snack foods like Dippin Dots and frozen treats and hot pretzels. Food concessions include: Mane Restaurant near the Lon/Tiger Hill; Panda Plaza Grille across Olmstead Walk from the Panda Café; Panda Café, overlooking the Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat; Popstop, near the Small Mammal House and Venues throughout the Zoo. Snack stands and hot dogs stands (open seasonally) are scattered throughout the park, as are soda, water, and snack vending machines. There are also popcorn wagons at Panda Plaza and near the Mane Restaurant, and ice cream kiosks next to the Reptile Discovery Center.