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FAQs & Tips for Visiting the Zoo

Have a question about your visit to the Smithsonian's National Zoo?

Below you'll find answers to the most commonly asked questions. If you don't see your question answered below, please call the Guest Services team at 202-633-4888.

Depending on the time of day and the weather, the giant pandas have a choice to be outside or inside the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat, an indoor viewing area on Asia Trail. The pandas typically have outdoor access between 7:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. The David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat is open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Guests are encouraged to arrive early to avoid large crowds and long lines. Long lines require earlier cut-off times to ensure those waiting can enter the indoor viewing area before it closes. Please note that all of the Zoo's animals have the option to enjoy some time away from the crowds. If you can't find all of the pandas, they may be spending time in their behind-the-scenes enclosure. 

Visitors can attend a giant panda keeper talk as part of the Zoo's daily animal demonstrations. Check the calendar for a schedule of events.

Flash photography and video with handheld devices are permitted inside the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat. For the safety of all visitors, the use of tripods is prohibited. (See "Park Rules" for more information.)

Before your trip, please check the main visit page for any exhibit closures.

Parking at the Zoo is extremely limited. We suggest taking public transportation. You can find out more on the Parking and Directions page.

If you do drive, please know that parking lots fill up very quickly during warm-weather months, usually by 10 a.m. While you cannot reserve parking in Zoo lots, the Zoo has partnered with Parking Panda to allow for parking reservations in nearby lots.

Sitting entirely on a hillside, the Zoo makes for a steep hike and potential blisters. Wear comfortable footwear so you can fully enjoy your day at the Zoo. The Zoo also operates a guest shuttle that runs on a continuous loop from the Bus Lot to the bottom of the Zoo and back. Shuttle hours can be found on the Accessibility page. The shuttle takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete the loop and does not stop at Parking Lot C. Look for the shuttle icon on the Zoo map.

While there are exhibit buildings and a Visitor Center for visitors to duck into, much of the Zoo is outside. Visitors are encouraged to check the forecast and come dressed for the weather. For hot, sunny days, there are numerous shade structures throughout the park as well as mist stations along Olmsted Walk.

Head to any information kiosk throughout the park for stroller, wheelchair and electronic vehicle rental information. Electronic convenience vehicle rental information can be found on the Accessibility page.

Strollers are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Single Stroller Rental: Members: $6 | Non-member: $9
Double Stroller Rental: Members: $9 | Non-member: $12

Strollers are available to rent at the kiosk across from the Visitor Center, and at the panda and lion kiosks. Ask at any information kiosk for locations.

Currently there are no lockers or other storage facilities for visitors at the Zoo.

An array of dining options will keep you and your pride from becoming ferocious for food. See the food and dining page to help you find the watering hole right for you. Food options for those with dietary restrictions and group packages are also available.

Yes! Guests are welcome to bring food and non-alcoholic beverages into the Zoo. There are tables and rest areas throughout the Zoo for you to enjoy a picnic.

Public restrooms are located in Panda Plaza, next to the Zoo Police Station, inside the Visitor Center, at the Elephant Outpost and inside Amazonia. You can find them on the Zoo map.

Pets are not permitted in the Zoo (except for assistance animals) and there is no kennel where visitors may leave pets during their visit.

Learn fun Zoo facts and keep the little (and big) ones busy with these free activity sheets.

Tour information changes frequently, so check out the tours page for the latest information.

ATMs are located at the Visitor Center and Mane Restaurant. Look for the "$" symbol on the Zoo map.

Everything you spend during your day at the Zoo—from parking and food to gifts—supports the Zoo's education outreach, research and conservation efforts. 

During a visit to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, you may be asked to Round Up for Conservation at retail and restaurant locations.  When you choose to Round Up for Conservation, your purchase is rounded up to the nearest dollar. That spare change directly funds animal care and wildlife conservation efforts.

In the last two years, Round Up for Conservation has provided more than $200,000 to animal care and conservation projects at the Zoo and around the world via the Friends of the National Zoo grant program. You can learn more about the projects on the Round Up for Conservation page.