From the day after Thanksgiving until New Year's Day, celebrate the Christmas holiday spirit with a night out at the National Zoo with Zoolights. Surrounded by over 500,000 environmentally friendly LED lights, walk through a winter wonderland of illuminated animal silhouettes of some of the Zoo's most popular animals, including giant pandas, Asian elephants, chameleon, sea lion, octopus, and komodo dragon; musical light displays; and a new garden light sculpture. Along the main trail, warm up inside the Small Mammal House, Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, Think Tank, and Kids' Farm to see their nocturnal creatures. Indulge in roasted nuts, kettle corn, cookies, and gingerbread with hot chocolate, coffee, or mulled cider. Ride on one of the 58 animals on the Conservation Carousel or the National Zoo Choo-Choo train for gorgeous views of the lights. Or head to Lion/Tiger Hill for "snow tubing" on two 150-foot long snowless tracks.
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This 163-acre zoological park is more than a mere display of over 2,000 animals representing 400 species, with nature trails, petting zoo, wetlands, and botanic garden, but its giant pandas have taken center stage since 1972. After President Nixon's historic trip to China that year, the Chinese government donated a female, "Ling-Ling" and a male, "Hsing-Hsing," becoming the first pandas to live in America until their deaths in 1992 and 1999. In 2000, the male-female duo of "Tian Tian" (meaning "More and More") and "Mei Xiang" ("Beautiful Fragrance") arrived on loan and since then have given birth to two healthy cubs, "Tai Shan" ("Peaceful Mountain") and "Bao Bao" ("Treasure"). These rare, yet endangered beauties still remain a symbol of diplomacy between the two nations.
While in DC for a long weekend, I took the kids for a walk to the National Zoo. My 17-month-old son saw these statues of the chimpanzees, and he quickly ran up to offer them a drink saying, "Drink, Mommy!" Apparently they were thirsty too.
DC is a great trip for the entire family. The National Zoo alone is easily a full day of fun and entertainment. There are so many things to see and do in Washington, so when we travel to DC we tend to spend a few days at "the sights" (the things everyone should see and do in our nation's capital), and then we spend a few days literally walking everywhere. It's easy to become a wanderer—to start off in one direction and find yourself diverted into a totally new direction simply because you saw something interesting. Sometimes that's the best way to travel!