The Smithsonian National Zoo is an amazing attraction in D.C. Admission to the zoo is free, though parking is not. Many families who live in the area opt for a zoo membership, known as Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ), because the membership privileges include parking.
The National Zoo is home to quite a wide variety of animals, but it is particularly well-known for its three giant pandas. Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are the parents of four-year-old Bei Bei. On our trip, we were able to listen to a zoo keeper talk at Bei Bei's pen and, happily, Bei Bei joined him. The pandas have a gorgeous and large outside area to wander about, but they also have the choice to remain indoors. To encourage Bei Bei to remain inside while the zoo keeper spoke, another keeper passed frozen sugar cane to Bei Bei through a small window in his pen. As you can see from the pictures below, the sugar cane kept Bei Bei sufficiently occupied.
While Anne thought the pandas were adorable, she was very focused on seeing elephants. I don't know why she had such a fascination with elephants, but that's pretty much all she talked about from the moment she found out we were going to the zoo. So after seeing the pandas, we headed for the elephants. We watched them spray water, throw dirt on themselves and stand very, very still. I've decided elephants are very good at standing very, very still.
We visited the American bison and decided that they related nicely to our recent Little House on the Prairie adventures. The girls also loved the small mammal house which included things such as lemurs, porcupines and naked mole rats. As always, we loved the lions.
At the very end of our trip, the girls enjoyed riding the zoo carousel and playing in the bee-themed playground. While tired by this point in the outing, they got their second wind and had a great time.