The Smithsonian National Zoological Park is one of D.C.’s favorite family fun zones, and is home to some of the world’s most endangered protected species. Families can not only view the animals but learn about the biology of their favorite species while learning their behavioral characteristics and, on some occasions, experience what it’s like to feed the animals and have direct connection to them. Though the habitats for these animals have been created for the comfort and protection, they are representative of their natural homes and families can come to the National Zoo to learn more about what it may be like for the animals in their natural distant homes. Visitors can travel down trails designed to capture the lifestyles and habitat of particular groups of animals. Step through the National Zoo gates and explore the expansive nature conservation and learn about the programs that help with the ongoing efforts to protect the animal treasures of the world.
The National Zoological Park
3001 Connecticut Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
(202) 633-4888
www.nationalzoo.si.edu
American Trail

The American Trail is home to many North American wildlife that have experienced great strides towards the conservation of their species and the continued efforts to ensure they do not reach further danger of extinction. Families can stroll down The American Trail and encounter some of the most beloved animals in habitats created for their protection and comfort. Several exhibits are included on The American Trail for visitors to witness the biodiversity of America. The Seals and Sea Lions Exhibit is the largest exhibit on the trail with a large pool for the seals and sea lions to enjoy, while visitors can watch them play through the submerged window in the split level viewing area. The trail is also home to the Beaver Pool, the Gray Wolf Exhibit, the Tide Pool, and an impressive Flora display in all of the animal enclosures to exhibit the plant life of the animals native habitats.

The Great Cats

Lion/Tiger Hill is home to the Great Cats Exhibit and features the majestic and powerful African lions and Sumatran tigers. The Zoo’s science and conservation programs have been successful in the efforts to help the great cats thrive in safety. The lions and tigers roam in their habitat giving all visitors the opportunity to see the duo gentle and powerful nature of these animals. The lion and tiger cubes bring a spark of playful cuteness to the exhibits that cannot be denied.

Amazonia

One of the most captivating exhibits at The National Zoo is the Amazonia exhibit, which captures the essence of the beautiful and vibrant underwater life of species in the Amazon River. Marvel at the giant Arapaima, which in nature could reach up to 15 feet in length. Visit other tropical underwater species such as the Pacu and Red-Tailed Catfish, while being sure to not miss the Amazonian land creatures like the Titi Monkeys and the Tanagers. View the spectacular life of the species that call South America home and derive from the largest and most diverse ecosystem on Earth.

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Asia Trail

Visitors make a b-line for the Asia Trail exhibit since it is home to some of the most famous residents at The National Zoo; the Giant Asian Pandas. The David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat is open to the public daily to stop by and see Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. Though they may be the most famous residents on the Asia Trail, they are surely not the only fascinating animals on the trail worth visiting. Check out the other six Asian species featured on the Asia Trail: red pandas, sloth bears, Asian small-clawed otters, fishing cats, clouded leopards, and the Japanese giant salamander. The National Zoo also facilitates education programs geared towards in-depth research and conservation training for the animals of the Asia Trail.

Great Apes & Other Primates

You can’t go to the zoo without visiting the primate residents at the Great Ape House and the Small Mammal House. Stop by and meet Baraka, Kwame, Kojo, Calaya, Mandara and Kibibi, the amazing six western lowland gorillas that live at the Great Ape House. Smaller primates are found in the Small Mammal House. There you can find the golden lion tanarins, howler monkeys and marmosets. The display of the monkeys playing and eating is often an experience children get a kick out of and parents are enthralled by. Visitors must not forget about the lemurs at Lemur Island and be sure not to miss them on their primate tour.

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Tara L. Aldridge is a native of Washington, DC, a freelance and published writer, blogger, and photographer. She is a DC Healthy Food Examiner at Examiner.com. In 2013, Tara published her first book of poetry and currently works with young artists to help them develop their creative talents. Read more of her work at Examiner.com.