Saint Louis Zoo - The Crown Jewel Of St. Louis Attractions

5.0 stars

Saint Louis Zoo Takeaway. The Crown Jewel Of St. Louis Attractions. It's free!!! One of the best things to do in St. Louis. Get here early and park on the north side for easy access.

The Zoo and the Arch are the most prominent tourist attractions in the city. One of the best places to take family when they visit for a weekend. If you live here, take advantage of it being free by stopping by whenever you want for as long as you like. Our average trip here is only about an hour.

Penguins are my favorite, but they stink, literally. Polar bears are a big draw. Zebra, giraffes, lions, monkeys, and elephants round out the big event animals.

Train, carousel, and petting sting rays cost money. Parking in the dedicated lots is $10, but you can find free street parking on the North side, particularly if you get there early. It's important to note what parking lots are open during certain times of the year. Like everything in St. Louis, the hours can be weird, so check ahead.

Table Of Contents: Overview | Exhibits | Details & Info

Saint Louis Zoo penguin standing


  • Living World Building-St. Louis Zoo, Government Dr, St. Louis, MO 63110
  • (314) 781-0900
  • Website
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  • Google Maps - 4.8 stars - 33,532 ratings


Monday10 AM–4 PM
Tuesday10 AM–4 PM
Wednesday10 AM–4 PM
Thursday10 AM–4 PM
Friday10 AM–4 PM
Saturday9 AM–4 PM
Sunday9 AM–4 PM


Saint Louis Zoo Summary

The St. Louis Zoo is a must-visit destination, whether you're just passing through or a resident. Renowned for being one of the best free zoos in the nation, it ranks alongside the paid Zoos I've visited in New York City, San Diego, and San Francisco. While St. Louis won't measure up to San Diego, the fact that it's infinitely cheaper makes up for it. $250 for a family of four at San Diego Zoo vs $0 at the St. Louis Zoo.

Saint Louis Zoo north entrance

Our preferred route starts from the north entrance, taking a clockwise path. This entrance is easier to access, especially for parking, with options for street parking available after a short walk if you arrive early. Moreover, members can park in the zoo's lot for free, directly adjacent to this entrance. However, street parking is safe and often within a ten-minute walk. You can also park on the south side of the Zoo off of I-64.

To maximize your zoo experience, I highly recommend arriving early. One of the best times there was when the zoo opened at 8 am for early admission on July 4th. We arrived right at opening time and practically had the entire park to ourselves! However, if you're planning a visit on holidays or special event days, it's wise to note they can get quite busy.

Saint Louis Zoo lobby

When the zoo is packed, expect some waiting times. The increased wait may mean 20-30 minutes for the carousel, longer lines to see the penguins, and an increased wait time for the train. However, the zoo has plenty of space so that you will feel comfortable. Food stalls, stingrays, and other attractions with rate limits tend to have longer queues during peak times.

Saint Louis Zoo Things To Do

Saint Louis Zoo map

Our clockwise rotation through the zoo begins at the north entrance, leading directly to the grizzly bears and then the penguins - my favorite zoo exhibit. This area features an open section where you can watch the penguins on a ledge or go indoors to see them swim around.

Saint Louis Zoo inside penguins

It's important to note that all my tips are based on our north side entrance preference as we've never entered through the south side via Route 64.

Following the penguins, you'll encounter the polar bear exhibit. Depending on the time and day, you'll witness the bear swimming underwater (an excellent photo opportunity!) or casually lounging on land.

Saint Louis Zoo polar bear

Next is the carousel, which kids absolutely love. Members receive around 20 tickets annually for the carousel and the stingrays, plus 20 for the train. They cost a couple of dollars per person without a membership.

Saint Louis Zoo carousel

After the carousel, we usually take a train ride around the Zoo. Despite the slow pace and uncomfortable seating, the train ranks highly as a favorite for both my kids. It takes you around the Zoo's entire perimeter, with stops at several key attractions. One of my children's highlights is the changing color lights in the tunnel near the south side. However, unless you are a member or intend to visit different areas of the park, the train's limited number of stops and low visibility might not be worth the time or money.

The train lets us see the elephants for a quick minute and some other animals on the park's east side.

Saint Louis Zoo train station Saint Louis Zoo train

After returning to the initial train station, we carried on the counterclockwise tour to the gorillas and maybe monkey exhibits. It's always fun to see a gorilla butt or watch them hang out in the sun.

If you go east, you'll go to the red panda and prairie dogs by the central concession stands. Alternatively, taking the northwest path leads you through an aviarium (birdhouse) and savanna area, where you can view zebras, giraffes, and gazelles.

Saint Louis Zoo Zebra

For our sake, we'll take the northwest, clockwise trip. So after seeing the giraffes, you'll end up in Big Cat Country. Here, the visibility of lions, tigers, jaguars, cheetahs, and mountain lions varies. Sometimes, the lions are out, and occasionally the jaguars. The cats can be hit or miss, so don't get too excited about seeing any specific one on your visit.

Saint Louis Zoo giraffe Saint Louis Zoo giraffe two

At this point, you'll be about an hour into the visit, assuming you took the train around. There are some snack stands with excellent popcorn if you're in the mood. We try to bring snacks and a drink to avoid paying too much, but you get a 10% discount if you're a member.

We then headed south from Big Cat Country to the central concession area. Along the way, you'll pass the seals, which might be doing some tricks, and the prairie dogs. They are fun to watch burrow around if they are out in force.

Saint Louis Zoo puffins

Now, back at the center of the Zoo, our day usually is coming to an end. If we have some energy left, we'll take a gander at the flamingos, but most likely, we'll continue north to the exit.

We usually wrap it up for the day after about an hour or an hour and a half at the zoo. As members, that's enough for one visit, and we don't feel guilty because we get multiple visits a year to see everything.

At this point, we should attempt a counterclockwise loop to see the parts of the zoo we haven't explored since moving here in 2019, namely the elephants.

Saint Louis Zoo elephant Saint Louis Zoo elephants

Saint Louis Zoo Details And Info

Saint Louis Zoo gift shop

Certain amenities are only open during specific points in the year. You should check the website for details here.

Winter Hours Jan. 6 through March 1, 2024

10 a.m.-4 p.m. -- Monday through Friday

9 a.m.-4 p.m. -- Saturday and Sunday

Monday, Jan. 15, 2024 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)

9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Monday, Feb. 19, 2024 (Presidents Day)

9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Special Winter Hours

January 8 through March 1, 2024

Monday through Friday -- The South Entrance and South Parking Lot on Wells Drive at Tamm Avenue near I-64 are closed to guests Monday through Friday. The closings include the South Welcome Desk, Rentals, and Safari Gift Shop. Guests should park in the North Parking Lot and enter through the North Entrance on these days.

The North Entrance and North Parking Lot, located on Government Drive, are open for guest entry and parking every day of the week.

Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays -- South Entrance, South Parking Lot, and South Welcome Desk are open on Saturday and Sunday and holidays: Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Monday, January 15) and Presidents Day (Monday, February 19).

The Zooline Railroad, Conservation Carousel, and 4D Theater operate weather permitting. They do not operate during inclement weather or low temperatures. Please check at a Welcome Desk on the day of your visit to see what attractions are open.

Cafe Kudu, the restaurant in The Living World, is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends and favorable weather days during fall and winter. Lakeside Cafe is open daily.

Spring Hours (March 2-May 23)

9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily

Summer Hours (May 24-Sept. 2)

Memorial Day Weekend

Friday-Monday, May 24-27, 2024

8 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

May 28 through Aug. 18, 2024

8 a.m.-5 p.m. -- Sunday-Thursday

8 a.m.-6:30 p.m. -- Friday-Saturday

Friday, June 21, 2024

8 a.m.-noon

Zoo closes early for ZOOFARI

Wednesday, Aug. 7

8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Aug. 19-30, 2024

9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily**

Friday, Aug. 23, 2024

9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Zoo closes early for Jammin' at the Zoo.

Labor Day Weekend

Saturday-Monday, Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 2024

8 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

Fall-Winter Hours (Sept. 3-Dec. 31)

Sept. 3 through Oct. 8, 2024

9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily*

*Friday, Sept. 27, 2024

9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Oct. 9 through Dec. 30, 2024

9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, except holidays

Holiday Hours 2024:

Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving Day) -- 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve) -- 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Dec. 25 (Christmas Day) -- Zoo closed

Dec. 31 (New Year's Eve) -- 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Jan. 1, 2025 (New Year's Day) -- Zoo closed

Saint Louis Zoo exit

Parking At The Saint Louis Zoo

Parking on the North Side is pretty straightforward. Depending on when you get there and how crowded it is, you can opt for the $10 parking lot or try to find street parking. I've had to park a ten-to-fifteen-minute walk away in the past. In that case, I usually drop the family off and catch up with them later.

When you're leaving the North entrance, it's important to drive north on Fine Arts Dr. pats the Art Museum to get out of the park. You can't go south down Government Dr as you'll hit an impenetrable circle that will send you back the way you came or down to the busy South parking lot.

Saint Louis Zoo Receipt

Saint Louis Zoo membership

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