The National Zoo Reopened — and Everybody Is Obsessed With Its New Baby Panda

The Smithsonian National Zoo's "Little Miracle" recently made his public debut.

Born in August, Xiao Qi Ji, the giant panda cub grew up away from the public — and only seen by visitors via webcam — as the zoo has been closed due to the pandemic, however last week the cute cub got to see his adoring fans.

"The panda cub is definitely a star attraction, but overall, the sense that I have from our visitors is that they're just happy to be able to return to the Zoo, enjoy the time outdoors with their families and see all the animals," zoo spokesperson Pamela Baker-Masson told ABC News. "We've opened with many safety precautions in place, but it certainly feels like we're returning to our new normal."

Those who visited the zoo during its reopening weekend were the first to see Xiao Qi Ji living his best life: playing with milk crates, eating bamboo, and climbing trees.

The panda's name translates to "Little Miracle," because he was born to a 22-year-old mother, who was considered too old to become pregnant. The public voted on Xiao Qi Ji's name back in November.

When Xiao Qi Ji is four years old, he will fly to China and join his three siblings (named Bei Bei, Bao Bao and Tai Shan) to participate in a breeding program to revitalize the giant panda population in their native land.

Over the past nine months, Xiao Qi Ji has grown to weigh 45 pounds and is on track with learning behaviors that will eventually allow him to take care of himself without the help of his mother.

Smithsonian museums including the American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery also reopened this month.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at

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