The Zoo has made progress in improving bus parking and Connecticut Avenue bus drop-off operations. They are pleased to share that they have made solid changes which they believe will help resolve the most challenging issues. They are considering this a ‘pilot reservation system’ for the 2023 – 2024 school calendar. The new reservation system is posted on their website https://nationalzoo.si.edu/visit/groups and their park operations colleagues reached out to former school customers to update them about the reservation process.
The Zoo has created a new reservation system for groups of 15 or more. The first available booking under the new system was Tuesday, September 5. The program will be evaluated at the end of the season. Below are bullets that highlight the changes to the reservation system:
- To assist with planning and to help spread out group visitation, groups will be able to select visitation dates from September 5, 2023 through June 15, 2024. Previously, groups could only book 60 days in advance. Summer booking dates will be made available at a later date.
- Certain dates, such as major holidays and special event dates like Boo at the Zoo, will not be available for group reservations.
- The new reservation system allows groups to make reservations for bus parking, onsite bus drop-off/pick-up, and walk-in/Metro.
- Space inside the Zoo is limited. Reservations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis and all groups will require a reservation to enter Zoo property.
- The Zoo is open rain or shine. Exchanges will be subject to availability and are not guaranteed. In the event of a canceled visit, it is the responsibility of the group’s organizer to arrange a backup visitation date.
- After capacity for a calendar date is reached, bookings will no longer be available for that day.
Data shows high volume bus traffic days for school groups is late March – early June. The beginning and end of high-volume days fluctuate slightly depending upon spring break/Easter and the end of school year dates. Morning peak times are 9:15 – 10:45 a.m. and afternoon peak times 12:15 – 1:45 p.m. To help reduce traffic on Connecticut Avenue during these peak times, the Zoo has implemented the following changes for groups traveling by bus:
- All groups must have a reservation to enter the park (as outlined above).
- Limited onsite bus drop-off/pick-up reservations will be available daily, except for blackout dates.
- Limited onsite bus parking reservations will be available daily, except for blackout dates. (Change from previous reservations which were only Monday – Wednesday for school groups.)
- Group reservations requiring buses onsite will be limited to space available. Maximum bus parking capacity is 25 buses and may be reduced or unavailable on certain days determined by Zoo management.
- School groups with bus parking reservations on weekdays from September 5, 2023, to March 14, 2024, are eligible to receive complimentary bus parking. Complimentary bus parking is based on availability and school groups are encouraged to attend during this time. A new requirement necessary to offset operating costs, schools are required to pay bus parking fees outside of these times.
- Outside of free school bus parking offered on certain dates, group bus parking fees are based on a tiered pricing system that varies based on availability and time of year.
- Any additional buses not included in the reservation may be turned away at the discretion of the Zoo.