You and the kids already love the National Zoo for the ape house, the indoor rain forest, and those oh-so-cute baby pandas and tiger cubs. The Zoo’s latest exhibit, The Speedwell Conservation Carousel, means even more fun for the kiddos, with the added bonus of a few lessons on conservation, too.

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The under-the-radar carousel, which opened November 2012, is one of only a few solar-powered carousels in the world.  It is juiced by 162 solar panels donated by Pepco Energy Services.  Kids—and adults!—can choose among the 58 hand carved and painted animals, including a giraffe, elephant, panda, gorilla, ladybug and eagle (aren’t options great?).  Many of the creatures and critters represent endangered species that zoo scientists work to save.

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What about the excess energy from super sunny days? It’s routed from the carousels solar panels to the zoo’s grid to power lights for the buildings and animal exhibits. Old-fashioned fun paired with a little education on conserving natural resources and protecting animals?  Sign us up! 

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Insider tips: The carousel is handicap accessible, and because there are so many awesome things to do and see at the Zoo, the line doesn’t get too long—you’ll definitely wait longer to see the pandas!

3001 Connecticut Avenue NW
Cost: $3/ride (free for standing adults)
Online: nationalzoo.si.edu

Like, love or leave it? What’s your feeling on this solar powered carousel? 

—Shelby Settles Harper

Photos courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Shelby Settles Harper