Tag Archives: DC Teen Scene

You’re Never Too Old (or Cool) for a Visit to the National Zoo

 

Too old (or cool) for the zoo? Never!  We proved this a few weeks ago when our family — yes, even the two teens — went to the National Zoo.  It started off as Sasha and I deciding what to do on a nice day. She didn’t have soccer or other plans with friends, so I snagged the opportunity while I could.   I suggested a hike, but she said, “Nah.”   So, I asked somewhat randomly, “How about the zoo?” thinking I’d probably get a thumbs down and a response that it’s for little kids.  But she instead surprised me with an enthusiastic, “Okay!”

When we mentioned our plan to Owen and Levi, they unexpectedly wanted to join, too.  Though looking back,  it was silly of me to assume they wouldn’t want to go.  The zoo isn’t just for young children… I mean, Levi and I used to go before we even had kids.

The National Zoo is a great place for anyone to enjoy a day out.  Besides just visiting the residents — and there are so many different species! — you can catch animal demos, like elephant feedings and reptile meetings.  When the kids were younger, they’d enjoy spins on the carousel. It’s also really nice to just stroll the grounds and even enjoy a picnic (BYO or buy food from concession stands there).

A surprise visitor in the elephant habitat

It had been since pre-Covid that most of us had been to the Zoo. (Owen had been on a photography field trip with school, but that was it.) Some things are a bit different now, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to share current logistics, upcoming events, and a few tips for visiting.

And, by the way, we saw loads of people there without young children, from couples of all ages to adult friends on an outing…  and even groups of teens.

* * * 

 

Passes
Timed-entry passes have been required for entry to the National Zoo since it reopened after Covid. They can be reserved in advance online. And don’t fret if you like to pop in to places if you’re in the area… passes don’t seem to sell out, and there are signs with QR code displays at the entrances, so you can get online with your phone and register for passes right there (but you can’t just walk in without passes). And admission to the Zoo is still free.

Parking
While admission to the Zoo is free, parking in the lot on site is $30 per car. Parking passes can be purchased in advance online. Note that cars can no longer access the parking lot from Beach Drive. The only vehicle entrance is at 3100 Connecticut Ave. NW.

KFDC Tip: If you don’t need to park that close and want to save the $30, you can look for street parking nearby. We found a spot on Adams Mill Road NW and walked to the back entrance at Harvard Street Bridge just off Beach Drive. Of course, you can avoid parking altogether by taking Metro (Woodley Park is the closest stop) and walking a few blocks down Connecticut to the Zoo.

Hours
The Zoo is open daily, with the exception of Christmas Day, though hours vary by time of year. Summer hours (July 1 – September 30) are 8am – 6pm with last admittance at 5pm. Winter hours (October 1 – June 30) are 8am – 4pm with last admittance at 3pm.

KFDC Tip: Go early during warmer months if you can for more animals sightings, as some retreat to their indoor areas on hot days.

Events
The National Zoo hosts several annual events that are fun to attend. It’s worth keeping an eye on their Events page to see what’s coming up.
* Boo at the Zoo, the annual Halloween fest, is back in person this year on October 28, 29, and 30 — and it’s super fun for young kids (we went several time when the kids were little).
* ZooLights is the annual animal-themed holiday light display. It’s free and always very popular.
* Easter Monday always takes place the day after Easter welcoming the public for an egg hunt, live entertainment, and special activities (2023 info TBA).
* Adult events like Brew at the Zoo are occasionally hosted at the zoo.
* Events to celebrate animal birthdays, zoo anniversaries, and more come up throughout the year and are always fun times to visit.

Planning
The Zoo is a big place, and it can take a long time to walk the whole thing, especially if you like to spend a decent amount of time watching the animals and/or you’re with little ones with little legs. It’s not a bad idea to look at the map before you go and strategize on animal visits based on location. Also check the Daily Animal Demos schedule so you can factor that in to your timing.

Concessions
For lunch or snacks, concession stands and a few food trucks are located throughout the Zoo selling burgers, chicken tenders, hot dogs, pizza, pretzels, popcorn, etc. plus sweet treats. As mentioned above, you can also BYO — there are tables where you can sit down to eat as well as some grassy spots.

More to know
* Paved paths are very stroller friendly.
* Some fun beyond the animals: Speedwell Conservation Carousel ($4), Me and the Bee Playground, The Good of the Hive Mural, and the Squirt Zone (in summer).
* There is a limit on the number of people allowed inside the animal houses, so there could be a short wait to go in.
* The Visitor Center near the Connecticut Ave entrance usually has an exhibit on display and a gift shop with lots of cute items.
* There are two more gift shops near the pandas and lions, plus a few kiosks around the park.
* If you’re so inclined, the Vintage Views food (drink) truck offers cocktails and beer along with coffee and lemonade.

Smithsonian’s National Zoo
Where: Woodley Park, DC
When: Daily, except for December 25
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes

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Check It Out: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library

 

We had a lot going on this summer, so I wasn’t quick to post about the some of the share-worthy things we did.  And by that I mean I’m a good couple of months behind on a few of them.  But as summer break has come to an end for us — yup, the kids are already back in school — I’m ready to write about those places and pursuits that are way overdue for a feature.

In the spirit of the school year beginning, I’m starting with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in Penn Quarter — because school and libraries are a natural connection and because it’s an A+ of a place for all ages — kids and adults — to enjoy. (Spoiler alert: It has an awesome slide!)

Walking up the beautiful sculptural staircase

The building underwent a major, three-year renovation that was completed in 2020, and the result is an inviting, innovative, architecturally interesting, even playful space.   (And while it reopened in September 2020, its offerings were very limited and mostly virtual for the following year.  So, it’s really only been welcoming visitors to fully enjoy it for about a year now.)

Watching a video in the exhibit area

Sasha was actually the first to tell me how awesome the MLK Library is since its renovation.  She and her friends would often go there after school last year to study and hang out.  Yes, hang out at the library.  (And let me digress a bit here… Something pretty great about my kids getting older in regards to KFDC is that now, they sometimes let me know about new, cool things to do around town.  As they’ve become more independent and explore DC with their friends and sans me, they occasionally discover places or new ways of experiencing familiar ones.)

So, it was actually Sasha who took me on my first tour of the newly renovated space earlier this summer when we popped in after running some errands nearby. I was so impressed by both the library itself and how well she knew her way around it all!

The Alma Thomas Teen Space

The vibrant, spacious Children’s Library

MLK Library is so much more than your typical library.  Not only is it much larger and more modern than other DC public libraries, there are features and amenities you won’t find at them either.  Along with books to browse and check out for all ages and from all genres, there is a cafe, an entire exhibit space, study and meeting rooms, a large auditorium, a recording studio, a gorgeous rooftop terrace, and what little ones will love most: a SLIDE in the Children’s section to zip down.

A must-do (for all ages!)

The gorgeous rooftop

Viewing all of it, I completely understood why Sasha and her friends spent so much time there.  They took advantage of the study rooms to prepare for upcoming tests or do homework together, but would also just go to grab a snack at the cafe or sit on the rooftop to hang and enjoy a nice afternoon and great city views.  I was also happy to see she was familiar with the multimedia exhibit area, with videos and displays about DC history and culture, the Civil Rights movement, the mission for statehood, and more.

An exhibit on Statehood

And then there’s the space itself, which is open and airy with interesting architectural elements and clever design touches, like the beautiful winding staircase, unique light fixtures, and great art, like the MLK mural spanning the wall space behind the Information Desk that you see when you enter the building into the Great Hall.  Just going to take a tour of it all would be an activity in itself (essentially, it was for us when we visited).

The public is welcome to drop in anytime during open hours, and I also recommend checking the schedule to see when special programs are running.  There are story times for little ones, board games for youth, art projects for teens, talks and movies series for adults, and much more.

A bird’s eye view of Penn Quarter

Ready to go check it out? A few KFDC Tips first:
* Take public transportation if possible, as parking can be difficult. Gallery Place (Red/Yellow/Green) is the closest stop. Metrobus runs nearby, too.
* The American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery are right across 9th Street, and the National Building Museum is a short stroll away, so you can make a longer day of it in the Penn Quarter neighborhood.
* The Library is surrounded by restaurants, if you want to include a meal with your outing.
* If you don’t have a library card, you can apply for one here (and you don’t have to live in DC to get one.. residents if nearby MD and VA counties can apply, too).

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library
Where: Penn Quarter, DC
When: Mon – Fri, 10am – 8pm | Fri-Sat, 10am – 6pm | Sun, 1-5pm
Admission: Free

 

A view of the American Art Museum

 

Snag a seat in the fresh air

 

Perfect for homework and test prep

 

Marianne’s Cafe

 

Seating and reading in the Great Hall

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Filed under DC, Weekdays, Weekend