Babywearing at the National Zoo

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Our family LOVES the National Zoo.  We live really close to it and go all the time! Having visited a ton, here are all of my favorite tips for really enjoying a trip to the National Zoo. 

Tips for Enjoying the Trip and Babywearing

1.  The zoo is the perfect place to wear your baby! Strollers are not usually allowed in the animal houses.  You have to park strollers outside of each house, take your baby out, and carry them inside the house.  Once you exit the building, you have to go back up to the entrance to retrieve your stroller.  For many exhibits, your baby or toddler needs to be at adult height to enjoy the exhibit.  When we head to the zoo, we always skip the stroller and just wear the kiddos!

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2.  Pack light.  Bring lots of snacks and water.  A diaper or two and some wipes are nice too.  If you’re wearing baby in a front carry, a small backpack for supplies is really convenient.  If you’re doing a back carry, a bag with a long strap that you can cross over your body is really nice.   Of course, if you decide to bring a stroller, a great use for it is carrying your stuff!

3.  Choose your favorite carry or carrier.  Pick something you’re comfortable using and that you’re comfortable wearing for a few hours.  Odds are good you’ll be doing a few ups and downs during the day and you want a carrier that you feel completely comfortable with and that is comfortable for both you and baby.


4.  Think about your children when you plan the length of your trip.  Most toddlers enjoy the zoo for about two hours.  For preschoolers, about three or four hours would probably be the limit.  Time your trip to fall before or after toddler nap times so you have a rested happy child who can enjoy seeing the animals.

5.  Be realistic.  The zoo is huge.  Before you had kids, a day at the zoo probably meant visiting every single exhibit.  Now, you’ve got small people in tow.  Children tend to like to watch one thing for a while rather than seeing every single thing.   Let each person choose ONE animal that they want to see.  Then, aim to see those and take your time really watching each animal. This way no one feels rushed or hurried and everyone gets to see what they want to see.

Zoo Logistics

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  •  If you are driving and it’s a beautiful day outside, you MUST arrive before 10.  Seriously.  The parking lot at 9:30 is nearly empty.  At 10:05 on a nice day, you will be lucky to even find a place to park.  
  • If you’re taking the metro, get off a Cleveland Park.  It’s all downhill to the zoo from there.  On the way home walk the other direction on Connecticut to Woodley Zoo.   It’s also downhill to Woodley/Zoo from the zoo.  This way  you’ve got an easy walk both ways!
  •   If you’re driving, park in the very last lot.  The zoo is one big steep hill.  The last lot is at the bottom of the hill.  If you park there, you and the kids will be walking uphill when you’re fresh and have lots of energy.  On the way home when everyone’s more tired, you’re walking downhill.  

Our Favorite Parts of the Zoo

Don’t skip the sea lion exhibit!  It’s really awesome.  The sea lions are amazing and will swim past the window over and over.  If you wave your arms in a wide circle, sometimes they’ll even do flips for you under water.  We usually stop here for lunch and sit and watch them while we eat.
On hot days, there’s a really fun splash pad by the sea lions.  Bringing a change of clothes can be helpful.  Or you can just strip your kid down afterward and just wear their naked self.  
The kids farm is super fun.  The kids love petting and making noises at the animals.  (Notice the half naked kid in this pic.  He had just finished playing in the splash pad).

Right next to the kids farm is this adorable pizza shaped play area.  This little area is so fun.  It’s a great place to take a break, eat lunch, or just let the kids run around.  It’s a padded pizza, kind of like a mall play place.  It’s really fun and very toddler/baby friendly.

There’s a beautiful carousel near the lion exhibit.  It’s about $3 per person to ride (and adults need a ticket too).  We usually make sure to either have enough cash with us to be able to ride it or to talk about it in advance if we aren’t going to be able to ride it that day.

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If you’re at the zoo around 10, you can often see the Organutans traveling the O-line – which is a wire rope from one building to another.  They travel the O-line all times of the day, but we nearly always see them if we are there around 10am.  It’s really amazing to see.  But DON’T stand under them.  Sometimes they pee or poop from the O-line and it lands in the crowd!

There are some really awesome zoo events too.  Our favorite is the “Zoo Lights.”  Every winter, they light up the entire zoo with an amazing display of lights.  It’s really beautiful and a super fun time for the kids.
What’s your favorite thing about the National Zoo?  What’s your favorite zoo-going tip?

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