Monday, December 12, 2016

ZooLights (National Zoo)

For Don's birthday this year I bought him a membership to the National Zoo. On the surface this seems like a silly gift since the zoo is free to visit, and we live 3 1/2 hours away, making visits planned rather than spontaneous. This makes our third trip to DC in 2016. The first was because FONZ (Friends of the National Zoo) members received an early peak at Bei Bei -- the newest panda. We went down to see Bao Bao on her opening display weekend and waited in line for two hours and still didn't see her. With membership, we did not have a line, but we still didn't see much.

We went back in May when Ashley had an odd day off. That time we slept over in Maryland and visited as the zoo was opening up for the day. That was fun! We saw Bei Bei spend most of his day hanging out in a tree about 10 feet away from his adoring public.

This trip was on Immaculate Conception, a day Catholic schools have off, but not public schools. Don continues to recover from open heart surgery and is job hunting. Ashley did not want to go, so she spent the day with my parents. Don and I had fun. The draw for going this time of year was ZooLights --something we saw being taken down in January.

Our timing was a bit off. We made it to the zoo at 3:45, not realizing the buildings close at 4pm in the winter. Fortunately due to ZooLights, some of the buildings remained open through the event, and some of the others stayed open until 4:45. We did see the panda bears (which we made our first stop). Papa panda Tian Tian was sleeping just out of view.

Mama Mei Xing was outside

Baby Bei Bei was recovering from intestinal surgery
two weeks earlier (bamboo got lodged in his intestines)

Big sister Bao Bao was chomping away on bamboo

We also saw a zookeeper feed the red pandas.

Perhaps the cutest sight of the day was seeing the mama and baby orangutan. The look of love in her eyes is universal.

The reptile house, Think Tank, and small mammal houses stayed open throughout the event. Also happening that evening was Date Night. For $65 a couple ($50 for FONZ members) you got "free" hot toddy, champagne toast, sweet treat, and rides on the carousel, snowless snow tube, and train. Um... okay. As FONZ members we got 8 tickets total to the carousel, snow tub, and train. The tickets we didn't use we gave to a family with small children to enjoy. The person who bought her ticket through Groupon thought it was an awesome deal.

After being kicked out of the orangutan house (that baby was so cute) we rode the carousel and the train. By now it was getting dark enough to appreciate the lights.

Due to some confusion, we met Panda Claws (I think his name is misspelled):

With the temperature at 48 degrees, it was not nearly as cold as we feared it might be. I was jealously watching the runners enjoy the nice night. Unfortunately it wasn't as nice in Lawrenceville as it was in DC.

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