Beginning Jan. 18, 2022, the Zoo is open Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Entry passes are required for all guests, including infants. All visitors ages 2 and older are required to wear a mask in all indoor spaces at the Zoo, regardless of their vaccination status. Fully vaccinated visitors do not need to wear a mask in outdoor areas. Select animal buildings remain closed.

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Hot Weather Statement

  • California Sea Lion

With temperatures soaring, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo continues to take good care of its creatures — human and non-human alike! Here’s what keepers do for the animals in this heat:

  • Most of the animals that can go outside are offered a choice year round—to go outside or to stay in their indoor exhibit. Most indoor exhibits are cooled with AC in the summer and warmed with heat in the winter.
  • Giant pandas have air-conditioned and radiant water-chilled grottos. They have AC indoors. They have thick fur coats and cannot tolerate heat, so on hot days they mostly stay inside.
  • Many animals are offered fruitsicles as enrichment, which can be particularly refreshing this time of year. Fruitsicles are popsicles — they are usually diluted fruit juice frozen with cut-up chunks of fresh fruit in them. Gorillas, elephants and other bears enjoy these treats, too. (Note that these aren’t just a summertime treat! They receive them year-round.)

Some animals have the option of taking a dip in their outdoor pools: Andean bears, pandas, lions, tigers and otters. Others are acclimated to this weather.

Visitors have a number of options for staying cool:

  • Water fountains are available around the park.
  • They can enjoy a number of “misters” around the Zoo.
  • The Zoo sells a variety of ice cream and frozen treats, along with cold beverages and water.
  • All of the animal houses are air conditioned.