Southeast corner of Forest Park (©D. Lancaster)
Officially established in 1876, 1,300-acre Forest Park boasts not just a rambling panorama of forests, meadows and waterways, but a collection of some of St. Louis’ best attractions and things to do.
While admission to most of them is free, you might still pay for parking, special exhibits and special experiences. Still, if you don’t mind walking, it’s possible to have a completely complimentary day in Forest Park, although we recommend springing for some of those special experiences because they are fantastic.
Saint Louis Science Center
The SLSC invites visitors to investigate, explore, and engage with science through fun and interactive learning experiences. 700-plus permanent galleries, live science demonstrations and special exhibitions—currently "The Discovery of King Tut"— plus the exhibit "Grow!" that follows food from field to table. Plan to spend at least half a day. General admission is free; fee for the OMNIMAX Theater ($9-$10), Discovery Room ($4), James S. McDonnell Planetarium shows ($5-$6).
Saint Louis Art Museum
One of the top comprehensive art museums in the U.S. features exhibits from nearly every period and national origin, with extensive holdings in pre-Columbian and German art, and an outstanding collection of American art from 1800 to 1945, including some iconic paintings by Missouri’s acclaimed genre painter, George Caleb Bingham. The museum maintains a full schedule of lectures, tours, films and performances. Admission to the museum and its permanent collection is free, fee for some special exhibits.
Saint Louis Zoo
Regularly recognized as one of the top zoos in the U.S., the Saint Louis Zoo houses more than 24,000 animals, many of them rare and endangered.
Be sure to see The River’s Edge, Penguin and Puffin Coast, Caribbean Cove, Sea Lion Sound and the waterfowl-filled flight cage, a vestige from the 1904 World’s Fair.
Admission to the zoo and most exhibits is free. Admission to the children’s zoo ($4) and carousel ($3) are free the first hour the zoo is open and the Sea Lion Show is $4. Adventure Pass, covering many ticketed attractions, is $12.95.
Missouri History Museum
There’s hardly a better way to get acquainted with St. Louis than through its exemplary history museum featuring three levels: restaurant, gift shop and exhibition galleries showcasing regional history and traveling exhibitions, including its powerful, long-running exhibit, "#1 in Civil Rights: The African American Freedom Struggle in St. Louis."
St. Louis’ grand, 11,000-seat outdoor musical theater in Forest Park—the largest and oldest in the U.S.—presents its 99th summer season of Broadway musicals under the stars.
Upcoming: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (July 5-11); “All Shook Up” (July 13-19); “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” (July 21-27); “A Chorus Line” (July 29-Aug. 4); “Newsies The Musical” (Aug. 7-13). Showtimes 8:15 pm. $14-$87; the last rows of the theater are free—first come, first served.
Forest Park Boathouse
Paddleboats are available for rental at $15 per hour, on which you can tour the waterways from Post-Dispatch Lake to the Grand Basin. Open daily from 10 am to one hour prior to sunset. Food and occasional live music available at Boathouse Café.
Norman K. Probstein Golf Course
The renovated course in Forest Park now offers three, nine-hole courses designed by Hale Irwin. $35-$50 for 18 holes with cart.
City Cycling Tours
Take a leisurely, narrated bicycle tour of Forest Park. Bikes and helmets provided, of course, and the tour guide knows everything about Forest Park. Reservations necessary. Tours start at the parking lot near the Visitors Center. $25-$30 per person depending on group size.