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Day 1: Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Continuing on our DC area trip, on Day 2 we went to the National Zoo.  It was very hot (as one should expect in DC in August), but the chance of rain was lowest so we opted for this outdoor activity.  We had been here once before, but not the two-year old and we though she would really like it.

Last time we took the subway; this time we drove and parked onsite.  I didn’t find either transportation method to be particularly difficult.  If we had been staying near a METRO stop we would have taken it again, but we weren’t.

Our youngest has a thing for elephants recently so we spent a lot of time with those.

We saw just about all of the exhibits, including the pandas who were outside for the first time I’d ever seen.

A few exhibits were closed and the big cat area seemed to be sparsely populated, but neither was enough of an issue to cause concerns.

I like that this zoo is clean and less smelly than others. We also appreciated the farm area.  While we used to live near farms and therefore saw cows and chickens rather regularly.  But, that is much less common today so its nice to see those animals entering zoos along with the more standard African safari fare.

Near the parking entrance they seemed to be finishing up a brand new bathroom complex and kid’s play area.  The play area wasn’t open yet, but looked fun.

We took the full day and saw just about everything.  We missed one house, reptiles maybe?  It is hilly, but I’m not sure what they could do about that.  Some of the buildings have a very old school feel to them.  Having been to more recently built zoos, this is noticeable.  But, its over 100 years old and still very popular so there is something to that too.  The kids did notice the lack of giraffes and some other seemly “standard” zoo animals, but everyone did enjoy what there was to see.

That being said, we had a few issues.  The food was hit or miss.  They had no “basic” juice for kids, or milk.  When I ordered the bacon cheeseburger (only burger on the menu), I was told they were out of bacon.  You can bring your own food and it’s definitely worth it.  What they did haven’t wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great and it was expensive.  At least bring your own drinks.

We also had an issue with the bathroom signs.  In one case I tried to follow the signs (and asked a few staff along the way) and from almost the middle ended up all the way at the parking exit to use the bathroom.  This is a long way for a five-year old.  As it turns out I could have found one quicker to the right, but the sign pointed left.  Something in between would have been greatly appreciated.  It’s not that the bathrooms were hard to find, just that they were very far apart.

In summary:

  • plan for a full day.
  • bring your own food, or at least drinks, especially if you have a stroller to put it on.
  • follow the loop from either the parking or METRO entrance to see pretty much everything.
  • use the bathrooms when you’re near one.
  • and, be prepared for significant hills.