This is often an overlooked part of DC. I tell people that DC has a fantastic zoo and that it’s free. They’re always surprised.
The National Zoo feels more like a park than a zoo. The animal exhibits are great. And you can tell the Smithsonian people that work here really want you to have a great experience. In fact a lot of Washingtonians come here for the park feel to avoid the crowds and tourists on the National Mall. It’s in the Woodley park section and feels very natural – like part of the neighborhood.
I love taking walks through the park to see the new exhibits on a cold fall afternoon when it’s not so crowded. It helps too that it’s one of the better zoos in the country in my opinion. The entire zoo is on a slight hill so I like to enter from the Connecticut Ave entrance.