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!

Enter Your Location

Image Credit: Smithsonian's National Zoo


  • 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.)


Admission into the zoo is free.

* Stroller and motorized wheelchair rentals apply.


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


  • Shuttles
  • Gift shops
  • Restrooms
  • Restaurants
  • Water fountains


  • Social narratives are available for download on the zoo's website. Social narratives are resource guides for individuals with cognitive disabilities and are useful as a pre-visit guide to animal areas within the park. The social narratives highlight what visitors may encounter while touring the zoo. In addition to showcasing animals in the collection, these guides also provide information on quiet areas, educational demonstrations, hands-on activities, and artistic works.
  • For physically disabled guests, all Zoo exhibits are wheelchair-accessible. However, please be aware that the Zoo is located on hilly terrain in Rock Creek Park. In the Visitor Center lobby, a lift gives wheelchair users access to restrooms, water fountains, the Asia Trail shop, and "How Do You Zoo?" Restrooms located along Olmsted Walk are accessible.Non-motorized wheelchairs are available from the Visitor Center Information Desk (near Lot A) and the Information Stations at Panda Plaza (Lots A/B) and Lion/Tiger Hill (Lot D). There is no charge for non-motorized wheelchairs. Electronic convenience vehicles are available for a rental fee of $25 a day for FONZ members and $30 for non-members at the Visitor Center and the Information Stations at Panda Plaza and Lion/Tiger Hill. They are available on a first-come first-served basis. A state-issued driver's license is required to rent and operate an electronic convenience vehicle.
  • Tours for visitors with hearing or visual impairments may be arranged on a Saturday or Sunday morning by calling 202.633.3025 (voice) at least 4 to 6 weeks in advance
  • The Zoo welcomes service animals. However, such animals must be walked to another area of the park in the unlikely event that Zoo animals become disturbed. Service animals may not present a safety concern for other visitors and must remain under control.
  • If you need any assistance, please ask at any Information Station or Parking Booth. 

For more information about disabled visitor access to the National Zoo, please call the Guest Services Office at 202.633.4480


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


Last updated: September 25, 2017