WASHINGTON – Nothing says “D.C.” like panda cubs and commutes from hell. And this weekend, they’ll join forces to destroy the dreams of small children and animal lovers, alike.
On Saturday, folks can finally turn off their panda cams and catch a real, live glimpse of Bao Bao, the beloved panda cub of the National Zoo, when she makes her public debut.
But the logistics of getting there could throw a panda wrench, if you will, into many visitors’ plans. The Woodley Park Metro station, the stop closest to the zoo, will be closed from 10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17 through Sunday, Jan. 19.
The Red Line’s Dupont Circle and Farragut North stations will also be closed.
Instead, buses will replace trains between Woodley Park and Metro Center during the weekend.
Commuters can expect Red Line trains to operate every 10 minutes during daytime hours between Shady Grove and Woodley Park, and every 15 minutes between Glenmont and Metro Center.
Devin Murphy, a spokesperson for the National Zoo, says the zoo expects 10,000 visitors for the highly-anticipated debut. Last year, the zoo had 6,000 visitors during the Martin Luther King holiday weekend.
Murphy encourages visitors to use public transportation, since zoo parking is limited.
She says there are two small lots and two bigger lots, and the cost to park is $16 for the first three hours and $22 for a full day.
Street parking is a possible option, but often difficult due to parking competition from area residents.
Murphy suggests Metro’s L2 bus, which stops directly outside the entrance. The L2 makes stops from the Farragut West Metro station (on the Blue and Orange lines) and heads north to Chevy Chase at Western Avenue.
Those taking the Red Line to the zoo from the Shady Grove Metro stop should have a relatively painless commute, since the Cleveland Park station is close to the zoo, as well.
Just how much of Bao Bao visitors can expect is anyone’s guess, the zoo says. It all depends on the cub’s behavior and shelter preferences, since she has spent most of her time so far inside the panda den.
National Zoo grounds open at 6 a.m.; exhibit buildings open at 10 a.m.