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Adventures at the National Zoo

This post is part 9 of our Wednesday Adventure Series. Each week we will highlight something different in the Washington, D.C., Metro Area, many of which will be options for part of your own BookCrossing Journey. With so many things to see and do, how will you choose?

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The Smithsonian National Zoological Park, called the National Zoo by locals, is absolutely free to visit. It is located in Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was founded in 1889 and today it houses more than 2,000 animals of 400 different species, though some are kept at the zoo’s Front Royal, Virginia, facility. Conservation and research are two of the National Zoo’s missions, and roughly one-fifth of the animals in the zoo are endangered or threatened.

The National Zoo puts on many special programs throughout the year including trick-or-treating (Boo at the Zoo), holiday lights (ZooLights), spending the night in the zoo (Snore and Roar), and fine dining (Brew at the Zoo, Zoofari). If you’ll be staying in town for a while after the Convention, you might be able to participate in Earth Day celebrations on April 22 or Easter Monday events on April 25.

 

Some of the most visited parts of the zoo are:

  • Golden Lion Tamerins—the zoo’s conservation program for GLTs has been in operation for more than 30 years. These monkeys can be found mostly in the Small Mammal House along with many other animals.
  • The Great Cats—seven new lion cubs were just born a few months ago. There are also tigers, clouded leopards, fishing cats, and cheetahs.
  • Asian Elephants—a new Elephant Outpost habitat opened in September with many interactive activities for visitors.
  • The Kids Farm—we have typical farm animals (hogs, goats, cows, donkeys) and some you wouldn’t think of (rabbits, alpacas). There’s also a petting zoo and a giant pizza (yes, you read that right: a giant pizza).
  • Bird House—there are birds in many habitats throughout the zoo, but the majority of them live in the Bird House, including a kiwi so our BookCrossers from New Zealand will feel at home.
  • The Reptile House and the Invertebrates House—the brave at heart will venture into these houses to see crocodiles, boa constrictors, spiders, and scorpions. For those who are not quite as daring, there are giant tortoises, a Komodo dragon, and a butterfly garden outside the houses.
  • Amazonia—travel through the Amazon in this amazing building with a built-in research facility. In Amazonia, you actually walk through recreated South American jungle habitats and see what’s living in the river.
  • Great Apes—there are seven gorillas in the Great Ape house; the youngest was born just last year.
  • Orangutans—our orangutans have a special “O Line” of ropes to allow them to travel between buildings, right over visitors’ heads. There is also a Think Tank with interactive activities relating to orangutans.
  • The Giant Panda—our two pandas arrived in December 2000 and live in a special exhibit. They are on loan from China, so they might be heading back there soon.

The zoo is a fantastic place to release books. Children’s books, especially, get snatched up within seconds (so have your camera out and ready when you make a release, or you’ll miss a photo op). At least once a year, BCinDC members meet up at the zoo to release hundreds of books together and encourage people to not only enjoy animals but also reading. Click on the photos below for larger versions and to read the journal entries of just a few books released and caught at the National Zoo:

 


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The zoo is open every day of the year except for Christmas Day (December 25). One of the Sunday Convention activity choices is a guided release walk through the National Zoo. We’ll give you lists of the animals and animal statues at the zoo so you can do plenty of great themed releases. Be sure to bring your walking shoes because the zoo is large, but there are plenty of cafes, restaurants, shops, and benches scattered throughout the zoo if you need time to rest and re-organize your books. There are two Metro stations close to the zoo (we’ll give you the inside scoop about which to use so you’ll be able to walk downhill both ways). The on-site parking fills up by mid-day and is not free unless you are a member of FONZ (Friends of the National Zoo).

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