Grab your zoo crew: National Zoo is now open to visitors (PHOTOS)

The pandas are ready to party! The National Zoo reopened on Friday, and guests are now allowed to visit the Giant Panda exhibit for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Adults and kids alike had been eagerly awaiting this day since the zoo closed to visitors in November because of the pandemic.




Zoo visitors need to get either a paid parking pass or a free timed entry pass beforehand. Both kinds of passes are booked out through the weekend.

Separate passes are needed to see the Giant Pandas.

To have a shot at getting panda passes, visitors must scan a QR code at a panda statue at the zoo.

“If for some reason you don’t get in through that QR code the first time, we do release times throughout the day, so definitely try again,” said senior curator Bryan Amaral.

Only about 20 people will be allowed inside the panda house at any given time, zoo officials said. Groups will be staggered in 15-minute increments.

One last-minute rule change involves masks: they are no longer required outdoors for people who have been fully vaccinated.

Masks will still be required for those 2 years old or older in all indoor spaces.

The zoo opened at a fraction of its full capacity Friday.

Officials say the number of visitors allowed will slowly ramp up, with a goal of reaching 20% of full capacity, or about 5,000 to 6,000 visitors, by Memorial Day. Zoo hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.




Animals new to the zoo include a young male sea lion, a lesser kudu calf, a wallaby joey and a pair of Przewalski’s horses.



Visitors may also notice landscaping and other improvements.

“The zoo just looks fantastic,” said director Steve Monfort. “People are going to think we had a home makeover while we were closed.”

Deputy director Brandie Smith agreed.

“This is the perfect time to visit this zoo,” she told WTOP. “in the spring the park is gorgeous when people come in.”

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