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Pandas in Atlanta or DC?
February 27, 2009 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Should I see Giant Pandas in Atlanta or Washington, D.C.?

I want to see a Giant Panda again. The boyfriend and I are going on a road trip at the end of March and we will be going through both Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, GA. Both have Giant Pandas in their respective zoos, and although I got to see one briefly in Berlin, I want to see more. Plus, both zoos have cubs on display!

I am leaning towards Atlanta because they have two cubs, thus increasing my chance of seeing at least one and we currently have more things planned to do in D.C.

I know Atlanta's admission costs $18.99, while the National Zoo is free, but parking is $$ there, while Atlanta has free parking. We will drive there if he comes along, but if I go alone, I'll take public transit or he will drop me off.

Have you been to see Pandas at either zoo? What did you think of the exhibit set up, specifically how easy it was to see the Pandas? Are there any other factors I should consider about either zoo that will tip the scales for me?
posted by soelo to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I don't have any valuable information about pandas, but you should definitely go to the Georgia Aquarium while you're in town.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:46 AM on February 27, 2009


I was at the DC zoo during panda feeding time. They lead the pandas into a glass enclosure and you can watch them eat bamboo up-close. Im not sure if they do this in Atlanta, but it was an interesting thing to see them up close. The cubs look quite a bit like big dogs up close.

The DC zoo is great zoo to begin with even without the pandas. I think its worth spending a couple hours there regardless.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:51 AM on February 27, 2009


I haven't been to the DC zoo in years, but I never paid for parking, except maybe at a meter. There's lots of free parking a block or two away if you're not going to be there more than 2 hours.
I don't recall the panda exhibit being that impressive, but I'd be surprised if it weren't a whole lot better now.
posted by MtDewd at 7:53 AM on February 27, 2009


Both! You should see pandas all the time, everywhere! You should print out panda pictures and tape them to the inside of your windshield (in a place that doesn't obstruct your view of the road) so you are always driving towards a panda.

But seriously, if you like pandas a lot, go to both zoos. It won't cost that much and it sounds like something you really enjoy.
Plus, you can compare the habitats and the pandas yourself and tell the pandas in the second city that the other ones were cuter/had nicer bamboo.
posted by rmless at 7:56 AM on February 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


You could also park somewhere else and take the Metro to the Zoo stop. There are quite a few fun restaurants to visit along Connecticut Ave to make the metro fare more justifiable. http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Visit/GettingToZoo/

I do like the panda exhibit at the National Zoo, because you can see them from outside or inside, but I've never been to the Atlanta Zoo for comparison.
posted by hellogoodbye at 7:59 AM on February 27, 2009


Yes, MtDewd, the panda exhibit at the National Zoo has been completely redesigned in the last year or so, so it's not what you remember. I can usually get neighborhood parking when I visit (no 2-hour limit on weekends), and it's quite accessible from the (cheap) metro.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:00 AM on February 27, 2009


I've never been to the Atlanta Zoo, but the National Zoo is amazing. I'd go there at least once a month when I lived in DC. As someone else mentioned, they completely revamped the panda exhibit a couple years ago (as well as some other exhibits). Be sure to check out the red pandas and the tamarins. Also, the otters are incredibly fun to watch if they're in a playful mood. And you can easily find free parking outside the zoo.
posted by kookaburra at 8:16 AM on February 27, 2009


Seeing the pandas in DC during an off-time (late on a weekday in winter is best) is amazing. I have had the whole place to myself before.
posted by JoanArkham at 8:19 AM on February 27, 2009


There are like ten different places to see the pandas at the National Zoo, now. The habitat is basically a 140-degree wedge which slopes down from the narrowest 'hinge' to its widest side. There's a balcony on top of the hill, another one to the left side, a main promenade along the bottom of the hill (this is where the crowd is), and further vistas on balcony paths above the main promenade. There are a few trees that can obscure things and they do sleep in little huts, but seriously everything there is designed to let you see some pandas. And see pandas you will.
posted by cowbellemoo at 8:19 AM on February 27, 2009


The Atlanta Zoo has a closeup viewing window a wall of plexiglass looking into 2 rooms on 2 sides and into the outdoor enclosure on the third side). You get right up there next to them -- very fun! Parking is free and the zoo is located inside a nice large park perfect for picnicking. Oh, and the Cyclorama detailing the battle of Atlanta -- cheesy but fun -- is right next to the zoo.

If you travel here, you can get passes that include the Georgia Aquarium, the Zoo, and the Coca-Cola Museum (and I think combinations of 2, if that's your preference).

Check out Atlanta on the Cheap (atlantaonthecheap.blogspot.com) for possible free/cheap tickets to the zoo and other places and exhibits, like the King Tut exhibit!
posted by mdiskin at 9:18 AM on February 27, 2009


Yes, MtDewd, the panda exhibit at the National Zoo has been completely redesigned in the last year or so, so it's not what you remember. I can usually get neighborhood parking when I visit (no 2-hour limit on weekends), and it's quite accessible from the (cheap) metro.

Yes, the Asian trail is pretty freakin awesome now.
Side note, if you take the metro, go to the Cleveland Park metro (NOT the one labeled Woodley Park/Zoo) -- this way you walk downhill to get to the zoo, instead of uphill.
posted by inigo2 at 9:19 AM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


What do you mean cubs? Butterstick is 300lbs now and is pretty much an adult, no longer the furry soccerball that slept in the tree while his mother ate. Also, if there is an incline between Woodley Park and the the Zoo it is not noticeable, and it is certainly much less than that of the zoo itself.

PS. I think the DC Zoo has a baby anteater right now.
posted by BobbyDigital at 9:36 AM on February 27, 2009


DC. Why? The price. You can't beat free.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:51 AM on February 27, 2009


Yeah, late March is also getting into cherry-blossom time, right? There will probably be lots of pretty flowering trees in the National Zoo (cherry blossom and other types). I love the National Zoo in springtime; the atmosphere alone makes it worth a visit.

You don't have to pay for parking. It's not too difficult to overshoot the Zoo going north on Connecticut Ave., then pull onto one of the side streets and find a parking space. I've never paid for parking there, and I probably go once a month. (PROTIP: get a huge slice of Vace pizza while walking down to the Zoo. SO GOOD, and just the fuel your body needs for some panda watchin'.)T
posted by iminurmefi at 10:42 AM on February 27, 2009


Don't take public transit to the Atlanta zoo. It is only served by bus, and the bus system is pretty rotten. Other than that, March is a great time to visit. I'll 2nd the aquarium too. They don't have pandas, but they do have some big ass fishes.
posted by spilon at 1:05 PM on February 27, 2009


I have been to both zoos, though DC more often.

Tai Shan, DC's firstborn panda, is coming up on 2 years old and is, in appearance, an adult panda. An extremely cute adult panda, but still. Atlanta seem to have a cub born in August 2008, who should still be an adorable little furball.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:09 PM on February 27, 2009


Any chance you'd be coming through DC multiple times in the next year? For $38 you can get a one-time admission for two to the Atlanta Zoo; for $45, you can get a FONZ (Friends of the National Zoo) membership to the Natl Zoo which, among other things, entitles you to free parking (normally $16/car, I believe).
posted by roundrock at 2:41 PM on February 27, 2009


Side note, if you take the metro, go to the Cleveland Park metro (NOT the one labeled Woodley Park/Zoo) -- this way you walk downhill to get to the zoo, instead of uphill.

To clarify: when going to the zoo via metro, go to the Cleveland Park station. When leaving the zoo, keep going down the hill to the Woodley Park/Zoo metro. Downhill both ways = big win (especially since, at the zoo, you're starting at pretty much the highest part, so you'll be walking all the way down and back up already).
posted by inigo2 at 10:17 AM on March 3, 2009


Thanks for all your answers. I went with a plan to see them in DC for sure and Atlanta if I had time. I did see them in both zoos! I took way too much video and too many pictures.
posted by soelo at 3:07 PM on March 30, 2009


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