Safety and Park Rules

Nigerian dwarf goats Wilma (left) and Betty.

Rule #1: Enjoy your visit!

The Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is a wonderful place to explore, learn and have fun. These few rules help ensure an enjoyable and safe experience for all visitors.

Know Before You Go: Guidelines for Visiting

The following safety measures are in place to protect the health of our visitors, staff, and volunteers based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local governments. We ask that all visitors, including those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, follow these safety measures to protect everyone’s health.

Please note that we may adjust our safety guidelines based on changing CDC COVID-19 Community Levels. We encourage visitors to regularly check our website before their visit for the latest guidelines. Washington, D.C., is currently in the CDC’s Low Community Level category. During this time, we are implementing the following safety measures:

If Sick, Stay Home

We are asking all visitors who are sick or feel unwell to please stay home.

Visitors are encouraged to wash and sanitize hands frequently during their visit. Hand-sanitizing stations are available throughout our facilities.


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.

Proof of Vaccination

Visitors are not required* to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to visit.

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. Please note that the Kids’ Farm provides young children with an interactive learning experience where they are permitted to touch the cows and donkey. 
  • No visitor shall go over, under, between or otherwise cross any guardrail, fence, moat, wall or other safety barrier. No visitor should sit on, stand on 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 should 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, if trained to do work for people with disabilities and if the animals are 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 Zoo, as it may disturb the animals as well as other visitors.  While the use of headphones to listen to music is encouraged, visitors should be aware of directions that may be provided by Zoo staff and police.

Protection of Grounds and Facilities

  • No Grills: Visitors may not use grills on Zoo grounds.
  • No Solicitation: 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.
  • Recycle: 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 Zoo 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 on grounds or in facilities.

Protection of the Visiting Public and Staff

No weapons or toy weapons are allowed in the park at any time, including toy guns, knives, or threatening objects. 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 may be greeted upon entry by one of the security personnel who will conduct a thorough but speedy hand-check of all bags, strollers, 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.

More information on the Smithsonian's security policy and practices.

  • Individuals should walk only on sidewalks, and not on vehicle roadways.
  • Self-propelled wheeled devices such as scooters, bicycles, skate boards, wheelie shoes and other such devices may not be ridden within the Zoo.
  • During peak visitation, strollers may not be permitted inside animal buildings. On these days, unattended, designated stroller parking is usually provided by the main entrance to each building. The Smithsonian's National Zoo is not responsible for any lost or stolen items, so please do not leave any valuables in an unattended stroller.
  • Visitors may bring their own food and non-alcoholic drinks into the Zoo. 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 Zoo), 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 Zoo gates may be closed during normal public visitation hours due to crowding or an emergency. Visitors should follow instructions provided by Zoo police or Zoo staff regarding access, evacuation or "shelter in place."

Power-Driven Mobility Devices

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, 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 3 mph.

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. However, in some buildings, tripods are not permitted. For the safety of visitors and animals, the use of selfie sticks and extension poles is also prohibited.

Legally, commercial photography at the Smithsonian and Zoo is prohibited. The Smithsonian Institution is a trust instrumentality of the United States government. 20 U.S.C.A. § 41. Federal regulations governing its buildings and grounds—which include the National Zoological Park—prohibit commercial photography. 36 C.F.R. § 504.11; Security and Policies are available at For this reason, photography is only permitted for personal, non-commercial use. In addition, the name of the National Zoological Park is a trademark and cannot be used in association with the sale of goods or services without written prior permission from the Smithsonian.

Some animal names are also protected by trademark. "Bei Bei" is one example. This means that names can’t be used to indicate the source of a product; they cannot be used as a brand-identifier such that people would think that the product is being sold by the Smithsonian and/or National Zoological Park. If a vendor is interested in selling photos, video, or other products pertaining to the Zoo and/or its collection, he/she is required to contact the Smithsonian Office of Product Development and Licensing at to obtain permission. Licensing fees vary depending on the type and number of products produced.