Visiting the zoo does not have to only be a warm weather activity.  It is still a great place to visit when temperatures get colder.

Of course winter is a good time to visit the heated indoor exhibits like Amazonia, the Invertebrate Exhibit, and the Small Mammal House.  But did you know that it is also the best time to see many of the animals outdoors?  In fact, many of the animals, like the pandas, are most active in the winter.  The climate of DC in the winter is very similar to the panda’s natural habitat in China.  They feel very at home this time of year!

Another benefit of the zoo in the winter is that there are much smaller crowds.  In fact, you often have your pick of exhibits and a front row view.  A less crowded zoo means that you can take your time and really examine the animals and their behavior.  Many of the animals are lethargic in the summer, and really come to life when the weather gets cools.  You may see certain animals as you never have before.

Most of the National Zoo’s animals are still on display in the winter, except for migratory species.  The zoo follows guidelines for each animal species, and adjusts their environment based on the weather conditions.  According to the Baltimore Business Journal, temperature, wind, and ground slickness are all deciding factors whether the animals will be safe and healthy outdoors.  Many animals are left with an open door, so that they have a choice whether to venture outside.

There are also still many daily programs, like Kids’ Farm Interpreters, where kids can learn about taking care of animals on the farm, and Octopus Feeding, where you can view the giant Pacific octopus’ feeding time.  View more programs at

So dress warmly and in layers, head to Mane Restaurant for some hot chocolate if you get cold, and go to the zoo this winter!

The winter hours through March 31 are 10am – 4:30pm for building exhibits.  Grounds are open 6am – 6pm.