Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute#19 in Best Things To Do in Washington, D.C.
More than 1,500 animals call the Smithsonian's 163-acre National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute home, from Asian elephants to great apes to sea lions. While here, don't miss your chance to meet the zoo's most popular resident, a baby panda named Bei Bei who was born on Aug. 22, 2015. Also, be sure to look up every now and then as you stroll beneath the Orangutan Transport System (called the O Line): Chances are you'll spot orangutans swinging along cables between eight steel towers. Or, if you're more intrigued by the exotic animals native to South America, head over to the 15,000-square-foot Amazonia exhibit, home to creatures like titi monkeys and yellow-rumped caciques.
Recent visitors praised the zoo's pleasant surroundings and broad selection of species, but they do caution that visitors should set realistic expectations. Though some said the zoo could be more exciting, keep in mind the nearly 400 species are free to visit.
The easiest (and most affordable) way to reach the Smithsonian's National Zoo – which sits in Woodley Park, a D.C. neighborhood found about 2 miles north of downtown – is to take the Metro's Red Line to Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan station or Cleveland Park station. Visitors can also drive and park at the zoo, but space is limited and a flat fee of $22 applies. The zoo welcomes travelers every day (except Christmas Day) from 8 a.m. to 5 or 7 p.m. Reduced hours apply for exhibit buildings, the visitor center, shops and food vendors. Additional information about the zoo's animals, facilities and events is available on the property's website.
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#1 Lincoln Memorial
Although the Lincoln Memorial is just one of the District's many monuments, the larger-than-life Honest Abe is also among travelers' favorites. History buffs might enjoy the man of few (albeit powerful) words' two famous speeches, the second inaugural address and the Gettysburg Address, which are both etched into the memorial's opposing walls. Meanwhile, art history and architecture aficionados will enjoy admiring the building's striking design by Henry Bacon, complete with 38 Doric columns, 36 of which signify the states in the Union at the time Lincoln passed away.
Though most agree the Lincoln Memorial is worth checking out during the day or at night, many recent travelers say the most captivating time to visit is after dark when the attraction is lit and less crowded. Plus, evening temps will make peak summer visits more comfortable.
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