The famous giant pandas welcome visitors to theNational Zoo in Washington, D.C.

Start the day bright and early with a visit to the National Zoo. It opens at 6:00 a.m. so visitors can see the animals out and about in the first hours of the morning when they are particularly lively. Get there early and it's easy to see the zoo's most popular guests: the adorable giant pandas from China, Mei Xiang, Tian-Tian, and their offspring. Almost one-quarter of the zoo's animals are endangered species, including the pandas, Asian elephants, and western lowland gorillas.

Among the zoo's many highlights are the rare Sumatran tigers, the Bald Eagle Refuge, the reptile house, and Amazonia, a re-creation of an Amazon rainforest. Think Tank is a special exhibit offering visitors the chance to observe the cognitive abilities of the zoo's orangutan population. They can also observe these active apes as they climb and swing overhead and travel from the Great Ape House on the "O Line," a series of towers and cables.

Daily programs include animal training, feeding demonstrations, and animal-keeper talks. During the summer months, visitors can enjoy a popular free concert series, Sunset Serenades, performed on Lion and Tiger Hill.

National Zoo Information

Address: 3001 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, D.C.

Phone: 202/633-4800

Hours of Operation: Early March - late Oct., 6 a.m. - 8 p.m.; Early Nov. - late March, 6 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Admission: Free

Learn more about family vacations:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Washington D.C. City Guide: Learn more about the many things to do and places to visit in Washington, D.C.
  • Scenic Drives:For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laura Sutherland is a widely acknowledged authority on family travel and has published several books on the topic, including Best Family Ski Vacations In North America and Tropical Family Vacations.