Travel Guide

 The National Zoo in Washington, D.C. is a 163-acre zoological park that features more than 400 different species of animals. It is a part of the Smithsonian Institution and is a prime attraction for families, as well as a center for animal conservation, research, and education. The National Zoo has continued its legacy of saving species throughout its more than 125-year history.

If you are looking for an action-packed day of family fun in and around Washington, D.C., then you will want to make sure you add a day trip to the National Zoo to your itinerary. In this article you will find everything you need to know about this well-known, must-do family attraction.

The National Zoo – Everything You Need to Know


Getting to the National Zoo


3001 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20008

Closest Metro Station

Woodley Park/ Zoo /Adams Morgan and Cleveland Park. If you get off at the Woodley Park station, you will have a nice hike uphill to the National Zoo, but it will be all downhill headed back. That’s a total win after a long day of walking!


The main entrance to the National Zoo is along Connecticut Avenue. There are also two other entrances to the zoo; by the Harvard Street Bridge and by Beach Drive. View map and parking directions here.

Parking rates are $25 for Non-members and half-price or FREE for FONZ (Friends of the National Zoo) Members; depending on your membership level. You can usually find free street parking on the side streets surrounding the zoo, but you will have a short walk to the zoo entrance.

National Zoo Admission and Hours


FREE every day of the year!


The Zoo is open every day, 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.

Visiting Tips

  • Plan for several hours to see all of the animals and exhibits at the National Zoo. Check out the zoo map here and plan ahead so that you don’t miss any of your family’s must-see animals. Among some of our favorite exhibits are the Asia Trail, Great Cats, Elephant Trails, American Trail, Primates, and Small Mammal House. Find out more about all the exhibits here.
  • You should dress appropriately for the weather and wear comfortable shoes. There is A LOT of walking involved!
  • To avoid crowds, plan to visit during a weekday and arrive early in the day or after 2 p.m. Fall and winter months are usually less crowded than spring and summer months.
  • Check out the daily programs at the National Zoo ahead of time. These programs include animal training, feeding demonstrations, and keeper talks. To know before you go, check out the daily events here.
  • The National Zoo offers some wonderful special programs throughout the year. See the schedule of special events at the National Zoo.

Food and Shopping

One of our favorite things about many budget-friendly destinations is that visitors may bring their own food and drinks. The National Zoo is no different. You can pack a lunch, snacks, and drinks in your backpack and find a nice, quiet shady spot to enjoy a picnic. We chose that route to save more money on our trip and even got to enjoy a nice, much needed midday nap afterwards.

You can also opt to purchase food at the zoo. Food at the National Zoo include burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken sandwiches, salads, ice cream, hot pretzels and other snack foods. Snack stands are scattered throughout the park for better convenience.

The National Zoo Store offers a nice selection of gift items including apparel, hats, toys and games, books, videos and jewelry. Since the zoo if free to get in and we packed our own food, we chose to support the zoo by getting souvenirs for the kids. You may also shop online

Annual Special Events at the National Zoo

The National Zoo and FONZ, the Zoo’s nonprofit partner, hosts special events throughout the year. For more information on upcoming events, visit The National Zoo event page. Some of the most popular events include:

Easter Monday

Month: March or April (depending on Easter day each year)

Celebrate Easter at the National Zoo with family-focused activities. These include an Easter egg hunt, field games, special animal demonstrations, and live entertainment. The event is free and all are welcome.

Earth Optimism Day

Month: April

The National Zoo shares success stories in honor of Earth Day. The event features family-friendly activities, hands-on learning opportunities, and interactive demonstrations. The zoo shares innovative solutions that are being used in the fight to save species and you will learn how you can help protect the planet. The event is free to visitors.

ZooFari: Dine for Wildlife

Month: May

This premier culinary event features more than 100 of the top Washington, D.C. restaurants and vintners. Besides food and fine wine, guests will enjoy an evening of unforgettable entertainment with live music, exotic animal encounters, a silent auction, and much more. Tickets are needed for this event and all proceeds go to support the zoo’s mission to save species.

Brew at the Zoo

Month: July

Join FONZ at Washington, D.C.’s best beer festival in July. This unique, after-hours zoo experience allow guests to enjoy great times and great brews with unlimited beer tastings from more than 70 breweries. Guests will also enjoy exotic animal encounters, live music and entertainment, and fare from popular food trucks. Tickets are needed and proceeds benefit the National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institutes mission to save species.


Month: September

Celebrate hispanic Heritage Month at the National Zoo. The event offers a variety of fun-filled family activities, including live music, educational activities, live feedings, demonstrations, and more. Visitors will have an opportunity to meet zoo scientists who are working to save native species. This event is free to all.

Conservation Discovery Day

Month: October

This is the one day out of the year that the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, located in Front Royal, Virginia, is open to the public. Festivities vary from year to year, so make sure you check ahead before scheduling. The event is held rain or shine and appropriate attire for outdoor activities is recommended. The event is free.

Boo at the Zoo

Month: October

This popular event is a fun and safe way for kids and families to celebrate Halloween by trick-or-treating throughout the National Zoo. This event offers more than 40 treat stations, animal demonstrations, decorated trails, opportunities to learn about the spookiest animals, and more! This popular event regularly sells out weeks in advance, so gets your tickets as soon as possible.


Month: December (some dates in November)

Celebrate the holiday season at the National Zoo with the annual ZooLights tradition. This event includes 500,000 lights that transform the zoo into a winter wonderland, live musical performances, tasty winter treats, and more. This popular event is free and open to the public, even on special event nights!

Official Website

Have you visited the National Zoo? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

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