DC delegate urges National Zoo to rethink visitor pass policy

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is asking the Smithsonian National Zoo to reevaluate a policy that requires visitors to reserve entry passes ahead of time before entering the zoo.

Norton said in a letter Monday to the zoo’s director, Dr. Brandie Smith, that she was concerned that the zoo’s website informs potential visitors that entry passes are only available online, which may deter visitors who want to spontaneously visit and limit access to those without a smartphone or the internet.



“The National Zoo, which is in a residential neighborhood, is popular with both tourists and District of Columbia residents, and both should have easy access to the National Zoo,” Norton said in the letter. “I am concerned that the entry pass requirement may be limiting access or deterring visits to the National Zoo.”

Norton said she urges the zoo to reconsider whether or not the entry passes are necessary.

The zoo began requiring entry passes after initially closing for several months during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, most Smithsonian Institution museums no longer require entry passes.

Norton said her staff was informed that a portion of entry passes are set aside for visitors who arrive without passes. But Norton said that she would like the zoo to clarify to the public that passes are set aside for visitors who do not get passes online.

People who are members of the zoo do not need passes and only have to show their member card for entry.

Norton asked the zoo director to respond to the letter by Jan. 20.

WTOP has reached out to the National Zoo for comment.

Stetson Miller

Stetson Miller is an anchor and reporter for WTOP. He has worked in TV newsrooms for the last several years in New York, Baltimore, Washington and Charleston, SC.

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