Monday, September 27, 2010

At the Zoo

I don't know about you, but I love a good zoo. When done right -- with lots of open space and healthy, contented-looking animals -- they can be a wonderful way to spend a day (or more), and to learn something you didn't know about the natural world. When done wrong, of course, they're soul-crushing nightmares that make you wish you'd never stepped foot in the place. The National Zoo in Washington, DC (part of the Smithsonian) is among the best I've ever been to. The first thing that struck me was its location, right in the heart of Northwest downtown. Directly off of Connecticut Avenue and a nearby Metro station, you can simply walk right in. No massive parking lot or turn-style maze.

It was designed in 1889 by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York's Central Park, among many other great American public spaces. At 163 acres, it may be small as zoos go but you'd never know it once you are in among the tree-lined pathways and beautiful buildings which adorn the park. The animal installations are sizable and thoughtfully planned, and the park volunteers are first rate and knowledgeable. And unlike most first-class zoos, it's completely free. That's right, there is no charge. It's your zoo, after all. Sure you'll still pay $4 for a lemonade, but you can walk in anytime you like, as many times as you like, and simply enjoy it. If I worked or lived here, I am pretty sure I'd take my lunch here at least once a week. If you don't live in the area, a timeshare rental at Wyndham Old Town Alexandria in nearby Virginia, or Wyndham Vacation Resorts at National Harbor in neighboring Maryland are both convenient to DC and major transportation.

Other great zoo/timeshare combos are San Diego, CA, Knoxville, TN, Boston, MA, and both Tuscon and Phoenix, AZ. Like most great zoo locations, these areas offer abundant family-friendly fun for young and old alike. And timeshare rentals give you the space and amenities you need to really enjoy them.

Well, I am off to see the Giant Pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian at the National Zoo's Asia Trail. These black and white beauties are on loan from the Chinese government, and two of only 160 pandas in captivity. Technically speaking, they are bears and not pandas. Pandas are a separate genus of animal with one living species, the Red Panda. Also from Asia, they are just a little bigger than a house cat, with a face so cute you just want to pick one up and hug it. Of course it would scratch and bite the heck out of you if you did, but we're talking cute as all get out here folks. They have two of them at the zoo as well, so make sure you stop by and give them some love. You'll be glad that you did.

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