Friday morning I had to drive my brother up to the DC Metro station near our house so he could catch a bus into NYC to visit some family for the weekend. Since I was making the trip anyway and The BF didn't have to work until late afternoon, we decided to go to the National Zoo for a few hours.
I've been to quite a few different zoos in my time because I'm a sucker for animals. Part of me does think it can be a little cruel, having these wild animals in captivity (It didn't really dawn on me until I went to the zoo in Central Park. That's just downright depressing), but it also provides so many people an opportunity to see animals they'd never get to see in their natural habitat. So...zoos are ok, in my book.
Anyway, my two favorite zoos are the National Zoo in DC, and the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro. I've been to both numerous times, and they both have their pros and cons. The biggest pro for the National Zoo is it's free. You can walk in, scratch your nose and walk right back out and you've gotten you money's worth. The animals are relatively close together, there's someplace to get food drink or a stuffed panda about every 50 feet, and a lot of it is shaded. It's Metro accessable, but also has decent sized parking lots. And there's a Starbucks right across the street. The downsides are if you enter from the main zoo entrance (as in, you reached it from Metro), the entire walk back once you've reached the end is uphill. The observation areas for the animals can be a little small, and because it's in the city it can feel cramped. There are a thousand different schools with small children there for a field trip at any given time. Also, there are a lot of bees. And half of the paths are going to be closed for renovation.
The biggest faults for me for the NC Zoo were as follows: 1. It took a little more than an hour to get there from where I lived, and 2. You had to pay to get in. The different habitats were all pretty large, so the animals could hide easier. The Africa habitat is huge, so it's kind of like "oh, look at that rhino in the distance." It's also big. If you go, plan on going for the full day.
That being said this zoo is clean, the animals are lively (except the male lion, he looks a little rough), and it's nice and spread out with large and multipe observation points for each animal so it never really feels "crowded" like DC. The flow of the place is pretty good and you can see almost everything without ever realy having to backtrack, and at the very end there's a trolley to take you back to the front gates, which is the best thing in the world to stumble upon on the hot days. It's not as well shaded as DC, so bring sunscreen.
I love them both. For an animal lover who cares about the"zoo environment," NC comes out on top. I've gotten some amazing pictures there, as well. For something to do that wont take a full day, DC comes out on top. And if you want to feel sad, go to Central Park.