Play By Our Park Rules

Rule Number One: Enjoy Your Visit!

The National Zoo is a wonderful place to explore, learn, and have fun. Our few rules help ensure an enjoyable and safe experience for all visitors.

Protection of Zoo Animals

  • No visitor shall disturb any exhibit animals by any means, including an attempt to pet, feed, handle or trap exhibit animals unless overseen by a Zoo staff member.
  • No visitor shall go over, under, between or otherwise cross any guardrail, fence, moat, wall or other safety barrier, or seat, stand or hold children over such barriers.
  • No visitor shall throw or toss rocks, trash or other articles into exhibit areas.
  • No Pets: Pets of any kind are not allowed on Zoo grounds. Pets must not be left in parked vehicles, as the temperature within vehicles can reach lethal levels. Zoo Police are authorized to enter vehicles parked on Zoo grounds to rescue pets that may be in danger of dehydration and/or heat prostration. (Service dogs are permitted, as are miniature horses trained to do work for people with disabilities if housebroken and under the owner's control.)
  • No Balloons: Balloons are not allowed on Zoo grounds, as they present a potential choking hazard to the animals.
  • No Loud Music: Visitors may not play loud music within the park, as it may disturb the animals as well as other visitors. Use of headphones to listen to music is encouraged, however visitors should be aware of directions that may be provided by Zoo staff and police.

Protection of Zoo Grounds and Facilities

  • No Grills: Visitors may not use grills on Zoo grounds.
  • Solicitation or selling on Zoo grounds, as well as distribution of material such as pamphlets and flyers, is prohibited without prior approval by authorized individuals.
  • Receptacles are provided for trash and recycling-approved containers. These should be used to minimize pests in the park and to ensure safety of both collection and wild animals.
  • No Eating Inside Buildings: Eating, drinking and chewing gum are not allowed inside buildings, except for approved special events and where authorized by NZP management. Food containers should be closed. This is important to help reduce pests within buildings.
  • No Smoking: Smoking of any kind (including smoke-free cigarettes) by the visiting public is not allowed anywhere within NZP grounds and facilities.

Protection of the Visiting Public and Staff

When you visit any of the Smithsonian's museums and Zoo, you will discover that we have security measures to ensure your safety and the safety of the animals and objects.
During peak visitation days at the Zoo, you will be greeted upon entry by one of our security personnel who will conduct a thorough but speedy hand-check of all bags, briefcases, purses, and containers. You may also be hand-screened with an electronic wand.
Because of the security measures, the lines for entry to the Zoo may be longer than usual during peak seasons and holidays. We ask for your patience, cooperation, and assistance in keeping everyone safe.
For more information on the Smithsonian's security policy and practices, please visit

  • Individuals should walk only on sidewalks, and not on vehicle roadways.
  • Self-propelled wheel devices such as scooters, bicycles, skate boards, wheelie shoes and other such devices may not be ridden within the Park.
  • Visitors may bring their own food and non-alcoholic drinks into the Park, however, all trash must be properly disposed of. Visitors may not bring in alcohol. Glass bottles are discouraged; broken glass presents a danger to visitors, employees and animals.
  • Drivers are expected to follow all District of Columbia rules of the road, to include posted speed limits (25 mph or less within the Park), handicapped parking restrictions, and other parking/no parking directions posted. Parking is limited to those public parking lots indicated as open for visitor parking.
  • The Park gates may be closed during normal public visitation hours due to crowding or a Park emergency. Visitors should follow instructions provided by NZP Police or Zoo and FONZ staff regarding access to the Park, evacuation of the Park or "shelter in place."

Power-Driven Mobility Devices (e.g., Segways)

Power-driven mobility devices other than wheelchairs, such as scooters and Segways, may only be used by individuals with mobility disabilities. All such devices must be operated in a manner that does not compromise the safety of the user, Zoo visitors and staff, or Zoo buildings and grounds. Individuals operating power-driven mobility devices within the Zoo must remain in control at all times and must exercise caution. The Zoo requires users to operate their devices at a speed no greater than a walking pace of three (3) miles per hour.

An individual without a mobility impairment is not permitted to operate a power-driven mobility device within the Zoo except as part of an authorized activity.


Visitors are encouraged to take photographs for their personal use and to share their memories with family and friends. Visitors are allowed to bring tripod/monopods and use flash photography unless otherwise posted. For the safety of our visitors and animals, the use of selfie sticks and extension poles is prohibited.