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Smithsonian's National Zoo

Smithsonian’s National Zoo

As the nation's zoo, we provide leadership in conservation science. We educate and inspire diverse communities so they become part of our commitment to celebrate, study, and protect animals and their habitats. About 1,800 animals from 300 different species reside at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Our best known residents are our giant pandas, but the Zoo is also home to great apes, big cats, Asian elephants, birds, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, and many more!

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Image Credit: Smithsonian's National Zoo

Hours

  • Grounds: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (last admittance 6 p.m.) | 5 p.m. closing in winter* (last admittance 4 p.m.)
    Exhibit Buildings: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. | 4 p.m. closing in winter* (Amazonia opens at 10 a.m. all year)
    Dining & Shopping: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. | 4 p.m. closing in winter*
    Visitor Center: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. | 4 p.m. closing in winter*

    *Winter hours begin October 1 and run through March 14. Exact dates may vary each year. Please check back for updates.

(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)

Fees

Admission into the zoo is free.

* Stroller and motorized wheelchair rentals apply.

Activities

Explore the zoo at your own pace.
Guided tours are also available.

Something is always happening at the National Zoo. Daily programs include animal training, feeding demonstrations, and keeper talks. Some programs change from week to week. We strive to keep the schedule current, and apologize for any errors. Please consult a schedule at the Zoo the day of your visit

History

The zoo first started as the National Museum's Department of Living Animals in 1886. By an Act of Congress in 1889, for "the advancement of science and the instruction and recreation of the people" the National zoo was created. In 1890, it became a part of the Smithsonian Institution. Three well-known individuals drew up plans for the zoo: Samuel Langley, third Secretary of the Smithsonian; William T. Hornaday, noted conservationist and head of the Smithsonian's vertebrate division; and Frederick Law Olmsted, the premier landscape architect of his day.William Temple Hornaday, was the curator of all 185 animals when the Park was first opened. Together they designed a new zoo to exhibit animals for the public and to serve as a refuge for wildlife, such as bison and beaver, which were rapidly vanishing from North America

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Last updated: December 11, 2019
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