News & Politics

When Will You Be Able to See the National Zoo’s New Baby Panda?

Mei Xiang and her cub. Photograph courtesy Smithsonian's National Zoo.

The giant panda cub born in DC Friday may be the only good news you get in 2020, so it’s only natural that you’d want to know when you can visit the little squealing bundle. And, like pretty much everything else this year, the answer is: You’ll have to wait awhile.

Smithsonian’s National Zoo has reopened with limited visitors every day. If you’re arriving by foot, bike, rideshare, or public transportation, you’ll need to reserve a free timed entry pass in advance. Coming by car? You’ll need a $30 parking pass, and you’ll need to get that in advance, too.

But! While the zoo has many wonderful exhibits, you’ll have to cool your heels if the cub is all you want to see. (Pandas are an odd fit for Washington because they operate on an extremely non-Type A schedule: The cub’s name won’t be announced until it’s 100 days old, and its sex may not be known for a while, either.) The panda house is currently closed to provide a quiet environment for mother Mei Xiang and her cub.

The zoo’s panda cubs have all made their public debuts after they turned three months old, says zoo spokesperson Jennifer Zoon. Amid the pandemic, Zoon says, zoo officials are “evaluating how a cub debut may work with the safety restrictions we have in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” Bei Bei, the last giant panda cub born in DC, went on public display months after he was born.

For now, there’s always Panda Cam.

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.