Life in Laos through the lens of a diplomatic wife raising twin toddlers.
The National Zoo is truly a great treasure and it’s no secret that it’s a great outing for all kids – fresh air, wild animals, learning exhibitions and more. There is so much to see that very time we go we discover something new – like the O Line for orangutan crossings. On a recent visit with friends from out of town, we went at just the right time. Between the hours of 11am-2pm, the orangutans clamber up towers to high platforms and swing across the ropes between two ape houses. These animals are larger than you think so standing underneath the lines while they cross the ropes high above you, without any netting or any kind of barrier between you and the animal, will leave your mouth agape and your eyes fixated on the agile grace of these massive animals. The zoo writes on the brochures that the orangutans don’t ever fall but any reassurance of this fact is hardly recalled when witnessing the crossing as they occur because it hardly seems possible that they never fall!
I not only loved watching this but I love the idea that the zoo gives them such wide freedom of movement and a choice. Between certain hours they are free to travel the O Line and decide where they want to sleep. Such great care and consideration for the animal’s natural behavior is a great model for other (not so considerate) zoos around the world.
Another great example of the zoo’s animal care and species preservation efforts is the Asian Elephant habitat. It is currently under construction, but for a great reason…
The zoo wants to build “A new, expanded home…where our elephants will receive the exercise, shelter, and stimulation they need to breed and grow into a multi-generational herd.
But even though sections of the elephant habitat is under construction, there is still plenty of space for the animals to roam. The overhead bridge over the habitat is our favorite spot at the zoo. One time we saw an elephant rolling around in the pond below dunking it’s head in and out of the water! I think I had more fun watching it than the kids did.
Right below the elephants is the Giant Panda house and habitat. Sometimes we get lucky and see them, sometimes we’re not, and there’s always a large crowd. Check with a zoo volunteer about their feeding time(s) and you can watch them sitting inside the panda house munching on bamboo.
I have to mention the water misters throughout the zoo grounds. In summer months you can turn the misters on to cool off. It is so fun for kids and often turns out to be the main attraction. If you can’t locate one, just listen for loud screeching and screaming kids and you’ll find them running around getting misted, so fun.
These are our favorite parts of the zoo but there is much more to see. You can easily spend an entire day there. If you cant’ get to the Nation Zoo, you can still watch some of the animals from the comfort of your home on the zoo’s live web cams. Check it out!
The zoo is easily accessible to visitors via public transportation. There are two DC Metrorail stops within easy walking distance. Note: the “Cleveland Park” stop is an easier walk and will take you pass a Starbuck’s coffee shop on the way to the zoo entrance, particularly nice for parents if you go early. The zoo grounds opens at 6am (yawn).