Brandywine Zoo, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, 1001 N. Park Drive, Wilmington, Del., (302) 571-7747, www.brandywinezoo.org, $5, seniors and children $4, kids under age 2 free. It's the year of the frog in Brandywine Zoo, with year-long events dedicated to our amphibian friends. When you're done hopping, visit the zoo's snake, called, we shit you not, Sir Mix a Lot.
Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, 13019 Catoctin Furnace Road, Thurmont, (301) 271-3180, $14.95, seniors and military $11.95, ages 2-12 $9.95, kids under age 2 free. When you go to the National Zoo you need binoculars to see the animals. Here you can see the lion swish his tail up close.
Leesburg Animal Park, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 19270 James Monroe Highway, Leesburg, Va.,(703) 433-0002, www.leesburganimalpark.com, $9.95, kids and seniors $7.95, kids ages 2 and under free. Your kid is at that stage where she touches everything with no disregard. Take her here, where it's totally okay.
Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily, Druid Hill Park, (410) 366-5466, www.marylandzoo.org, $11, seniors $10, ages 2-11 $9. Samson, our new baby elephant, was let loose earlier this month, which means the cutest antics from the clumsiest animal you've ever seen.
National Aquarium in Washington, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, Department of Commerce Building, (202) 482-2825, www.nationalaquarium.com, $5, seniors and military $4, ages 2-10 $2.50, children under 2 free. Practically hidden in the basement of the Commerce Building, this alternative to our Harborplace Aquarium has sharks, alligators, and fish in a self-guided 45-minute tour.
National Aviary, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, Allegheny Commons West, Pittsburgh, Pa., (412) 323-7235, www.aviary.org, $8, seniors $7, ages 2-12 $6.50, kids under age 2 free. The largest collection of birds, which includes the tropical kind, in the nation plus a new baby penguin. Awwwww.
National Zoo, 6 a.m.-8 p.m. daily, 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, (202) 673-4800, www.nationalzoo.si.edu, free. Everything is family friendly and free. The claim to fame are the pandas, but when the crowds get to you, head for the birds, where the atmosphere feels removed and quiet.
Salisbury Zoological Park, 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m. daily, 755 S. Park Drive, Salisbury, (410) 548-3188, free. Tropical birds, wild cats, and bears in an environment that's relaxing to you and educational for everyone.
Virginia Safari Park, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, 229 Safari Lane, Natural Bridge, Va., (540) 291-3205, www.virginiasafaripark.com, $12, seniors $11, children $8, kids age under 3 free. You can take the African adventure in Africa, but your passport isn't in order. You can take one in Disney World, but Florida isn't nearly as close as a day's drive here.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201