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5 Must-Sees At The National Zoo

Last month, we took an impromptu road trip to Washington, D.C. One of the must visits on our list was Smithsonian's National Zoo. Harper has been wanting to go for years to see the pandas, and we were finally doing it!


The zoo is vast. We had no idea how sprawling it is. The exhibits are spaced apart, and there is lots of walking involved. National Zoo offers many amazing exhibits. Upon entry, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the zoo map, decide what you want to see, and go see it!

Here are my recommendations for the 5 must-sees at the National Zoo:


National Zoo is one of only 4 zoos in the United States that offers a panda exhibit. So, if you are at National Zoo, make it a point to see the pandas. But be patient. We had to linger for almost an hour to get a good sighting of one panda. There are 4 pandas in total, two adult and two cubs. Cub sightings are somewhat rare. If you get a glimpse of one, you are lucky!

Check out the live giant panda webcam here to get a sneak peek.



It's no surprise that I love the big cat exhibits, and the lions are always one of my favorites. They are so regal and generally look so peaceful, which is a sharp contrast to their personalities when they are on the hunt for prey or protecting their young.

Check out the live lion webcam here to get a sneak peek.



It's easy to see why this exhibit was one of the most crowded. Gorillas are absolutely fascinating to observe. With mannerisms nearly identical to humans, gorillas are as close to humans as any animal will ever get. I stood in front of the exhibit mesmerized for at least 20 minutes while I closely watched this gorilla meticulously pick at a piece of fruit it was eating.


These gentle giants never cease to amaze me with their extreme intelligence and incredibly social behaviors. National Zoo boasts 6 elephants. During our visit, we saw 4 and were able to catch a close up of these two. The Asian Elephant exhibit is accessible from two directions, so you are able to get a better look at them.


National Zoo is home to special exhibits that are continually changing. During our visit the impressive Washed Ashore exhibit was on full display. The exhibit was a larger-than-life exhibit of 17 marine wildlife sculptures—from jellyfish to sharks—made entirely of plastic pollution directly recovered from oceans. I was astounded by how much trash and waste ends up in our oceans and how this trash becomes the ocean's most deadly predator.

Check the National Zoo's website for information on current special exhibits.

Miscellaneou Notes:
We stayed at the Marriott Wardman Park (which was a hop, skip, and a jump from the zoo) and ate here and here.

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