Last vaca post, I promise. Feel free to move along...won't hurt my feelings.
The National Zoo. In general, I am not a fan of zoos. It's hard for me to see animals in cages, especially the larger ones who are born to roam. This, however, was my only chance to see the pandas and I was assured by others who had previously been to this zoo that it would be worth the trip, and it was.
We didn't get there until the afternoon...maybe 1:30 or so. It's very close to the cathedral and easy to find. It was a Saturday and unseasonably warm for early March, in the low 80's, so the place was swarming with people and strollers. SWARMING. As we drove in parking lot A was full as was B,C,and D. I was beginning to fear that the walk just to get to the zoo might be too much for my unhappy hip, but one of the great things about the zoo is that there is an entrance near each lot.
It is, like most everything else in DC, beautiful. Park like with woods all around so you forget that you are in a big city. Parking was, I think, $12 and the zoo free. Our lot entered us at the bottom or main entrance to the zoo. Everything else is up from there and I do mean up. The panda exhibit was on the complete opposite end from our parking lot at the top of Mount Everest. Ok, I exaggerate, but it was a hike. We took a wrong turn at the beginning landing us in Amazonia, which was cool, but we had to back track quite a bit to get back on the main path. There was a LOT on construction everywhere. They are creating larger areas for the sea lions and the elephants.
At this point we decided to take a break, regroup and decide what, exactly we wanted to be sure and see before the zoo closed at 5:00. The elephants and the pandas. The ape house and the big cats were also high on the list, but we didnt' have time. It's a full day worth of things to see.
It was a challenge to find an elephant. At the actual exhibit we couldn't see anything, but there is a look out on the Asian Trail and we finally got to see Mr. Elephant. Because it is natural for elephants to walk miles in a day, the zoo is creating a larger area and a trail for them to walk. Kudos to the zoo!
After a few wrong turns we finally found the pandas. We were really disappointed that they were indoors, but I'm sure they had their reasons. The outdoor area for them is large and well done, the indoor enclosure..not so much. So many people were pressed against the bars that we had to wait our turn to get close enough to take some pictures. They are bigger than I thought and really do look like big stuffed animals.
Near the pandas is a good place to sit and take a break. Restroom, typical zoo food, although I have to say that the chips and salsa was really, really good, and a gift shop. We got Cambria (Nana) a stuffed elephant and a sort of cool puzzle of fish with magnets and a magnetic fishing pole so you can "fish".
Again, this is a beautiful zoo and I'm glad we went. We saw quite a few people tailgating in the parking lots, which I found both amusing and sort of a great idea. Food inside the zoo is expensive and seating is limited, although we generally were able to find a bench when we needed a break.
So, Illinois, New Jersey (we could see New York from the plane on the way in, but I'm not counting it) Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virgina and District of Columbia. Seven states in seven days. A grand adventure and I enjoyed every minutes (well, 2 hours in line for security at the airport, not so much), but home is best. Now and always.