After talking about it for years, we finally decided to spend the night in Washington, DC and get to the National Zoo as soon as it opened, rather than showing up in the afternoon.
The plan worked. We stayed at "cheap" hotel just inside the beltway in Tacoma, MD. Google maps said it was a 22 minute drive away from the zoo, we doubled that for rush hour traffic (and were pretty accurate).
Arriving at the zoo around 8:30 AM meant we had the place to ourselves. We also went the day before, on Mother's Day, and have never seen it quite so crowded. We left before they closed and walked around the National Mall instead. It was fun seeing all the families visiting together all dressed up, but seeing it before the crowds was magical. It reminded us of visiting Disneyland before "rope drop" when the true magic takes place. We did, though, have to duck golf carts with people bringing food and supplies to the animals.
We went straight to the panda bears. Two and a half year old Bao Bao was setting down for a nap.
Her mother, Mei, was outside but clearly interested in going back inside, where they were cleaning her tank and getting the place ready to open to the public at 9 AM. After a number of attempts by the staff, she found breakfast and started noshing on the bamboo.
Meanwhile Papa Panda Bearn, Tien, seemed quite content to be outside on a nice day, especially once he found his treats and could work on getting them out.
The question for all of us, though, was where is Bei Bei?
|Sign on the bottom center directs visitors to |
go to the Panda Overlook Cafe and look
in the trees.
While visiting the pandas, someone from the Nixon Library interviewed Ashley and I for their piece on why people love panda bears. What's not to love, right Cousin Nancy?
We enjoyed watching locals run through the park, and push their baby strollers. Around 10:30 crowds of school children arrived. Polite groups, but we no longer had the place to ourselves. We saw the gorillas, and the rare Carolina Bird (Ashley in her Notre Dame Carolina blue sweatshirt).
Our one other wish for the day was to see the orangutans use the O-Line. We are always too late. Unfortunately it was just drizzly enough they were afraid for the safety of the animals. Maybe next time we'll leave home at 5 AM so we can beat the crowds.
As always it was fun walking around the zoo and enjoying time with Don and Ashley.