Things to Do

The National Zoo Is Going to Be a Total Zoo Over the Next Few Days

A panda anniversary and the zoo's famous Easter celebration are expected to draw thousands.

Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian National Zoo.

Bunnies, lambs, and chicks usually get the springtime spotlight, but not this year. All weekend long, and into Easter Monday, the zoo is throwing a giant panda party—and thousands are expected to be in attendance. That’s because this Saturday marks a bear-y special (sorry, we had to do it) “pandaversary”: It’s been 50 years since giant pandas Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing moved into the zoo in 1972. 

On Saturday, zoo-goers can catch a Chinese calligraphy demonstration at 9 a.m., nosh on some panda-shaped bao buns at 10 a.m., and enjoy performances from Gin dancers and lion dancers at 11 a.m. and noon. Violinist Shu-Ting will also perform in front of the Elephant Community Center at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. And don’t worry: the pandas get to celebrate, too, with treat feedings in the mornings and afternoons on both Saturday and Sunday.

In the visitor center auditorium, the zoo is also hosting a world-premiere screening of “The Miracle Panda,” though seating is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis. Narrated by award-winning actress Lucy Liu, the documentary follows the beloved baby panda, Xiao Qi Ji, who, against all odds, was born at the zoo in August 2020.

If you miss out on the weekend’s panda party, your family can still visit on Easter Monday, where it’s rumored an “Easter Panda” will be in attendance (and ready for photo ops). Spending Easter Monday at the zoo is a Washington tradition that’s been going strong since the early 1900s (minus the past two pandemic-riddled years when it was cancelled). From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the zoo will have its annual Easter egg hunt on Lion-Tiger Hill, live music, tiger feedings, and other animal demonstrations.

While all events are free, the zoo does require timed-entry passes reserved in advance here. And with the zoo expecting more than 10,000 people on Saturday—tickets are almost sold out for that day—you may want to nab your passes sooner rather than later.