Part of the Smithsonian, the 163-acre National Zoo (as it’s most often called) is home to 2,000 individual animals of 400 species. Most famous for its Giant Panda Habitat and breeding program (which includes current panda residents Mei Xiang and Tian Tian), the Zoo is also home to a huge bird enclosure and over 60 flamingos; African mammals like cheetahs and gazelles; and a family of lowland gorillas.
A 2011 addition to the Zoo is The American Trail, featuring U.S. natives like California sea lions, bald eagles, grey wolves and brown pelicans. Nearby, the 15,000-square-foot Amazonia exhibit mimics the ecosystem of the Amazon Rainforest, with a cascading river, native palms and a 55,000-gallon aquarium; set underneath a soaring dome, the tropical landscape here is full of live creatures like toads, hummingbirds, monkeys and more.
Full of hilly terrain and steep paths, with both indoor and outdoor exhibits, it’s ideal to wear comfortable walking shoes and layered clothing for your visit to the Zoo. For refreshments along the way, there are five food stands from which to choose, including a West Coast-style surf shack and a Mediterranean café.
There is limited on-site parking available at the Zoo, but it’s set between two Metrorail stations -- Cleveland Park and Woodley Park/Zoo/Adams Morgan -- both of which serve the Red Line. Since the walk from Cleveland Park is level rather than uphill (as it is from Woodley Park), the Zoo recommends arriving at Cleveland Park and leaving from either station.