We started in the cooler weather at the St Louis Zoo (8 am opening!) The entry fee is FREE! I know, I couldn’t believe it either! Zoos are typically so expensive, to just walk right in was so unknown, that we waited in a line, just to have the confused attendant, point to the gate and tell us to walk in like we were complete idiots.
Parking: Parking at the zoo was $15 a car. When we were leaving the zoo we saw people walking accross the street presumably to cheaper or free residential parking, but we didn’t know that trick, so we paid to park in the lot.
TIP: My husband dropped the kids and I off at the front entrance. He then drove passed the LONG line, flipped a U-turn and entered the parking lot from the other direction where the line was only 4-5 cars long.
We went on a Saturday to a free zoo so, understandably, it was crowded. But if we were patient, we were able to see all the animals we desired. The crowds moved freely and everyone at their own pace and agenda, so it all works out.
Favorite Exhibits: I loved the smooth perfection of the Cheetah’s fur, the butterfly encounter fluttering all around us and the polar bear swimming right up against the glass. Seeing my 8-month-old laugh at the elephants and get splashed by a penguin was the best! My daughter loved the sea lions swimming right over our heads in a walk through aquarium. My son loved the butt of a wild hog and monkey, of course (He’s 9 thats what boys like). Giant tortoises, red pandas, prairie dogs and the small insect rooms were among the other favorites. We missed the whole section with lions, giraffe, etc. So we will have to come again.
Costs: The zoo had plenty of options to see things the were free. That being said there were several things we wanted to see that you had to pay to get into. The kids were very excited about the children’s zoo with animals to pet and otters. It was $4 a person and I would’ve paid it normally, but we had a few more venues we wanted to hit, so we passed… this time. There was also a sea lion show, wild west outpost (discovery room) and sting ray encounter for $4 to see. The carousel, railroad, safari adventure, and theater we other pay-for attractions. We opted to see everything we desired for free and then move on, vowing to try it out again another day. We still missed 2 HUGE sections of the zoo after 3 hours of animal viewing.
Food: Outside food and drinks (including coolers) are permitted inside the zoo. If we would’ve been more prepared we could’ve eaten and stayed longer, but we needed a food break and recharge, so we headed out.
TIP: A Souvenir cup of soda costs $10.99. Outrageous! but after you buy it you can get a soda refill for $1 and water at any of the concession stands for free. Refilling with slushie was $2.50 We kept our kids hydrated in the hot temperature, so it was worth it to get refills constantly.
This will definitely be getting another visit from us! Thanks City of St. Louis for offering such an amazing FREE zoo!