In case you missed the first few posts in this series, we are chronicling our family trip to Washington D.C. The first post in the series is here. You can find the rest under the travel menu on our main page. Last week I reviewed what we saw and did on our only Sunday in D.C.. This week I will continue with the events of our sixth day in the city.
Since our previous day was relatively relaxing, we were energized and excited to spend an entire day exploring more of what Washington D.C. has to offer. Our feet were well rested. The weather was beautiful. It was a Monday so the weekend crowds would be gone. It was a perfect day to spend outside looking at animals. So off we headed to the National Zoo.
There is a zoo app available, but we did not use it on our adventure. It features live animal cams (same as the ones on their website), fun and fascinating facts about the animals, a GPS map of the zoo, a calendar of animal demonstrations, and some self-guided tours.
We hopped on the transit rail and took the ride to the Woodley Park/Zoo stop. Then we were one long escalator ride from the surface. I was not sure I was going to be able to get Melissa on the escalator. From below, the escalator was an intimidating sight for her. If you want to see what the escalator looks like, just type “Woodley Park Metro Escalator” in a search engine.
After we finally reached the street, it was relatively easy ½ mile walk to the zoo. That walk was the beginning of a long day of walking. It was only intensified by the fact that the zoo is built on the side of a hill, so almost all the walking in the zoo was up or down it. This is exactly why we scheduled the zoo following a day of lighter walking.
Once we got to the zoo, it was time to grab a map and plot our path. The zoo sits on 163 acres and is home to more than 400 different species, so it is not a small undertaking to navigate it efficiently. With that many animals, there is something for everyone. All our kids enjoyed the giant pandas. Especially the baby one.
We have one child who loves everything feline. Everything. From the bobcats and fishing cats, all the way up to lions and tigers. And everything in between. I bet there are 100 pictures of cats from the zoo in our house. We have another child that feels the same about primates. Monkeys, apes, gorillas, lemurs, gibbons, tamarins, and sakis. We have more than enough pictures of them as well.
The kids’ farm held the attention of our youngest for quite a while. She thought it was great fun to pet, touch, and groom the animals. She loved oinking at the pigs, mooing at the cows, baaing at the goats, and making funny faces at the alpacas. It was a nice place to rest for a while as she explored the area and ran wild on the play structure.
Mixed in with these kids’ favorites were some of the areas of the zoo they found less exciting. The reptiles and amphibians held much less interest for them. Some of the tiny frogs, lizards, and salamanders were referred to as “cute.” Their larger counterparts were greeted with disgusted faces, tongues sticking out, and full body shudders. Some of the snakes on exhibit were huge (and gross).
The small mammal area was also met with mixed reviews. The chinchillas and meerkats were photographed like our kids were the paparazzi. The naked mole-rat and the screaming hairy armadillo were not provided the same treatment. Even with names that cool!
There were also several mouse-sized creatures. Those were usually met with mixed reviews. If they had no tail, and remotely resembled a hamster, our middle daughter loved them. If there was a tail and looked slightly like a rat, our oldest daughter wanted to run away. Our youngest daughter had a similar response to all of the animals: tap on the glass, wave, and say “hi.”
There were many animals native to North America, too. Bison, wolves, eagles, vultures, otters, beavers, and several other small mammals and birds. Many of these we see on a regular basis, but are less common to people living in other parts of the country. There were seals and sea lions that we sat and watched for a while, too. The strangest animal I saw on exhibit? A Raven. I’m sure there are many visitors to the zoo that rarely, if ever, see ravens. As for us? There are currently a dozen of them in the tree across the road.
As you can imagine, seeing all this took the entire day. To break it up a little we packed a picnic lunch to eat. The zoo welcomes outside food, which is rare for most attractions in D.C.. There are some food carts on site, but the selection was limited. I would recommend everyone bring a lunch with. Even if it consists of sandwiches and chips from the grocery store.
Where is the best place to eat lunch at the zoo? Near the Think Tank. The Think Tank is the area in which the zoo performs research with orangutans and their memories. Why is this the best area? Because it is connected to the ape exhibit by the O-line. The orangutan transit system. A system of tall poles and ropes that allow the animals to navigate between the two areas. They climb around overhead as you walk down the paths. There is nothing between them and you but air. 40-50 feet of air.
What better way to each lunch than to be watched from above by a large, hairy orangutan? It gave us something to look at as we sat and enjoyed our food and the weather. It also made us feel like we may have been the ones on exhibit.
After a delightful day at the zoo, we walked to the Cleveland Park metro stop so we did not have to deal with the escalator again. We had another relatively uneventful train ride to get back to our house. We ate another warm meal, talked and laughed about the day at the zoo, and planned for our last full day in Washington D.C.. Then it was off to re-energize for tomorrow.
What is your favorite animal? Which ones make you smile? How about those that make you cringe?