National Zoo in Washington, D.C.: Visiting Tips & More

What You Need to Know About Visiting the Smithsonian National Zoo

Front entrance, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, D.C.
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The National Zoo, Washington, D.C.'s 163-acre zoological park set within the Rock Creek National Park, features more than 400 different species of animals. The National Zoo is a part of the Smithsonian Institution and admission is FREE! It is a prime attraction for families as well as a center for animal conservation, research, and education. The Zoo has continued its legacy of saving species throughout its more than 125-year history.

Among some of the favorite exhibits are the Asia Trail (home of the Panda House) Great Cats, Elephant Trails, Primates, American Trail, Reptile Discovery Center, Small Mammal House and more. 

Getting to the National Zoo

Address: 3001 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, D.C.
Closest Metro Station: Woodley Park/ Zoo /Adams Morgan and Cleveland Park.
The main entrance to the National Zoo is along Connecticut Avenue. There are also two entrances at the east side of the Zoo, near Rock Creek Park. One is off Rock Creek Parkway, the other is at the intersection of Harvard Street and Adams Mill Road. See a map of the National Zoo

Parking: Parking rates are $22 for Non-members, Half-price of Free for FONZ Members (depending on membership level). If you do not mind a short walk, you can usually find free street parking on the side streets surrounding the zoo. 

Visiting Tips

  • To see all of the animals and exhibits at the National Zoo takes several hours. You should pick up a map and plan ahead so that you don't miss any of your family's favorite animals. Be sure to see the giant pandas, other bears, lions, giraffes, tigers, monkeys, sea lions, and much more. See a Guide to the Animals at the National Zoo
  • Visiting the National Zoo involves a lot of walking. You should dress appropriately for the weather and wear comfortable shoes. To avoid crowds, arrive early in the day or after 2 p.m. Weekdays are usually less crowded than weekends, and fall and winter are less crowded than spring and summer.
  • Check out the daily programs at the zoo including animal training, feeding demonstrations, and keeper talks. The National Zoo offers some great special programs throughout the year. See the schedule of special events at the National Zoo.

National Zoo Hours

The Zoo is open every day of the year except December 25.
October 30 to April 1: Grounds are open 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Buildings are open 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
April 2 to October 29: Grounds are open 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. Buildings are open 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Food and Shopping

Food concessions offer burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken sandwiches, salads, ice cream, hot pretzels and other snack foods. Snack stands are scattered throughout the park. Visitors may bring their own food and drinks.

The National Zoo Store offers a great selection of gift items including apparel, hats, toys and games, books, videos and jewelry. You may also shop online at www.smithsonianstore.com/national-zoo.

Annual Special Events at the National Zoo

Special events are hosted throughout the year by the National Zoo and Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ), the Zoo’s nonprofit partner. For more information and to purchase event tickets, visit the FONZ website or call (202) 633-3040.

  • Family Celebration - Easter Monday. For more than 100 years, families from Washington's African-American community have visited the National Zoo on Easter Monday to socialize and celebrate the holiday with a variety of activities and entertainment. The event is free and all are welcome. 
  • Earth Day Celebration - April - The Zoo and FONZ commemorate Earth Day with a clean up of Rock Creek. Learn about the many green achievements and continued efforts across the National Zoo. 
  • National ZooFari - May - FONZ's annual fundraising event, a casual, exciting evening of gourmet foods, fine wines, and fabulous entertainment. Live music, animal encounters, a sweepstakes, and a silent auction. Proceeds benefit a variety of programs at the National Zoo, including conservation and science projects, exhibit development and construction, and the Zoo's revitalization project.
  • Brew at the Zoo - July - Join more than 2,000 young professionals from the D.C. area and enjoy handcrafted beers brewed by more than 20 local and European breweries, as well as live music and hors d'oeuvres. 
  • ZooFiesta - September - A celebration of the diversity and richness of Latin American culture and wildlife. Enjoy a variety of family-oriented cultural activities, live music and dance performances, special keeper talks about animals native to Latin American countries, and a Latin American food court. 
  • Autumn Conservation Festival - October - The one time every year that Smithsonian Biology Conservation Institute in Front Royal, VA is open to the public! Get a behind-the-scenes look at our world-renowned science, research, and animal care.
  • Boo at the Zoo - October - This popular event regularly sells out weeks in advance, and is a fun and safe way for kids and families to celebrate Halloween by trick-or-treating throughout the Zoo. Children also enjoy hands-on activities and interpretive talks about some of the Zoo's creepiest creatures and check out the hay maze and musicians. 
  • ZooLights - December - Celebrate the holiday season at the National Zoo and see larger-than-life displays featuring many of the Zoo’s most popular animals, plus fun activities and live entertainment.

Official Website: nationalzoo.si.edu

Conservation and Research

The National Zoo operates a 3,200-acre facility, located in Front Royal, Virginia, that houses between 30 and 40 endangered species. Research facilities include a GIS lab, endocrine and gamete labs, veterinary clinic, radio tracking lab, 14 field stations, and biodiversity monitoring plots, as well as a conference center, dormitories, and education offices. Read more about the National Zoo Conservation and Research Center