FAQs About Visiting the Zoo

General Information

Please see the Zoo Hours page for up-to-date seasonal hours and last-admittance times.

The Zoo is open every day, except Dec. 25.

If you must leave the Zoo for any reason during your visit and plan to come back, you’ll need to have your hand stamped in the Visitor Center near the main Connecticut Avenue entrance or at the Harvard Street pedestrian entry tent at the bottom of the Zoo. If you intend to leave and return within the same day, you must reenter the Zoo before last admittance.

Yes! Admission to the Zoo is free, but entry passes are required. Reserve entry passes here.

While you are welcome to nurse or bottle feed your child or pump anywhere you feel comfortable within the Zoo, we also offer a private lactation space located inside Think Tank. This room is meant for single use only and includes two benches for seating, a small countertop, electrical outlets, and a locking door. This room does not have running water or diaper-changing facilities, but both can be found in nearby restrooms located behind the Conservation Pavilion next to Me and the Bee Playground.

To access the lactation space, download the free Mamava app.

No, the Zoo does not have lockers or a coat/bag check for storing your belongings during your visit.

Wheelchairs (free), strollers (rental fee) and electronic convenience vehicles (rental fee) are available to rent on a first-come, first-served basis at the Visitor Center. Zoo staff follow strict cleaning and disinfecting protocols between each rental use.

For details about wheelchair, stroller and electronic vehicle rentals, see the accessibility page.

We recommend setting aside 2-3 hours to tour the entire Zoo. The Zoo sits on a hill with an incline, so wear comfortable walking shoes. 

Entry Passes (Tickets)

Yes, admission to the Zoo is free for walk-in entry. If you plan to drive and park at the Zoo, you'll need to reserve a paid parking pass. 

A limited amount of same-day passes may be offered at Zoo entrances for visitors without access to the online system.

If you've already booked your free entry pass, you can arrive at any time on the specific day you booked. 

Last admittance to the Zoo is 1 hour before the park closes (3 p.m. during the winter season, and 5 p.m. during the summer season.)

Groups of 16 or more who booked a group trip will need to arrive at the hour specified on their reservation.

Free entry passes and paid parking passes should be reserved in advance through the online system. A limited amount of same-day passes may be offered at Zoo entrances for visitors without access to the online system. To reserve a pass, see the Entry Passes (tickets) page.

Yes, guests of all ages must have their own free entry pass. 

All children (under the age of 18) must be accompanied by an adult chaperone. At least one adult chaperone is required to accompany up to five children. 

If you wish to drive  and park at the Zoo, you need to purchase a paid parking pass for $30 in addition to reserving your free entry passes for everyone in your party.

Parking passes must be booked before your visit (one pass per vehicle). 

Please note that parking spaces are limited each day and may sell out. 

If you are planning on arriving with a group of 16 or more, like a field trip, you'll need to make a Group Reservation

You can reserve up to 15 passes at once.

If you have more than 16 people in your party, please use the Group Reservation form.

You are welcome to stay until the Zoo closes. If you leave the park and want to return, you will need a hand stamp from the Visitor Center near the Connecticut Avenue entrance or from the Harvard Street pedestrian entry tent at the bottom of the Zoo.

Your passes will be delivered via email immediately after you make your online reservation.

If you’re having trouble finding your passes, please search your inbox and spam folder for an email sent from zootickets@es10.si.edu. If you cannot find the email, please contact us to have your passes reissued. 

If you have entry passes that you can no longer use, we encourage you to free up tickets for other guests by requesting a cancelation.

Refunds for paid parking passes are available until the day before your reservation; same-day parking refunds are not available. To cancel an entry pass or request a parking pass refund, please contact us. 

If you can no longer visit the Zoo on the date of your entry pass, you can exchange your passes for a different day. Exchange is dependent upon availability of entry passes.

If you have a parking pass, you can request an exchange up until the day before your visit. Exchange is dependent upon availability of parking passes. Same-day parking exchanges are not available.  

You can exchange a paid parking pass online through your account. 

To exchange your member passes or free entry passes, please email please contact us.

Your passes will be delivered via email immediately after you make your online reservation.

If you’re having trouble finding your passes, please search your inbox and spam folder for an email sent from zootickets@es10.si.edu. If you cannot find the email, please contact us to have your passes reissued. 

Free Entry Passes are made available on a rolling basis, 4 weeks in advance. A small number of passes are made available a week before and day-of. 

Food and Amenities

You may bring your own food and non-alcoholic drinks into the Zoo. Glass bottles are discouraged, as broken glass presents a danger to visitors, staff and animals. You may not bring in alcohol.

Food and drinks can also be purchased at restaurants and food trucks at the Zoo.

You can pay with cash or credit card at most vendors in the Zoo. For safety, we encourage you to pay with a credit card. Cash is not accepted for stroller and electronic convenience vehicle (ECV) rentals.

Yes! Water fountains and water bottle refill stations can be found throughout the Zoo.

Some exhibit buildings and the Visitor Center are open to a limited number of guests at a time. Many Zoo exhibits are outside, so please dress appropriately for the weather.

Unfortunately, the guest shuttle, which usually runs between the bottom of the Zoo and the Bus Lot, is not available at this time.


Visit the Membership FAQs page to find some of the most frequently asked questions about Smithsonian National Zoo Membership.

Cleaning and Safety

The Smithsonian is implementing COVID-19 safety measures based on guidance from the CDC and local governments. See the Safety and Park Rules page for the latest guidance. If you feel sick, please do not visit the Zoo.

Bathrooms are open for you to wash your hands. We also encourage guests to bring their own hand sanitizer for personal use. Bathrooms and high-touch areas around the Zoo are cleaned frequently each day.

Several restaurants and food trucks are open. Tables and benches are spaced according to social distancing best practices.

For the safety of guests, staff and animals, some areas of the Zoo may be closed during your visit. See the exhibits page for details.

Masks are not required to visit Smithsonian museums or the Smithsonian's National Zoo.

While it will not be required, all visitors who feel more comfortable wearing a face mask during their visit are encouraged to do so.

The Smithsonian welcomes millions of visitors each year. We encourage visitors to maintain a safe social distance of six feet or more between households and groups when possible, but our museums get crowded, especially during peak visitation times. Visitors who wish to avoid crowds are encouraged to plan their visit during weekdays.

Animal care staff wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) during their shifts to keep themselves and the animals safe, including any time they are working directly with animals, their food, or anything else an animal may come in contact with. We have also installed barriers throughout the Zoo to prevent visitors from coming within 6 feet of animals susceptible to the virus.