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Smithsonian's National Zoo
The 163-acre National Zoo is cradled by D.C.’s wooded Rock Creek Park, providing a protected, dynamic habitat for more than 1,500 animals. From the micro-world of insects to the larger-than-life world of elephants, the exhibits are engaging and educational, especially if timed with a training or feeding demonstration. Highlights include orangutans swinging overhead as they traverse the O-Line cable between enclosures; a charismatic family of otters that swirl through a waterfall-fed stream and scurry over rocks; and, of course, the famous giant pandas, which are just generally adorable as they eat, sleep, climb, and play. Admission is free, but donations are recommended to support the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to research and conserve these species for generations to come.