Smithsonian’s National Zoo

The Washington DC adventure goes on… I’ve only been to one zoo in NYC, and the admission was costly. However, when you are in DC, even the zoo there is free. So not missing the chance to see something for free…

Smithsonian’s National Zoo, located in Washington, D.C.
(No photo of the entrance because I couldn’t capture the whole entrance from the street curb)

Coming from NYC, where it is much easier to travel around by public transportation than driving, I have a special fondness for public transportation, therefore I’m always eager to take a bus or train to go somewhere. Lucky for me, Smithsonian’s National Zoo is not next to the National Mall, thus I got  the chance to check out the DC Metro system (only the rail system).

The DC rail system consists of five train lines, labelled by color, so it’s not that confusing to use and you probably won’t get lost, even if it is the first time your taking the train. The way to pay for the train ride was quite interesting to me. In NYC, the fare is a set price regardless of how far you travel, however the DC rail fare is based on the distance traveled. So you swipe your card (or ticket) to go in and swipe again when you exit, and viola, the fare gets calculated and is deducted off your card. (Don’t try to cheat the system and not swipe out, because there is an exit fare that gets deducted the next time you swipe to take the train. How do I know this? I think it is mentioned somewhere, and also because one of my traveling buddies tried that. The exit fee got deducted the next time we took the train.) And that is the basics of the DC metro rail system.

Smithsonian’s National Zoo is accessible by both car and public transportation, but seeing how excited I am about public transportation, we took the train. The zoo is located on the red line, and according to the zoo website, the zoo is located equal distance from  the Woodley Park/Zoo/Adam Morgans stop and the Cleveland Park stop. However, the fares differ slightly (around 25-50 cent), Cleveland Park being  the more expensive one (coming from the National Mall area). The zoo website said that it is an uphill walk from the Woodley Park stop,and advised travelers that want an easier trek to the zoo to take the train to the Cleveland Park stop. Therefore we took the train to the slightly more expensive Cleveland Park stop and walked our way over to the zoo. (When we left the zoo, we walked to the Woodley Park stop, and I did notice we were walking downhill, so the website was correct. Take the train to Cleveland Park, if uphills aren’t your thing.) Also, don’t worry about not knowing the exact way to the zoo, there are plenty of people heading towards the zoo, so just follow the crowd and you’ll get there fine.


After arriving at the zoo, we found out that there’s a fee for the guide map (I think $2), so we decided to forgo that and just follow the path. For those of you who are short on time and wish to see specific animals only, there is an app you can download onto your phone for a small fee ($1.99) to guide you around the zoo. For others who don’t wish to spend the money at all, but have sometime beforehand, there’s a guide map pdf on the zoo website that you can print and bring with you. For all others, following the path is good enough, you can check the maps that are posted at the zoo. (That’s what me and my buddies did, and we saw everything.)


Smithsonian’s National Zoo is really big, so you’ll want to arrive early and plan to stay for the day if you want to see all the animals. They have the standard animals found at most zoos, but there are also have various others. For example, the Giant Panda. (I was hoping to see the pandas do other things besides eat and sleep, but it was good enough to see one in person.)

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As mentioned, the zoo is really big, so we spent around 5 hrs to see the whole thing. I really enjoyed the visit, thus I highly recommend anyone visiting Washington D.C. to take the train and go visit Smithsonian’s National Zoo, because it’s free and who doesn’t like the zoo. Just remember to wear good shoes and put on sunblock, because you’ll be outside all day and walking around nonstop.


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