Admittedly, I've never been a big zoo person. I'm not the biggest animal person so that might be why- I definitely prefer the aquarium, but there's one major thing I love about the National Zoo in DC: it's free! I'd bet that a zoo isn't the first place people think to visit while they're in DC, but if you're looking for something else to do, it's definitely worth checking out.
While this isn't the biggest zoo, it has quite a few new and renovated areas to check out. My personal favorite part of the zoo is the American Trail. This area houses the seals, sea otters, beavers and other more aquatic animals.
Another recently opened area of the zoo is the Elephant trail. It winds through part of the zoo allowing you to observe them in many different locations, which is pretty cool.
I actually think this zoo is most well known for its giant panda exhibit. I have to admit I got caught up watching the Panda Cam this fall-- Bao Bao is so cute! I'm hoping to go see her in person soon!
And of course there are the other exhibits and areas to check out including the great cats, small mammals, birds, and more.
Below is an overview of the zoo in its entirety. There is parking for a small fee, but from my experience it fills up early in the morning. It's easily accessible by taking the red line on the metro to the Woodley Park station.
There is a 7/11, Starbucks, and FrozenYo store right across from the zoo-- so there are a few options to pick up something to eat or drink before heading into the zoo. It's also close to Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle-- both areas that offer a lot of dining options if you're looking for lunch or dinner.