The Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington D.C. has free entry and pandas! Therefore, it deserves some of your time if you are in the area! (And a generous donation!).
The zoo is situated between two Metro stations, Woodley Park and Cleveland Park; much of the park is on a very steep hill, so it’s a good idea to go the extra stop to Cleveland Park and walk down through all the exhibits.
Considering it’s a free zoo, it’s a fantastic park; I particularly liked the O-line method of transportation that’s available to the Orangutan’s so that they can swing overhead between two habitats. Very cool!
The American trail is also another great feature, I’ve never seen a spectacled bear before, beautiful animal. Kudos for the amazon feature as well; walking through a very humid mini jungle was an odd sensation after having been exposed to chilly weather in D.C. throughout the week.
The Panda enclosure is the big feature and quite right too! An adult and baby panda majestically sat just in front of me whilst I was inside the centre (well, the adult sprawled out on her stomach like she’d been on a hen party the night before). I’ve seen pandas before, but it’s always a special feeling; such a cute baby!
I deliberately stayed at the zoo until closing time for the annual Zoolights feature. The security staff cordon off the exhibits, but leave the main walkway through the park available so that you can waltz through and enjoy the lights with Christmas music (got to love the ratpack!).
Beautiful neon lights adorn trees and are also presented in animal statue forms during the holiday season; it was quite sweet seeing busloads of excited kids disembark and run around the zoo marveling at the dazzling display.
Excellent, excellent, excellent! Shine on, you crazy diamond.