Free timed National Zoo passes available starting Friday before next week’s reopening

Even though the Smithsonian’s National Zoo won’t reopen for another week, people looking forward to visiting the zoo for the first time since it closed Nov. 23, 2020, can go online Friday, May 14, to get the free, timed-entry passes which will be required, when the zoo reopens.

When the zoo gates reopen, on May 21, nobody will be able to simply walk in. Visitors must reserve either a free timed-entry pass for each person in their party if arriving on foot or a paid parking pass if driving and parking at the zoo.

A parking pass serves as admission for everyone coming to the zoo in a single vehicle.

In addition to a free timed-entry or paid parking pass, those who wish to see giant pandas Tian Tian, Mei Xiang and Xiao Qi Ji — who was born Aug. 21, 2020 — must get a free timed Asia Trail/Panda Pass for each person in their party.

The giant panda exhibit will be limited to 620 guests per day, with each visitor asked to limit their viewing time to 15 minutes.

Visitors can reserve the passes on site at eight giant panda statue kiosks located throughout the zoo using a smartphone to download passes via a QR code. The day’s first Panda Passes are available when the Zoo opens at 8 a.m.

Additional Panda Passes are released every hour starting at 8:30 a.m. for 15-minute intervals in the following hour. The last available time slot is 3:30 p.m. Those without a smartphone can get a Asia Trail/Panda Pass at the Visitor Center.

Smithsonian National Zoo Members can reserve Asia Trail/Panda Passes via members-only advance registration on the zoo’s website or in person after arriving on-site at the zoo.

In addition to the always-popular giant pandas, new animals will be available for viewing.

Przewalski’s horse mother-son duo Barbie and Cooper have been getting acclimated to their new surroundings.

A young Komodo dragon, named Onyx, moved into his new habitat Dec. 10. Komodo dragons are the world’s largest lizards and can reach lengths of about 10 feet.

You can see Onyx hang out in his new habitat. (Courtesy National Zoo)

Lucy and Gally, the zoo’s new American Bison, are on display, after arriving in March of 2020.

Two new sea lions — Charger and Celia — are each a 1 1/2 years old, and are on exhibit at the sea lion habitat.

Face coverings will be required for all visitors ages 2 and up.

The zoo also said it will have enhanced cleaning protocols, social distancing markers and hand-sanitizing stations.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2021 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up