At A Glance
Location: 1 Government Drive, St. Louis, Missouri, 63110
Hours: Monday-Thursday 8 AM – 5 PM; Friday-Saturday 8 AM – 7PM; Sunday 9 AM – 5 PM
Price: Free admission with a $15 parking fee and other small charges for some shows
The Saint Louis Zoo was born thanks to the 1904 World’s Fair, which brought great attention to St. Louis and Forest Park. A walk-through birdcage was constructed in this area by the Smithsonian Institution, and just 10 days after the fair closed, the St. Louis citizens purchased the Flight Cage for $3,500. They had no interest in dismantling the cage, and it became the first attraction of the Saint Louis Zoo.
As interest in a real zoo grew, a group of concerned citizens united and formed the Zoological Society of St. Louis in 1910. And by 1914, the society was incorporated as an independent civic organization for those interested in a zoo. At first, there were many suggestions for a location such as Fairground Park, Creve Coeur, Carondelet Park, and even the Tower Grove Park area.
Ultimately, the Saint Louis Zoo was placed in Forest Park with a dedicated 77 acres, and was initially home to a small amount of animals that included deer, antelope, buffalo, a cow, a Sandhill crane, a camel, ducks, prairie dogs, foxes, rabbits, raccoon, and others.
The Saint Louis Zoo did not become what it is today overnight. It took many years of planning and renovations beginning in the late 1920s and continuing as recently as 2013.
What to Expect at the St. Louis Zoo
The Saint Louis Zoo is hailed as one of the best zoos in the U.S. and one of the top ten in the world. It’s a great place to visit with children and you can easily spend an entire day there. The Zoo is separated into distinct areas, which include:
- Lakeside Crossing
- River’s Edge
- Discovery Corner
- The Wild
- Historic Hill
- Bed Rocks
Today, the Zoo covers 90 acres and is home to over 14,000 animals from 500 different species. You’ll see everything from primates and reptiles to birds, big cats, elephants, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, zebras, and many more.
Paid Attractions at the Saint Louis Zoo
Kids and adults will enjoy visiting the following paid attractions at the Saint Louis Zoo:
- The Sea Lion Show ($3.95 per person)
- Dinoroarus ($5.95 per person)
- Conservation Carousel ($2.95 per person)
- Zooline Railroad ($7.95 per person)
- Stingrays at Caribbean Cove ($3.95 per person)
- Wild Wonder Outpost ($3 per person for non-members)
- 4D Theater ($4.95 per person for non-members)
Is St. Louis the only free zoo?
No! There are several other free zoos in the United States. Some of the others include:
- Cape May County Park & Zoo in New Jersey
- Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
- Salisbury Zoo in Maryland
- Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago
- Como Park Zoo in Minnesota
- Henry Vilas Zoo in Wisconsin
- Lee Richardson Zoo in Kansas
- David Traylor Zoo in Kansas
- Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo in Hawaii
The Saint Louis Zoo covers 90 acres and is home to over 14,000 animals, so it takes a good 4 to 7 hours to see everything offered. However, this can be overwhelming for small children, so it may be best to visit several times for 2 or 3 hours each.
The Saint Louis Zoo is paid for by the city and county of St. Louis, so it should always be free. This was done via a vote by the citizens in 1971 when they approved the ZMD to support St. Louis’ Art Museum and Zoo. Later, they also added the Missouri Botanical Gardens and Missouri History Museum as well.
Due to COVID-19 and social distancing, the Saint Louis Zoo has been using a reservation system for visitors. However, this is ending on May 23, 2022, so after that day you’ll be able to once again visit the Saint Louis Zoo without a reservation.