Friday, April 4, 2014

Four Tips for a Great Trip to the National Zoo

We decided to take our preemie baby to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park on March 22, which was the first Saturday of Spring. We did everything wrong.

We arrived to the zoo later than we had anticipated; went on a wild goose hunt for parking; and forgot to pack lunches. Below are a few lessons learned.

1) Get There Early

Our Experience: We arrived at the outskirts of National Zoo shortly after 10 a.m. and were disappointed to learn that all of the Zoo parking lots were already full.

We thought about ditching the Zoo for another Smithsonian museum that had more parking options, but decided to wind are way through the crowded and busy streets lined with embassies in the search for street parking.

Although our search for a place to park the car was a frustrating and heated treasure hunt, we found street parking only a short distance from the Zoo on 32nd Street, Northwest. Of course, we weren't completely certain if the parking spot we found was legal, given that the signs have zone requirements and various exceptions. Luckily, our car was still there when we returned!

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Tip: Don't monkey around. Head to the National Zoo at the crack of dawn. I'm serious. If you are driving and want Zoo parking, you need to arrive very early.

Over the summer months, the Zoo grounds open at 6 a.m. Parking opens at 8 a.m. and the exhibit buildings open at 10 a.m.

My advice is to get to the Zoo by 9 a.m. with the hope of obtaining Zoo parking. Once you park, you can cruise through the outdoor exhibits and visit the exhibit buildings when they open later in the morning.

You may see some of these animals outside:





2) Bring Your Own Lunch

Our Experience: We thought we packed everything we would need for a trip to the National Zoo.

We stuffed the diaper bag full of bananas, granola bars, and baby formula. Although we had ample snacks on-hand, we didn't have enough substance to make it through the day.

We thought we would be able to buy a quick meal at the National Zoo, but many of the food kiosks were closed. And, the few vendors who were open were surrounded by long lines of hungry children and adults.

Tip: Pack a lunch, including snacks and drinks.

3) Decide How to Handle Your Baby Stroller

 
Our Experience: At the entry of many of the Zoo's building exhibits, there are signs asking you to please park your baby stroller before entering the building. At each building, we parked the stroller on the side of the exhibit building, only to find that most parents dismissed the signs and brought their baby strollers in anyway.

Tip: I'm not going to suggest that you break the Zoo rules and recommendations. Make your own decision about how to handle your baby stroller.

4) Join a Membership Program

My Experience:  We are members of Smithsonian Associates and Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ). These memberships provide us with access to special events at the Zoo.  For example, we always enjoy the annual Breakfast at the Zoo, which typically takes place in late September. The event allows attendees to enter the Zoo and take in the sights before it is open to the public. It's also early enough to catch many of the animals outdoors and eating.

Tip: If you really enjoy going to the Zoo and don't necessarily want to go with everyone and their brother, check our the various membership programs that are available through Smithsonian Associates and FONZ.

Our FONZ Premier membership status ($80) includes many benefits, such as:
  • Free parking during regular daytime hours (Note:  Since Zoo parking is $22, you only have to go to the Zoo four times to basically pay for your FONZ Premier membership.) 
  • A 10 percent discount in National Zoo stores;
  • Exclusive access to special events;
  • Two free carousel ride coupons;
  • Two free fountain drink coupons; and
  • Two discount coupons for food purchase (10 percent).
Preemie Blessings hopes these tips are helpful and wishes you a fun trip to the National Zoo!  We can't wait to return to the Zoo and use our lessons learned.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21 comments:

  1. Great tips for heading to National Zoo in Wahington DC.

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  2. You sound like a pro! I bet your family goes out on a lot of trips because you have them down to a science. I don't know how adventurous I'd be with 1 under 1yrs but I'll revisit this post before I go somewhere big! =)

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    1. Thanks, Meredith! We have been homebound during flu and RSV season and are just beginning to make our debut to the world. I'm learning a lot. Thanks for your kind words!

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  3. I always try to read as much as possible before going to a big place. We went to the detroit zoo one year (a 2 hour drive for us) and they only let in a few people after is becasue the zoo was at capacity. Before then, I had no idea that zoo's could 'get full' like that. It was actually a chilly, overcast day so i'm sure nice days would have filled up even sooner.

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    1. Wow! I didn't realize that zoos filled to capacity! That's wild. It's a good thing that you made the cut, especially after a two hour drive!

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  4. Sounds like our first trip. Last time we went to the zoo in Kansas City, I brought a small cooler full of snacks, sandwiches, and bottled water. Huge money saver.

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    1. Beth-You were much better prepared for your trip to the zoo than I was! Bringing a small cooler is a great idea! Thanks for the tip.

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  5. Wow sounds like quite the place! Our Zoo here in Winnipeg isn't ANYTHING like that. This sounds like a Disney experience! Maybe one day we will be lucky enough to visit there :)

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    1. Angel, The National Zoo is a pretty neat place. I hope that you are able to visit Washington, DC, someday and have the opportunity to check out all of the Smithsonian museums, including the National Zoo!

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  6. ILOVE all of your photos! Thanks for the tips too :)

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    1. Michelle - Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad that you enjoyed the photos as well as the tips!

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  7. We are semi local and we love the zoo. Thanks for the tips!

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    1. Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad that you found my post to be helpful. Enjoy your next trip to the National Zoo!

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  8. I always do everything wrong--it's the best way to learn! I always forgot snacks too!

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    1. Terri - Thanks so much for your note. I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who seems to do everything wrong.As a newbie mom, I'm definitely learning by doing! I hope you had a great weekend!

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  9. These are really smart tips! I agree with everything especially with getting there early :)

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    1. Thanks, Tory. I appreciate your comments. Getting to the Zoo early is so key, especially when it comes to parking. I hope you continue to follow my blog. Have a great week!

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  10. Thank you for this sound advice. I love see while animals, although it does break my heart to see such beautiful creatures caged up in unnatural habitat. I have been to a few very large ones, though, namely the London Zoo and the one in Denver. You do have to plan ahead. Take care! Have a great summer.

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    1. Hi, Jeanne, Thanks so much for your note and for reading my blog post. I haven't been to the London Zoo or the one in Denver. I'll have to put them on my bucket list! I hope you have a wonderful summer as well. Take care!

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