National Zoo

Lions and Tigers and Pandas! Oh My!

With a constant supply of debate, drama, and politics on Capitol Hill, it sometimes seems like Washington DC is a giant zoo. However, an escape back to the natural world is available just a 20 minute metro ride away at the National Zoo, a free-admission part of the Smithsonian Institution. The National Zoo boasts 400 unique species, including giant pandas, orangutan, lions, and tigers.

The zoo sits on a 163 acre plot of land amid Rock Creek National Park. The creek flows through park, and is incorporated into many exhibits. Olmstead Walk, the park’s main boulevard, wraps its way downhill from Connecticut Ave to Harvard Street and Beach Dr. NW.

Getting to the National Zoo

The National Zoo is easily accessible by Metro, Metrobus, and car. Situated beside Rock Creek Park, the zoo is can also be reached from the extensive Rock Creek Park trail system.


Two Red Line metro stations service the National Zoo. The Connecticut Avenue entrance is located approximately equidistant between Woodley Park Station and Cleveland Park Station. From Woodley Park Station station, the zoo is located slightly uphill; walk north (away from McDonald's and CVS). Cleveland Park Station offers a more level walk; take the exit on the east side of the street and walk south, toward the Uptown movie theater and the restaurants that line Connecticut Avenue (away from 7-11 and Exxon).


Washington’s bus system provides service to both of the National Zoo’s entrances. The Connecticut Ave L1 and L2 lines service the Zoo’s Connecticut Ave, with stops on C st. near the White House, Foggy Bottom Station, both Farragut West Station and Farragut North Station, Chevy Chase Circle, and several other metro stations along Connecticut Ave. The H4 stops at the zoo’s Harvard St. entrance, and services the BrookwoodStation, ColumbiaHeightsStation, Mt. Pleasent, ClevelandParkStation, and TenleytownStation.


There are vehicle entrances on Connecticut Avenue at the west side of the Zoo and near Rock Creek Park at the east side of the Zoo. Street parking in the neighborhoods is very limited. Parking lots fill early in the day during spring and summer. You can reserve a parking spot with at least 48 hours advanced notice.

Regular Parking Fees

  • $16 for first 3 hours
  • $22 for longer than 3 hours
  • Free for FONZ members

Reserved Parking Fees

You can reserve a parking spot for any day of the week by calling FONZ (Friends of the National Zoo) Guest Services at 202-633-4486 Monday to Thursday 11am - 3pm.

  • $30 for nonmembers
  • $25 for FONZ members

National Zoo Exhibits

The National Zoo’s Olmsted Walk is a wide pedestrian boulevard wrapping its way through the park. Several exhibits, trails, and animal display buildings spur off of this main path. While some areas are themed by home habitat, the zoo is generally organized by type (mammal, bird, reptile, great cat) rather than by origin.

African Savanna

Several species native to the African Savanna live at the national zoo. Walking downhill from the Conneticut Ave. entrance, the first path past the visitor center brings visitors to cheetah, zebra, oryx, and gazelles. Other african species are housed in different locations, including lions (great cats display), gorillas (great ape house), lemurs (lemur island), and several species each in the small mammal house and the bird house.


The Amazonia exhibit, located toward the southeast end of the National Zoo, is an indoor facility showing off the flora and fauna of the Amazon River region of South America. The exhibt includes monkeys, toads, a sloth, and more.

American Trail

The American Trail is currently not displaying any animals, and is under construction. It was, and will again be, home to many North American species. The showcase displays seals and sea lions. The trail also displays beavers, grey wolves, and more.

Asia Trail

Located near the Connecticut Ave. entrance to the National Zoo, the Asia trail offers several stand-out exhibits, including sloth bears, otters, fishing cats, and red pandas. However, without a doubt, the star of the show is the giant panda exhibit. The National Zoo has two pandas, Mei Xiang, and Tian Tian. The zoo has had a successful breeding program, despite the difficulty that is typically found when attempting to breed pandas.

Many other asian animals can be found throughout the zoo. Asian elephants are found in the zoo’s spacious elephant exhibit. Cranes and other african birds can be found in and around the bird house, and a komodo dragon and other asian reptiles can be found in and around the reptile house.

Kids’ Farm

Several farm animals, and educational opportunities can be found at the National Zoo’s Kids’ Farm. Cows, rabbits, alpacas, and donkeys are among the animals found on the ‘farm’, as well as an ‘pizza garden’, educating children how to grow the ingredients found in pizza. The exhibit is located on the lower end of the zoo, near the Harvard st. entrance.

Think Tank

The think tank explores the intelligence of grate ape species, including orangutanes. Learn about apes using tools and performing memory tests in this National Zoo exhibit. The facility is located near the center of the zoo.

Zoo’s Backyard

Washington DC is located in a beautiful, fertile area in the United States. Located adjacent to Rock Creek Park, many animals and plants are native to the park and the zoo. Throughout the National Zoo, visitors can find information about local species that reside in the National Zoo’s backyard.

Other Animals and Areas

Great Cats

The National Zoo houses lions and tigers in their Great Cats exhibit. The cats are located near the Harvard st. entrance.

Asian Elephants

An extensive open area, trail system, and building (currently under construction) provide room for the National Zoo’s elephants. Large facilities allow the elephants to stay exercised and happy.


Many types of birds are located throughout the National Zoo. The majority live in and around the large Bird House, enclosed outdoor flight exhibit, and other nearby exhibits. A flamingo exhibit, macaw, several types of ducks, spoonbill, and white stork are among the many species in the zoo. The bird facilities are located south of the Asia Trail and elephant exhibit.

Great Apes and other Primates

Six western lowland gorillas and four orangutans can be found in the National Zoo’s Great Ape exhibit. Gibbons, lemurs, and monkeys are also found in the zoo, located in the Lemur House, and the Small Mammal House. These facilities are all located near the center of the zoo.


The National Zoo’s Invertebrate exhibit, located indoors near the center of the zoo, allows visitors to explore the huge world of invertebrate organisms. Many of the creatures on display are underwater animals, and include starfish, an octopus, nautilus, and cuttlefish. Many insects are also at the zoo, and the exhibit exits into the National Zoo’s enclosed butterfly garden.

Reptiles and Amphibians

Iguana, crocodile, gecko, a boa constrictor, turtles, tortoises, poisonous frogs, and many other snakes, reptiles, and amphibians can be found at the Reptile Discovery Center. This indoor facility, located near the center of the zoo, has about 70 species which visitors can view and learn about.

Small Mammals

Near the center of the National Zoo, the Small Mammal House is home to monkeys, meerkats, naked mole-rats, armadillo, and porcupine, among many other types of small mammals.

Zoo Info


  • Exhibit Buildings: 10am - 6pm
  • Grounds: 6am - 8pm
  • Last Admittance: 7pm


  • Exhibit Buildings: 10am - 4:30pm
  • Grounds: 6am - 6pm


Visitor Center, Shops, Concessions: 9am - 5pm
* Last Admittance: N/A
* Closed December 25.
* Free admission.


Zoo Tips

  • Visiting the zoo means lots of walking! Try to wear comfortable clothing and shoes, and bring water and sunscreen.
  • Animals like to sleep around mid-day. Visit early in the morning, or in the late afternoon to see the most activity.
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