Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Friends of the National Zoo Fact Sheet


Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the conservation, education, and science mission of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Since 1958, FONZ has supported the Zoo by developing and implementing education, membership, and volunteer programs, hosting special events, raising funds for Zoo projects, animal care and research, by operating concessions, merchandise, and other services for Zoo visitors. 

FONZ Membership

As a membership-based organization, FONZ currently serves more than 40,000 members. FONZ offers many different levels of membership to accommodate individuals, families and young professionals. Benefits of FONZ membership are extensive, and include:

  • Free parking during Zoo visits.
  • Discounted admission to paid special events.
  • Subscription to Smithsonian Zoogoer, FONZ’s four-color magazine.
  • Members-only activities, educational programs, animal debuts and Zoo sleepovers.
  • Up to a 20% discount at all National Zoo Stores.
  • Discounts and benefits at many other accredited zoos and aquariums nationwide.

Education and Volunteer Initiatives

Education is an integral part of FONZ’s mission. As such, FONZ conducts a variety of educational programs, many of which are staffed by volunteers who give about 80,000 hours of service each year. 

  • FONZ provides intensive training for more than 1,000 volunteers who work as interpreters, behind the scenes keeper aides and event support.
  • FONZ provides educational material posted on our website to support school curriculums, K-12.
  • FONZ provides educational programming at the Zoo’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia.

FONZ Events

ZooFari (May)

Since its inception in 1983, ZooFari has become one of the premier events in Washington, D.C. Each year, 100 of the D.C. area’s finest restaurants and vintners offer their cuisine and fine wines. Live music, animal demonstrations, a sweepstakes, and a silent auction make ZooFari a fabulous evening at the Zoo.

Fiesta Musical (September)

Held one day a year during Hispanic Heritage Month, FONZ’s Fiesta Musical is a celebration of Latin American culture. It features a variety of family-oriented cultural activities, live music and dance performances, and a food court. An annual D.C. tradition for many years, Fiesta Musical draws about 20,000 people.

Boo at the Zoo (October)

Children of all ages celebrate Halloween at the Zoo by trick-or-treating in animal houses, collecting candy and healthy snacks from costumed volunteers, and walking along specially-decorated, lighted trails. This popular event regularly sells out weeks in advance, and is a fun and safe way for kids and families to enjoy the holiday. 

ZooLights (December)

See the Zoo in a whole new light with this free holiday light event. Individuals, families, couples and friends enjoy thousands of environmentally-friendly animal light displays, live animal exhibits, entertainment, trains, special keeper talks and holiday treats and gifts.

In addition to these annual celebrations, FONZ hosts ongoing programs such as evening lectures and classes, a Zoo summer camp, nature trips, adventures for FONZ members, and events for young professionals.

Updated 2/8/11