Check Out ZooLights at the National Zoo!

It’s not too late to treat your family to the fun holiday experience of ZooLights at the National Zoo.  We went on a Friday night and the place was filled with kids of all ages taking in the sights and activities. 

Most of the animal attractions are closed, but the Small Mammal House, Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, Think Tank and Kids’ Farm are open every night and the zoo is offering special demonstrations and talks. If you walk up to the food/restroom pavilion near the Panda exhibit your little ones can get a free character photo with Panda Claws, the official ZooLights ambassador. Panda Claws also performs nightly in a giant Snow Globe.

If you have a train enthusiast in the house, you can check out the Wildlife Train Park in the Visitor Center Auditorium.  It features trains on three levels and hand-carved animal figurines depicting tales and fables about animals. There’s also a neat Lego-model of the Smithsonian Castle.


There are seperate attractions that required paid tickets, incluing a train ride, tubing and a carousel.  The lines for each of these were extensive, so if you have to chose I recommend the carousel or tubing over the train.  The train is a small whelled trolly that takes you around the big cats exhibit and didn’t seem to wow most youngsters or adults.  The Conservation Carousel is made of colorful animals and is one of the few to be solar powered, which was pretty neat. The tubing was a lot of fun and can be seen from the walkway, so you can guage whether your little one would like to give it a try.  

Several of the vendors were open selling popcorn, kettle corn, glow sticks, hot chocolate and other items.  The gift shops and restaurant were also open.  The atmosphere is festive and family-friendly, but it’s definitely chilly this time of year so bundle up the little ones and wear compfy shoes for walking.


If you drive, the parking can take a while and only one parking station is open at each lot for payment, so factor in some extra time getting out of the lot once you get to the car. If you decide to metro, take the Red Line to the Woodley Park/Zoo/Adams Morgan stop or the Cleveland Park stop. The Zoo entrance lies halfway between these stops, and both are a short walk from the Zoo. The Zoo website advises that since it’s an uphill walk from Woodley Park to the Zoo, and a level one from Cleveland Park, it’s easier to arrive at Cleveland Park and leave from either Metro station.

ZooLights at The National Zoo

Through January 1, 2013

5-9 pm

Free admission; parking is $9 for members; $16 for non-members

Rides (train, tubing and carousel) are an additional fee

3001 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC


Convenient  4
Kid-Friendly  5
Quality of Food  3
Quality of Entertainment  3.5
Good Value  3.5
I would recommend this destination to a friend  yes
I would return to this destination  yes
 Overall Rating  4

 All ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being highest.

Meet the Reviewer!

Debbie Williams is a mom of 

two and Editorial Assistant at

FAMILY Magazine.




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