Where: Georgetown to the zoo.

Why: Lions and tigers and bears -- frozen in bronze and stone.

How Far: About 12 miles, or at least a couple hours to see the wildlife.

Take a safari through the nation's capital and discover one of the city's little-known treasures: an abundance of animals cast in metal or sculpted in stone. While most are easy to spot, others may have you veering off the beaten path or peering into the sky. So grab your binoculars and explore the wilder side of Washington. Almost a whole alphabet of animals awaits, from anteater to zebra.

Begin in Georgetown underneath a pair of beautiful ceramic horse heads. Originally located at the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. stables (the first bottles of beer were delivered by horse and wagon), this equine art was saved when the original buildings were razed to make way for the Kennedy Center.

In Foggy Bottom, you can't miss the gape-mouthed hippo, George Washington University's unofficial mascot that emerges from the decorative grasses planted on this once-swampy land. When you find Fala at the FDR Memorial, imagine this frisky White House pet standing at attention on hind legs, as he often did when he heard the national anthem playing.

Next, wander among the birds and horses and hares in the two outdoor sculpture gardens on the Mall. (Don't be frightened by Louise Bourgeois's "Spider" looming over the National Gallery's landscaped escape: The artist claims the arachnids actually are quite maternal.) Then, for pure old-time fun, take a whirl on the zebra or turquoise dragon on the 1947 Allan Herschell Carousel in front of the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building.

Where else to end this urban expedition but at the National Zoo? With its sculpted creature collection, you can almost complete your animal alphabet. Erwin Frederick Springweiler's "Anteater" should top your list; Phillip Ratner's panda, a metal tribute to Ling-Ling (who died in 1992) will likely inspire you to return this fall to see the real thing -- when Mei Xiang's cub is expected to be on view.

Nancy Arbuthnot and Cathy Abramson

Nancy Arbuthnot and Cathy Abramson are co-authors of "Wild Washington: Animal Sculptures A to Z" (Annapolis Publishing Company, $18).