News & Politics

What You Need to Know About Bao Bao’s Public Debut This Weekend

Including a special opportunity for Instagram addicts.

Bao Bao gets ready for her close-up this Saturday. Photograph via National Zoo’s Flickr feed.

The highly anticipated and much-heralded big event happens on Saturday, and we’re not talking about Michelle Obama’s 50th birthday. The First Lady will have newspage competition from Bao Bao, the giant panda cub born last August. On Saturday morning the National Zoo will officially, and extravagantly, introduce the cub to her eager public. We pulled together some information that will help you figure out when and how to see Bao Bao, who, unsurprisingly, already has her own logo.


• The panda house is extending its hours, and will be open from 8 to 4:30 through Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

• Normal panda house winter hours resume on Tuesday: 10 to 4:30.

• Bao Bao is still growing, which means she spends a lot of time sleeping. There’s no way to predict when she’ll be active, though some think mornings may be better.

The visiting process

• The line for viewing begins at the top of the zoo’s Asia Trail.

• On a first come, first served basis, visitors will be allowed into the panda house in small groups.

• Due to the expected number of visitors to see Bao Bao, the Asia Trail will be open to one-way traffic only. Visitors will enter Asia Trail at the sloth bear exhibit, near the Connecticut Avenue pedestrian entrance.

Keep in mind

• Dress for the weather and for standing in line. The zoo expects large crowds.

• Plan ahead regardless, but especially if you are taking Metro. There will be track work on the Red line this weekend.

• The weather forecast for the weekend is good: dry, mostly sunny or partly cloudy, with seasonal temperatures.

Special privileges

• Members of the Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) will be given special access from January 21 through 27. The panda house will be open to them from 8 to 9:30 AM, before it opens to the public.

• Thirty “lucky” Instagram users will be chosen to have a special visit, or “instameet,” with Bao Bao on Saturday, February 1. To qualify for the half-hour visit and photo op, you must register. Those who make the cut will be notified by January 27.

Don’t leave empty-handed

• According to FONZ, the Panda Shop “has developed a wide range of special Bao Bao merchandise,” including clothing and other souvenirs.