a perfect day at the zoo

Happy Memorial Day!  Hope you’re busy getting tan and fat off grill food in hot and humid DC this weekend.

I just bade farewell to my younger sister, Lisa, who drove in from Ohio State for the long weekend.  After getting a little lost (495 is so confusing!), she made it to my apartment on Friday night, just in time to pay Spike Mendelsohn’s burger joint a quick visit.  On Saturday, after squeezing in a few episodes of best-show-ever Arrested Development, we meandered down to the National Zoo.

Bloggies, there are two reasons the National Zoo is one of the best attractions in the DC metro area:

1. It’s F-R-E-E.  And what does my family like more than free anything?  Nothing.

2. When the stars align, you can literally have the best zoo experience possible.  This is what happened to me and Lisa.

For whatever reason, the Smithsonian Gods were smiling down on us, most likely in the form of Simba’s dad in The Lion King, and they made magic happen for us at each exhibit we went to.  First, we went to the sloth bears, where we actually didn’t see any animals.  (The magic in this is that sloth bears are actually really ugly, so we didn’t know that we didn’t really want to see them.  The Smithsonian/Mufasa Gods saved us.)  Then we went to the panda exhibit, where I’ve always had bad luck spotting one of the bears.  Good thing we saw…. a tail.

Disappointed, we turned to leave, when all of a sudden we saw one of the big guys come barreling out of a secret hiding place, happy as could be.

He was only out for a few seconds–just long enough for him to see all the sticky, screaming children and for me to snap my photo.  He disappeared, and I waved my camera in petty triumph over all the other unfortunate tourists.  I figured they had it coming for their blatant disregard for the unspoken Metro rules.

Thrilled with our luck, but acknowledging that we probably wouldn’t have such an experience again, we set off for the cat exhibit.  We got to the daddy lion cage, and found him snoozing on a rock, looking like a big tan blob.  We stood there for a minute, and then a miracle: the clouds parted, the sun beamed a ray of light down onto the lion, and he lifted his head and roared.  AHHHH.

He was stunning, and his roar must have been a straight sign from Smithsonian/Mufasa Gods that Lisa and I were the days’ Chosen Visitors.  We felt so privileged.

We moved next door to the mama lions, who had their sweet cubs out for naptime.

As we walked around the exhibit, a few of the cubs woke up and started roughhousing with each other.  (They reminded Lisa and I of how our brain-damaged cat, Licorice, would play with himself before he reached his current geriatric state.)  The lioness sat serenely above them, knowing that with one swipe of her paw, she could get the little rascals back in line.  They must have been behaving, however, because after growing tired of an energetic hide-and-seek/pounce combo game, the cubs curled up once again and went back to sleep.

Moving on to the last of the cat exhibits, we got up close and personal with Mr. Tiger.  Just as we were coming around the corner to his cage, he popped up (like he had been waiting for us!), bounded down to the water, then walked with purpose to a spot right in front of us.

The minute we walked away, he went straight back into his little cave, leaving us to marvel at yet again how lucky we were.

Last but not least, we ventured into the invertebrate house to oogle the octopus.  We were there just in time for the feeding, where we got to see the normally red creature turn pale in anticipation of his dinner.  While we were crowded by tourists we obviously had never heard the term “personal space,” we had a pretty good view of the octopus (and a stranger).

Aren’t sea creatures just incredibly interesting?  I used to want to be a deep sea diver so I could see all the bizarre animals that live underwater.

Having exhausted all the zoo activities and our leg muscles, Lisa and I headed back home.  We dropped to our knees at the exit to offer a quick prayer of thanks to Mufasa for the incredible visit we had (don’t worry–we didn’t actually do this) before scooting across the street to the new frozen yogurt place (opinion: better than Yogiberry in Cleveland Park, nowhere near as good as Yogafina in downtown Pleasanton).

I can’t speak for my sister, but I know that that was one of the best zoo trips I’ve ever had.  I am obviously a huge proponent of the National Zoo, and encourage any tourist or resident to pay it a visit.  I can’t wait to go back for Zoo Lights this winter!


Do you like the zoo?  Which zoo is your favorite?

After Saturday, I would say the DC zoo is the best in the world.  But I also went to the San Diego zoo when I was a wee child, which is supposed to be phenomenal, so maybe that really was my favorite and I just can’t remember anything.  


One Response

  1. The zoo in Madison is free, too! I looove it, except I feel so sad for the animals. Also last year I took my kiddos to the SF zoo, which was incredible.

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