St. Louis is known as the home of the Arch and the path of Lewis and Clark as they opened the American West. But, if you have a day to spend in St. Louis with the family, make time to visit Forest Park. “A park?” You say, “Couldn’t I see a park in my own area?” Sure, but not like this one. Forest Park, located on the west side of the city, encompasses 1293 acres and is bigger than Central Park in New York City. It’s filled with a treasure trove of activities and best of all, they are mostly free. Here are some of the sites you don’t want to miss in Forest Park.
Must Visit Sites in Forest Park
1. Architecture and Sculpture in Forest Park – The beauty of the grounds in Forest Park is enhanced by the architecture and sculpture located throughout the park. Unlike most sculpture and architecture that has large “Do Not Touch” signs, most of the park has a hands-on policy. You’ll find children frolicking in the fountains or climbing on the sculptures to pose for pictures. Be sure to check out the Apotheosis of St. Louis, a statute representing Louis IX of France, who lived from 1214-1270), and is the namesake of the city. Created by W.R. Hodges and unveiled in 1906, this statute was the symbol for the city until the Gateway Arch was completed in 1966. The statute is located directly across from the St. Louis Art. Museum.
2. St. Louis Art Museum-Originally built as the Fine Arts Palace of the 1904 World’s Fair, the Museum offers a broad selection to appeal to all art lovers. Think your children won’t enjoy art? Visit the Arms and Armor section, a collection of weapons from the 15th through the 18th centuries. There are enough swords and armor to satisfy any boy’s curiosity. Other exhibits range from Ancient American Art to Contemporary Art. With over 33,000 objects you’ll find something that appeals to everyone. Although admission to the Saint Louis Art Museum is free, stop by on Fridays for free admission to featured exhibitions which regularly cost extra. Be aware the Art Museum is closed on Monday.
3. Forest Park Zoo– dating back to 1891, the Forest Park Zoo is an example of one of the finest zoos in the country. The zoo houses more than 14840 exotic animals, many of whom are rare and endangered, and over 603 species. There are plenty of outdoor exhibits to explore including Big Cat Country, home to lions and tigers, oh my, and Fragile Forest the outdoor summer habitat for orangutans, chimpanzees, and gorillas. When you need to cool down, visit the Butterfly Wing, and enclosed dome filled with all species of butterflies and the Penguin and Puffin Coast. Those exhibits barely scratch the surface of all the zoo has to offer. You could easily spend an entire day here with the kids. The Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Note: Some activities, such as the train and carousel are available for a fee.)
4. The Muny —is the onsite Municipal Theatre. They offer Broadway shows from mid-June until mid-August. They offer 1500 free seats for every show, but they fill up fast. If you want to see a show, your best chance is to buy tickets. Prices range from $14-$90 each, and concessions can be bought on-site. Shows change several times a season, and range from classics to smash hits. Parking fills up quickly near the Muny, so you will want to arrive at Forest Park early. Expect traffic after the show. Although we have seen shows at the Muny, during our last visit we had a picnic at one of the tables near the amphitheater and listened to their practice.
5. Missouri History Museum is located near the entrance to the park in the Jefferson Memorial Building. First built to honor Thomas Jefferson, with funds from the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition and World’s Fair, this space now captures Missouri’s history. With exhibits ranging from colonial days, the Plains Indian cultures, and items connected with Charles Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic “Spirit of St. Louis” flight, there are hands-on exhibits for the children to help them recreate the past. (And, they are kind of fun for adults too!) The building is like a walk through time as it begins in the past and leads up to the not so distant past. Be sure to visit the special History Clubhouse for games, reading, and more. Note: Admission is free, but some special exhibits might include a fee.
6. St. Louis Science Museum & James S. McDonnell Planetarium -want to practice those STEM activities with the kids this summer in a way they won’t know they are learning? Visit the St. Louis Science Museum. There are more than 600 exhibits on subjects like ecology, the environment, aviation, space, and technology. With three floors of exhibits, kids can explore the human body, learning how our brains, senses, and bodies work or stop by one of the amazing science demonstrations to watch experiments in action. And that’s just a fraction of the activities! Admission to the Science Center is free. The James S. McDonnell Planetarium features space exhibits, a star projector and more. Some activities, such as Planetarium shows and special exhibits are available for a fee.
7. Turtle Park is a great place for the kids to explore. Filled with statues of giant land turtles created by sculptor Robert Cassilly, parents can relax while the kids have a blast crawling over the turtles. Turtle Park can be found at the northwest corner of Tamm and Oakland avenues.
8. The Jewel Box is as beautiful inside as it outside. Surrounded by rose gardens, lily ponds, statuary, monuments and seasonal flower displays, this is a nature lovers paradise. Designed by William Becker and opened in 1936, this glass-enclosed greenhouse is open to the public from 9 AM until 4 PM Mondays through Fridays. Although admission is $1, it is free to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays from 9:00 AM until 12:00 PM.
Tips To Know Before You Go:
*Parking is at a premium and most of it is parallel parking. Be prepared to walk.
* The Park is Massive. If you don’t want to walk around the park, you can take the trolley. During the months of April through September, the trolley operates from 9 AM until 7 PM. It runs every 20 minutes on weekdays and every 15 minutes on weekends. All day passes which allow unlimited on and off again privileges cost $2.00 for adults and $1 for children ages 5-12, Seniors and Disabled visitors. *If you purchase your tickets when boarding the trolley, exact change is required.
* You can download an app featuring a map of the park or stop by the visitors center for a paper copy.
Have you visited Forest Park in St. Louis? What is your favorite activity?