The Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., hosts nearly 400 species of animals, including big cats, Andean bears, and of course the well-known Chinese pandas. I’ve visited them many times with local friends and out-of-town guests. The Zoo is located at the southern tip of Rock Creek Park in NorthWest Washington, fairly set apart from most of the museums and other attractions. There are a handful of suitable hotels within walking distance:
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This luxury hotel is housed in the former First Church of Science building, built in 1912. It features a soaring domed ceiling, several cool restaurants and bars, and its own radio station, which broadcasts programming on D.C.’s cultural scenes live from a studio in the lobby. The closest Metro stop is Woodley Park on the Red line.
The Shoreham is an upscale hotel with cozy rooms, a grand lobby, and a quiet location. It has hosted many Presidents; I saw Ronald Reagan there. It is right across from the Woodley Park Metro station.
This enormous business hotel boasts several restaurants and bars. I’ve attended a number of conferences and dinners here over the years. But it’s unfortunately best remembered as the hotel where John Hinckley shot Ronald Reagan; locals still call it “the Hinckley Hilton”. The closest Metro stop is DuPont Circle on the Red line.
This historic hotel with a mouthful of a name occupies the 1906 beaux-arts building that once housed the Highland Hotel. Its restaurant serves classic American cuisine. I’ve stayed and attended meetings in the cozy elegant building a few times. The closest Metro station is DuPont Circle.
This cozy boutique hotel offers a complementary wine-and-cheese hour and chocolate-chip cookies. The closest Metro stop is DuPont Circle.
What to Know before You Go to the National Zoo
The closest Metro stop is Woodley Park on the Red line. There is limited parking for which you must reserve a pass.
There are several junk-food restaurants, gift shops, food trucks, and kitsch kiosks throughout the Zoo.
Wear loose layers and comfortable, closed-toe walking shoes.
Allow two to four hours.
Resources to help plan your trip to Washington, D.C.
Find flights. The most convenient airport to Washington is Reagan National, just across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia; its code is DCA. If you are coming from overseas, you will most likely fly into Dulles International, further out in Virginia; its code is IAD.
Join Lyft. It’s convenient ground transportation.
Book tours. Viator offers lots in Washington, if you like having a local guide.
Make dinner reservations. The Washington area has 120 Michelin restaurants and 119 Bilt restaurants.
Join Priority Pass. The program offers members access to lounges and discounts on restaurants at airports. At Dulles, you have access as follows:
- Concourse A: Air France | KLM Lounge and Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse
- Concourse B: Turkish Airlines Lounge and Lufthansa Business Lounge
Buy Air Tags. Always know where your bags are.
Join Rakuten. The program pays you cash-back for booking through its portal. As of this writing, Rakuten is offering up to 6 percent cash back at Viator and TripAdvisor.
Use the right rewards credit cards. Some good options that pay you cash-back or travel points:
- Bilt pays 3 points/dollar on dining and 2 points/dollar on travel.
- Capital One Quicksilver pays 1.5 percent cash-back on all spending.
- Capital One Savor pays 4 percent cash-back on dining and entertainment.
- Capital One Venture X pays 2 miles/dollar on purchases.
- Discover pays 5 percent cash-back on categories that rotate quarterly and 1 percent cash-back on other spending.
Read reviews. Not sure about something? Tripadvisor has lots of real-people reviews for things to do in Washington.
I fell in love with travel on a trip to Mexico when I was nine years old. Since then, I’ve travelled the globe from Israel to El Salvador. I’ve skied the Swiss Alps and hiked national parks like Acadia, Zion, Shenandoah, and Virgin Islands. I’ve marvelled at masterpieces in the Prado, the Uffizi, the Huntington, and the National Gallery of Art. I’ve stayed in a cabin on a mountaintop in Norway and on a kibbutz along the Sea of Galilee, and been kicked out of the Ritz at the Place Vendôme. I’ve taken cooking classes from New England to the Caribbean, and watched a chef prepare traditional shakshuka in the kitchen of his restaurant in Tel Aviv. I weave historical research and my personal experiences together in writing this blog. I hope you find it helpful. Read more …