Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The National Zoo and Maryland Zoo

Kid activities Washington DC and Maryland


Smithsonian National Zoological Park

Washington DC

Baby Cheetahs out in the yard!!

The National Zoological Park is a part of the Smithsonian Institution. The Zoo covers 163-acres in Rock Creek Park in the heart of Washington, D.C, and is home to 2,000 individual animals of nearly 400 different species. The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, which launched on January 25, 2010, serves as an umbrella for the Smithsonian’s global effort to conserve species and train future generations of conservationists. The SCBI is headquartered in Front Royal, Virginia, at the facility previously known as the National Zoo’s Conservation and Research Center. Some conservation efforts include National Elephant Herpesvirus Laboratory, Global Tiger Initiative and Conservation Centers for Species Survival.   The Zoo is most popular residents are the giant pandas, Tian Tian and Mei Xiang.  In addition, children are fascinated with the lions and tigers.  Some of the lion cubs are old enough to leave  for other zoos .  My daughter enjoyed watching them grow, and learning their interesting names when they were born.  Shera's cubs are Lelie (lily, choses by students online), Fahari (magnificent), Zuri (beautiful), and John (for John Berry, former Zoo director).  Naba's cubs were named Lusaka (Lioness at the zoo that died recently), Aslan (named for Narnia Lion), and Baruti (teacher, submitted by Bright Horizons childcare at a Virginia hospital). You can see their first explorations at this link.   It was a treat to see how one of the constantly teased father Luke while out in the exhibit.  They have grown so much, and we will miss seeing them.  Can't wait for the next little cubs!  There are so many different animals to see and the zoo is always updating different exhibits to be more animal friendly.

The Zoo is very large and entails a lot of walking as do most zoos.  Strollers are a must for small children.  Bring plenty of water and sunscreen and hats. During warm months, there are water misters in the park, and children love to do run bys and get drenched.   Some adults prefer the stand and get soaked method.  There is a children's play area opposite the Big Cat exhibits and Amazonia.  My daughter loves to climb the giant pizza play mat and stack pepperonis and tomatos to leap off.  A visit to the small mammal, reptile and Amazonia buildings are a great way to cool off in the summer.  The Amazonia building has some interesting teaching exhibits.  Summer camp for grades K-7 at the Zoo is very popular, and usually sold out in the first hour of registration.  There are year round classes available as well.

The Smithsonian's National Zoo is free and open every day of the year, except December 25.  Some areas are closed temporarily while we build exciting new exhibits, most exhibits are open. The new America Trail exhibit opens Labor Day 2012 and the last phase of Elephant Trails will be completed by spring 2013

The National Zoo's Plan your Visit page is a great tool to help plan your day.  Zoo hours and their daily schedule of activities (feedings, enrichment activities, talks) is great for planning ideal times at certain exhibits during the day. A very popular event to see is the Orangutan crossing and usually happens 11:00-11:30 daily.  The Orangutans clamber across wires and beams from one side of the park to another.  Children squeal and giggle as they watch.  In addition to daily activities, a list of Special Events like Brew at the Zoo (July 12) and a zoo map can also be found at this link.  We try to plan our visits during Earth Day Celebration (April), ZooFest (October) and Zoolights (December).

Zoo Cams (Click link for full list)
Clouded Leopard Cam
Cheetah Cam
Lion Cubs

6:00-8:00 Summer hours for the Grounds
9:00-5:00 year round - Visitor Center, Shops, and Concessions
10:00-6:00 Exhibits

Children's Activity Sheets for Zoo including Scavenger Hunts

The Zoo is collecting old cell phones and electronics for recycling.

Smithsonian National Zoo
Free Admission
3001 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

Metro:  Red Line to the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan stop or the Cleveland Park stop.

Parking is $16 for the first three hours, and $22 for more than three hours. 
Parking is free for FONZ members during regular daytime hours.
The zoo is very, very popular so arrive early for parking.  Otherwise, you will have to find parking outside the zoo area.

The Maryland Zoo


My daughter calls the National Zoo the "Panda Zoo" and the Maryland Zoo is the "Giraffe Zoo." There are no giraffes at the National Zoo at this time. The Maryland Zoo is a very kid-friendly park, and even has a small amusement park with a zoo animal carousel and touring train located in the art of the zoo.  We usually walk down the shaded forest street into the park, and ride the free shuttle out of the park when the kids are really tired at the end of the day. There is a small playground near the entrance and children love the many different and unique play areas in the Maryland Wilderness area.  They can sit inside a birdhouse, skip across some lily pads, go inside a cave and climb a tree truck and slide out.  A swinging bridge is always great fun, but is currently in repair due to a tree fall.  My daughter's favorite activity is feeding the giraffes, and she excitedly makes her way to the giraffe exhibit as soon as we arrive.  It is her first item of the day each time we visit.  At times, there are special activities like riding a camel or elephant for an added treat.  A Kid's Zone is located in the center of the Zoo, and children can pet a variety of farm animals.  They can even brush the coats African Pygmy and Nubian goats.

We have season tickets because we go at least three times yearly including BUNNY BONANZOO,  a summer visit and Zoo Booo. There are many other special events during year and visitors should check the Zoo's calendar of events when planning visits.   Most events are very kid friendly and are free with ticket/season pass.  Children can jump in inflatable trampoline tents,  play games, have their faces painted and enjoy great children's shows.  The Zoo offers a variety of educational programs including school field trips, classes for Homeschoolers and Summer camps.

Zoo Hours
March-December 10:00-4:00
January-February - Hours variable due to weather

Avoid long lines and get your tickets online

Tickets: Adults $16.50 and Children (2-11) $11.50

Season Passes- A good deal if you plan to go more than twice during the year.

Plan your visit link

Children's Scavenger Hunt print out activity for Zoo

Live Events and Penguin Cam

Free Shuttle from Baltimore Visitor's Center

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