New carousel opens at the National Zoo

Thousands will brave the cold and crowds for "Zoolights" at the Smithsonians' National Zoo.

And after taking a stroll around the park, children can take a spin the new carousel.

The ride features 58 hand-carved and hand-painted animals grouped by their eco-systems. Many represent endangered species that zoo scientists have spent years studying and breeding.

“And they really kind of depict the natural looks of our animals either here at the National Zoo or the ones around the world,” says Chuck Fillah, director of planning at the zoo.

With 163 solar panels donated by Pepco and installed on its roof, most days the carousel is powered by the sun.

Of course, solar technologies have their limitations. And on cloudy days, the carousel runs on a backup system using the traditional power grid.

No matter how it's powered, children love the zoo's newest feature. And or some foreign visitors, it was their first carousel experience.

Tickets cost $3, with funds going toward animal care and science programs.

Zoo officials say they hope it also raises awareness about conservation.

“Really it's a way to make it an ideal place for families for learning,” Fillah says.