National Zoo Tours
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The National Zoo is one of the oldest in the United States. With 12 exhibits ranging from the American Trail to the Reptile Discovery Center, the zoo is home to 1,800 animals and 300 species, including giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian—two of its most popular residents.
The free-to-visit Smithsonian Institution is a stop on most hop-on hop-off trolleys and bus tours of Washington DC, which eliminate the hassle of navigating on your own. For a more tailored sightseeing experience, a National Zoo visit can also be added to private tour itineraries. While outside companies don’t offer tours of the grounds, the zoo has free public tours every day at 9:45am, weather permitting.
Things to Know Before You Go
- With daily demonstrations at the Kids’ Farm, the National Zoo is a must-see for families visiting Washington DC.
- Before visiting the Giant Panda Habitat, check the park's website for panda updates and closure announcements.
- Lines for the Giant Panda Habitat can be notoriously long. The zoo encourages guests to arrive early.
- Free tours are at 9:45am daily and are wheelchair accessible.
- Be prepared for indoor and outdoor walking with comfortable shoes and layers that are easy to put on and take off.
How to Get There
The National Zoo is located in Rock Creek Park, northwest of Downtown Washington. If traveling by public transit, ride the Metro to Cleveland Park or Woodley Park, or take an L1 or L2 bus to the zoo’s entrance on Connecticut Avenue. Alternatively, book a hop-on hop-off tour to avoid the hassle of navigating on your own.
When to Get There
With the exception of Christmas Day, the National Zoo grounds are open year-round, free of charge, from 8am to 7pm (5pm from October to March). It is busiest between 1 and 4pm on weekends, with weekday mornings offering a quieter experience. The park offers special exhibits on Halloween (Boo at the Zoo) and during the holidays (ZooLights).
Giant Panda Diplomacy
After first lady Patricia Nixon mentioned her fondness of giant pandas to Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1972, the premier offered to donate two pandas on the spot in the hopes of forging stronger United States–China relations. The connection still remains: In 2002, the Chinese government agreed to loan the zoo two more pandas (Mei Xiang and Tian Tian) in exchange for funds toward conservation efforts in China.
Address: 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW,, Washington DC, USA
5 Tours and Activities to Experience National Zoo
Experience the history and grandeur of the nation’s capital on a private 3-hour tour. Work with your personal guide and driver to curate the ideal tour incorporating your must-see spots or rely on their local expertise to create a fascinating tour. Go inside the House and Senate Galleries and see where the nation’s laws are debated. See the White House, Supreme Court and much more. This tour is ideal for visitors looking for a personalized experience
Explore the best of Washington, DC on this narrated, hop-on hop-off trolley tour. Visit more than 100 points of interest among DC’s top attractions—like the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, to name just a few. Depending upon your interest, select a silver, gold, or platinum pass, then board at any of the stops and get to know the nation’s capital in customized fashion, with live onboard commentary from a professional tour conductor. A guided moonlight trolley tour to the same landmark locations, illuminated for the evening, is also included.
See Washington DC light up for the season with a 3-hour, holiday lights sightseeing tour of the city’s most important landmarks. Visit the evergreen ‘People’s Tree’ at the U.S. Capitol, and then take in the National Christmas Tree at the White House Ellipse. Walk through the State and Territory trees that celebrate traditions from around the United States, and enjoy a festive atmosphere with a model train village, Santa’s workshop, and holiday music. Finish your tour at the Lincoln Memorial for unforgettable nighttime views of the Capitol Building and Washington Monument.
This hop-on hop-off Washington DC bus tour includes three different loops with live commentary plus a night bus tour and admission to up to five total attractions. Use your 48-hour pass to explore memorials and monuments such as the US Capitol, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Lincoln Memorial. Choose entry to attractions including the International Spy Museum and Madame Tussauds, or select a full-day bike rental.
Explore the most popular sites in Washington, DC on this hop-on hop-off bus tour. Visit many of the top attractions in the nation’s capital — like the White House, Washington Monument, the National Mall, historic Georgetown, Arlington National Cemetery and more. Select a 1- or 2-day pass, for access to three separate routes and get to know the city in custom fashion, with live and recorded narration.
Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
What's the best way to experience National Zoo?
The best ways to experience National Zoo are:
- Private Washington DC Day or Night SUV Tour
- Washington DC Super Saver: Hop-on Hop-off Trolley + Monuments by Moonlight Tour
- Washington DC Holiday Lights Sightseeing Tour
- Washington DC Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour and Attractions Pass
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