Best Kid-Friendly Attraction in St. Louis, Missouri is Free
Visitors to St. Louis may be surprised at how friendly the city is for families on a budget. One of its top family attractions, The St. Louis Zoo, has no admission fee.
The St. Louis Zoo is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. It currently holds the #3 slot in the 2009 Parent’s Magazine “Best Zoos for Kids” survey and scored first place for the best zoo in the nation in Zagat’s U.S. Family Travel Guide.
How Much Does It Cost to Visit the St. Louis Zoo
Parking costs $11 per vehicle, but street parking is free. The zoo opens at 8am in the summer, so plan accordingly and nab a free spot on the street. There is plenty of street parking along the winding roads of Forest Park, but they tend to go quickly.
There might not be a general admission charge to the zoo, but several interesting attractions charge a small fee: the carousel ($3), the Children’s Zoo ($4), the stingray petting area ($3), the sea lion show ($3) and the zoo train ($5). Locals can buy a family membership for $60 dollars and get a year’s worth of everything for free, including six parking passes.
Visitors will do well enough with a $10 per person Safari Pass if they want a discount on all the goodies. It would cost $18 to do all these attractions separately. Note that children under two are free for everything and that an adult can ride the carousel for free if they’re needed to chaperone a small child.
Plenty to See for Free at the St. Louis Zoo
Early birds can save $10 per person by getting to the zoo at opening time. From 8am to 9am the Children’s Zoo, the carousel, and the stingray petting area are all free. Tip: get all three for free by doing the Children’s Zoo last.
Despite all the pay areas, most of the zoo is actually free. The only animals that are hidden in pay areas are the stingrays and the animals inside the Children’s Zoo. Even sea lions can be viewed for free at the Sea Lion Basin where the non-performing animals are housed.
Visitors with preschool children should check out the Zoomaginaton Station. This hands-on play area is located inside the living world and is free. The visitor must reserve a time slot to play on a first-come, first-served basis.
Pay Attractions Visitors Can Skip at the St. Louis Zoo
There are a few pay attractions that budget-conscious visitors can safely skip at the zoo without missing much. One is the St. Louis Zoo Railroad. First-time visitors should be advised that the train is more of an amusement ride and not really a good mode of transportation. Although the train does make four stops along its route, the lines are so long that it would be quicker to walk. Also, the zoo does not allow strollers on board, forcing parents to leave them behind at the station where they boarded. Skip the train to avoid the crowds and save time.
Another area you can safely skip is The Children’s Zoo. The Children’s Zoo is targeted to young children and doesn’t have many animals inside it. What it does have is a petting area with friendly goats and a playground to burn off extra energy. There is a ground-level fountain for children to cool off in and a transparent slide that dives through a river otter tank. An indoor area offers fish tanks, naked mole rats, meerkats, and plenty of frogs. Preschoolers can play pretend in an “animal hospital,” drive a play jeep, and visit a climbing area. An outdoor theater offers free animal shows.
The St. Louis Zoo is a world-class attraction that is not only family-friendly but budget-friendly too.