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St. Louis is known for being a family- and visitor-friendly city with plenty of attractions to entertain visitors of all ages. One standout attraction is the St. Louis Zoo, which delights locals and tourists alike. This zoo was recently voted “Best Zoo and America’s Top Free Attraction” and hosts around 3 million visitors each year. Their mission is to help conserve animals and their habitats through research efforts, animal management, and educational resources that engage the public. There are over 16,000 animals to experience at the St. Louis Zoo, many of which are endangered, and people can get an up-close experience to connect with all kinds of wildlife. The zoo is open 9am-5pm each day, with longer summer hours, so come pay a visit to take advantage of this St. Louis gem. Here are 5 reasons to make the St. Louis Zoo a stop on your must-visit list:
1. Admission is free
It’s not enough that this zoo has 90 acres of animal exhibits and exciting attractions, but all of this comes at no cost. This renowned zoo has no admission fee, making it accessible and wallet-friendly for its many visitors. They do offer some additional paid attractions inside, which include the Children’s Zoo, the Zooline Railroad, the Stingrays at Caribbean Cove, the Sea Lion Show, the 4-D Theatre, and the Conservation Carousel, but families can easily remain entertained with the multitude of other free animal exhibits.
2. Fantastic location
The St. Louis Zoo is conveniently nestled in the beautiful Forest Park, one of the treasured green spaces in St. Louis. This park also contains many other free family-friendly attractions like the St. Louis Art Museum, James S. McDonnell Planetarium, and St. Louis Science Center. You can even grab a Forest Park Trolley ticket to get around the park all day, making it easier if you have little ones in tow.
3. Sea Lion Sound Exhibit
When taking the day to adventure through the zoo, the Sea Lion Sound exhibit is a must-see. As one of the largest exhibits, it offers many great vantage points to see the California sea lions in action. It’s also the first place in North America with a domed underwater tunnel where visitors can watch the graceful seals swimming alongside them. They also have an above-ground area to watch them play. This immersive experience includes daily training shows in the summer months and occasional weekend shows in the fall and spring.
4. Somali Wild Ass and Hippopotamus exhibits
One distinct exhibit to catch is that of the Somali Wild Ass. This unique species is the smallest of all wild equids (horses, zebras, and asses) and is typically found in the grassland and desert habitat in Northeastern Somalia and Northern Ethiopia. These critically endangered creatures are cared for, rehabilitated, and bred at the St. Louis zoo. They resemble a common gray donkey except for one defining feature on their legs — white horizontal stripes that hint at their zebra relatives. Visitors can watch these striking animals in action and note their varying personalities, as some are drawn to herds and others to a more solitary existence. The hippopotamus exhibit is equally fascinating, where you can watch these amazingly large creatures move gracefully through the water. They’re located in the River’s Edge Africa Nile area in the Hippo Harbor.
5. Great layout
One feature to note about this zoo is its amazing layout. The central area is host to the popular sea lion and stingray exhibits at Lakeside Crossing. Most other sections of the zoo are easily accessible from there, so it’s easy to get around. If you’re up for a more exciting way to explore the zoo, you can take a ride on the Zooline Railroad. This railway circles the whole zoo and you can hop on and off all day. As you’re navigating, if you don’t want to deal with a paper map, you also have the option to download the St. Louis Zoo’s app which includes a map, schedule of events, and other useful information to complement your day’s zoo adventure.
Other exhibits worth visiting are the Polar Bear, Penguin, Asian Elephants and African Wild Dogs exhibits. For less favorable weather, check out their indoor Mary Ann Lee Butterfly Wing exhibit in the Insectarium where you can stroll alongside butterflies, dragonflies and moths. As well as their many exhibits, the zoo also hosts activities and programs to fascinate people of all ages, including the Children’s Film Festival in late February and Enrichment Eggstravaganza in April 2018. You can find more details on their website. No matter when you decide to go, the St. Louis Zoo is sure to be a great experience.