This post is about two things: 1) Navigating the National Zoo, and 2) Busses filled with school children. Since the second issue colors every aspect of the first, that's where I will begin.
From my earliest recollection, April and May are the designated school field trip months. This past week as I chaperoned the first grade zoo trip it seems every other school within an 7-mile radius had the same plan. The same was evident during our visit to the Natural History Museum last week.
If you can at all control it ... this may be the best bit of sage advice I have to offer regarding family travel to DC: avoid April and May. I could not be more sincere.
The summer months -- while they may be a bustle with visiting families -- do not include the overwhelming noise that comes with rows of six pre-schoolers holding hands across a horizontal string, while their teachers continually raise voices above each other in attempt to provide directives en-mass. Or pre-teens attempting to out-cool each other by exercising their one chance for freedom within the dictatorial system.
No, despite the beauty that comes with cherry blossoms and tulips and early greenery in comparison to northern climates, I would advise a June or August choice over spring months when planning a destination DC family adventure. Winter would even be better if you have the flexibility of time.
Think of it, the content of those museums does not vary that much. Most of the traditional touristy activities take place inside. They are not weather contingent. Moreover, who wants to be stuck inside on a gorgeous spring day. NO ONE! That is why they are all at the zoo.
Consider yourself warned. And please, don't write to me that you were here in June and still encountered too many tour busses for your liking. Busses are part of the landscape, but the spring months ARE in fact more intense and extreme in that regard. You'll just have to take my word on the subject.
As evidence to the point, my daughter was asked to re-count something of her visit to the zoo, so she dutifully wrote that she enjoyed seeing the elephants, along with a detail illustration of an elephant spraying water. There is no doubt in my mind that she had simply been overwhelmed. As the leader of her small group of three, I can assure you we went no where near the elephant house.
Having said all of that, don't let me scare you away from the National Zoo. It is a wonderful place and with little careful planning can be a memorable part of any visit to DC. I'll share some ideas in the next post: what a zoo -- part II.