Our good friends Lauren (blogger of Sew You Think You Can Cook), Stuart, and Wesley came to visit over Memorial Day weekend! The last time we saw them was right before our move from Florida (when Wesley was only 3 weeks old!), so it was definitely great to spend some time with them. This was their first time in the DC area, so we let them decide what we were going to do for the weekend. They chose a trip to the National Zoo!
The Smithsonian National Zoological Park is located in northwest Washington, DC. Over 2,000 animals (400 species) are represented across 163 acres. There are a couple of trails (Asian and American), indoor houses (Amazonia, Small Mammal, Reptile Discovery Center, Bird House, Great Apes, Elephant, Panda), a Kids’ Farm, and other habitats situated across the park. With young children, we have never been able to see everything in one day. The bird section and Amazonia always seem to get skipped and we are too tired by the end of the day to go back. Especially on warmer days, sticking to certain sections and following Evan’s lead works for us. During our visit in October, Evan actually spent 45 minutes in the Small Mammal House just watching the meerkats.
The zoo is open every day except Christmas. Check the official website for hours before visiting as they vary based on the season and special events are common. Admission is free, but parking is 22 dollars if not a FONZ (Friends of the National Zoo) member. You can buy a zoo map at the entrance for 3 dollars, but they also have maps posted throughout the park and there is an interactive app available for 1.99. These photos are a mixture of our visits since May 2010.
To get to the zoo, you can drive or take the metro/bus. I have done both. If driving to the zoo when large crowds are expected (weekends, summer, holidays), a parking reservation through ParkingPanda is highly recommended. Parking spots generally fill up by 10-11 am and parking outside of the zoo is limited. Reserved parking costs 30.
The official metro stop for the zoo is Woodley Park. When arriving, I like to go a stop further to Cleveland Park. It is a slightly longer distance, but a downhill walk instead of trekking uphill. I then walk downhill to Woodley Park when heading home. The L1 and L2 buses stop in front of the Connecticut Avenue entrance.
The zoo itself is also situated on a steep hill, so be prepared for some walking. When driving, I like parking in lot D. This is at the bottom entrance of the zoo so you start your day with the uphill walk, but it is all downhill to your car. This lot is also closest to the stroller rentals and petting zoo/play area for those with small children.
We had a great time at the zoo with Lauren, Stuart, and Wesley, but didn’t have much luck animal-wise. The outdoor animals have been in hiding for our last two visits. During the summer, they are most active in the early morning and we aren’t able to make it out until closer to noon. I also like cooler weather, so it starts to get a bit too hot for me around this time of year (but it has still been better than summers in Florida so far!). With the holiday weekend, the crowds were out in full force- including on the metro- all the cars were completely packed.
The pandas are the most popular attraction at the zoo. They have an outdoor habitat, plus a viewable indoor area. The entrance and exit to the indoor area are along the same pathway, creating a high volume of people on heavy crowd days. We attempted to see them during Memorial Day weekend, but couldn’t even get through the congestion.
Note: The red panda is currently relocated to SCBI Front Royal.
There are a few dining options available throughout the zoo and you are allowed to bring in your own food/picnic. There are also plenty of restaurants surrounding the Woodley Park and Cleveland Park metro stops.
I found out on a previous visit that the tiger is Evan’s favorite animal. As we passed all the other enclosures, he kept asking to see a tiger. While there weren’t many animals out the day we visited with Lauren and Stuart, the tiger was one of the most active. Evan was so happy.
The carousel prices are a bit steep at 3 dollars per person. Evan asked to go on and apparently didn’t even want to ride an animal. He picked a spot on the bench so he could watch the interior mechanisms. Such a little engineer. Here is more information on the Speedwell Conservation Carousel.
The goats get a playground too.
After a day at the zoo, Lauren and I spent Sunday in the kitchen. A couple of weeks before Memorial Day, Lauren sent me Greens and Chocolate’s link for Nutella Stuffed Aebleskiver and asked if I had the pan to make them while they were here. I did not have the pan at the time, but ended up getting it on Amazon that day: Lodge Pro-Logic P7A3 Cast-Iron Aebleskiver Pan. I had the pan on my wishlist for a while and this was the final push to order it.
Aebleskiver (Æbleskiver, Ebleskiver) are Danish pancakes that are shaped like a sphere with the help of a special pan. They are often filled with jam.
We filled our Aebleskliver with Nutella (and honey for the last batch since Chad doesn’t like chocolate). The filling possibilities are endless. The honey soaked into the batter so it wasn’t as prominent. The addition of cinnamon and cooked apples would have made it better. Apples were actually the traditional filling for Aebleskiver (hence the translation of the name to “Apple Slices”).
Greens and Chocolate shared this video that demonstrates how to turn the Aebleskiver. We did not watch the video ahead of time, but it would have been very helpful in preventing some troubleshooting on our part. She turns her Aebleskiver a bit more than we did. It took us a couple of batches to get the hang of forming them. I found a small tasting spoon worked well, but a skewer or aebleskiver turner also work. I originally heated the pan to medium, but it became too hot and the first set of Aebleskiver burned a bit on the bottom. They did much better on medium low. Adjust the heat for your pan as needed.
Nutella Stuffed Aebleskiver
Adapted from Greens and Chocolate
4 eggs, separated
2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup nutella
Separate the eggs by placing the egg whites in a clean mixing bowl and the egg yolks in another medium bowl.
Beat the egg whites until medium peaks form.
Whisk the buttermilk, vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup butter into the egg yolks until smooth.
In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir in the egg yolk mixture until just combined. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites just until no white streaks remain.
Place the aebleskiver pan over medium heat. Stir together the 1 tablespoon butter and vegetable oil. Use a pastry brush to grease each hole. If desired, place the nutella in a piping bag or ziploc bag with the corner snipped off.
Once heated, quickly fill each hole just halfway with the batter. Pipe or spoon about 1 teaspoon of nutella into the center of each aebleskiver. Cover with more batter, until each hole is almost filled.
Cook until the edges are set and golden, adjusting the heat as needed to about medium low, about 2 minutes.
Use a small spoon, skewer, or aebleskiver turner to flip the aebleskiver 1/3 of the way over. Cook another minute before flipping the rest of the way over to cook the remaining batter. Use the small spoon, skewer, or aebleskiver tool to transfer to a plate. Grease as needed and repeat with remaining batter and nutella.
Serve warm with powdered sugar or maple syrup.