August was an important month for the Smithsonian National Zoo as giant panda Xiao Qi Ji celebrated his first birthday. In honor of the momentous occasion, the zoo’s family of giant pandas partook in fruitsicle cake decorated with apples, carrots, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, bamboo, pears, and bananas.

Xiao Qi Ji was born on August 21st, 2020, to mother Mei Xiang and father Tian Tian. The panda birth was hailed as a triumph for this vulnerable species, and his name, translated into “Little Miracle” in Mandarin Chinese, reflected that feat.

In just three months, Xiao Qi Ji took his very first steps as he continued to grow into what would be a healthy giant panda. The public tuned in to live broadcasts of the young cub and, on May 21st, visitors flocked to see the national zoo pandas as he made his first public appearance.

A Closer Look at the Giant Panda Species

Giant panda bears are native to South Central China and primarily live in Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu. These bears are known for their bold black-and-white coats and diet that consists almost exclusively of bamboo. The giant panda is born as the smallest baby of any placental mammal and weighs between 90 and 130 grams. It is born toothless, blind, and pink.

A giant panda birth is rare in both the wild and captivity. Due to its low birthrate, excessive poaching, and habitat loss, these bears are vulnerable species. In 1976, it was estimated that there were only about 1,000 panda bears in the wild.

Conservation efforts for these beautiful bears officially began in 1963 when the PRC government created the Wolong National Nature Reserve to save the declining panda population. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that several laws were passed to protect them, including removing humans from their reserves and gun control laws.

Today, it’s estimated that the economic upkeep costs of pandas are five times more than elephants, the next most expensive animal.

Are Pandas Endangered?

Giant pandas were first considered an endangered species in the 1990s. Since then, renewed conservation efforts have helped boost the number of this beloved species. In 2016, the panda bear achieved a small victory when the IUCN removed the bears from its endangered species list. With a wild population of up to 1,800 giant pandas, the Chinese government followed that declaration in 2021.

While still considered a vulnerable species, the panda bear is making a comeback after all of the conservation efforts to save them from extinction.

Enjoy Delicious Italian Food After Your Trip to the Zoo

The celebration of Xiao Qi Ji’s first birthday has brought even more visitors to the giant panda exhibit in the Smithsonian National Zoo. Members of the zoo gain exclusive access to the panda yard and indoor panda house viewing areas in the morning every day throughout the summer. The public can also view the Giant Panda Camsonline to watch this special family go about their day.

After your trip to see the giant pandas at the Smithsonian Zoo, you can stop by the LiLLies Restaurant and Bar for some exceptional Italian cuisine. Don’t forget to bring your zoo pass to get 10 percent off your meal.

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What better way to spend the day with your family or loved ones than at the Zoo? The Zoo is a wonderful place to spend a fun day and enjoy all the beautiful animals! The Smithsonian’s National Zoo has a huge variety of gorgeous, exotic, wild animals all to observe and really enjoy. It is a place to learn about wild exotic animals, observe their beauty and behavior, and just have fun!

It is a great way to teach children about wild animals that they cannot see in person aside from going to a Z00 to see them. Children can often discover a favorite animal of theirs just by these trips. A panda is often a favorite animal for children due to their adorable, yet simple features.

After a long day at the Zoo, it will definitely work up an appetite. LiLLiES restaurant is fairly close to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, it is walking distance. It is the perfect location and they have an amazing menu filled with the most delicious food, perfect for everyone!

This particular restaurant has delicious Italian food and they also have panda pancakes! Every child would love that especially after a fun day at the Zoo! Even adults, it is a fun style food, simple, and packed full of flavor! So why not plan an astounding day out at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo that is packed with delicious food right after?

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Trying to remember times where we would dine-in at a restaurant, “normally,” feels like a lifetime away. One of the biggest shifts from COVID came from the way we dine.

Eating in a crowded restaurant, not wearing a mask, throwing a dinner party—all sound like something very bizarre to us now.

There are many things that COVID has changed for us in our day to day lives. The way we choose to dine is one of the biggest changes. Here are three ways that COVID has changed the way we dine today.

  1. We rekindled our relationship with the kitchen

With lockdowns happening, restaurants closing, and fears of leaving your home due to the virus: we started cooking again. From famous viral TikTok’s of banana bread recipes and sourdough bread recipes to try, to many restaurants giving recipes of their own personal foods out. We all learned together during this pandemic, of what we truly can do in the kitchen.

2. We brought back the picnic

When we started to get sick of being inside, we went outside. 2020 brought back the infamous picnic. Outdoor dining became everything during this pandemic. Restaurants were forced to launch a new way of dining—eating outdoors. Many restaurants even created picnic-like take-out options that were served to-go, but ready to eat and drink.

3. We were provided with options

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like 2020 was a year full of options. At first glance, it might seem like all of our options were taken away. But when we really think about it, look at how creative we all became. Restaurants and customers alike. We were forced to innovate the way we dine. Restaurants tried every way they could think of to get diners in and customers tried every way they could to be loyal to neighborhood and local dining. The best thing about these options, is that many of them will stick around.

Dining may never be the same and truly, that is okay. The way the world has come together to create a new look on how we eat, both at home and dining out, is amazing. This is only the beginning, too. We are still learning and this very well could be the most innovative year for the restaurant industry and food industry all together.

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