Spread out over 90 acres of Forest Park, the St. Louis Zoo is a landmark to both the city and to the 1904 World’s Fair. Apart from being a major attraction for both locals and tourists, the St. Louis Zoo is also considered the leader in areas such as animal management, research, conservation, and education. There is no admission fee to the zoo because of a subsidy from the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District. There are fees to get in to a few of the side attractions, but other than that, the zoo is free. The main special feature is the Zooline Railroad which takes visitors to the more popular spots at the zoo.
The zoo’s history starts with the 1904 World’s Fair that was held in St. Louis. One of the attractions at the fair was a bird cage that measured 228 feet long, 84 feet wide, and 50 feet high. At the time it was the largest bird cages built and to this day it still ranks as one of the largest free-flight aviaries in the world. The public became attracted to the bird cage so much, that at the end of the fair, the city of St. Louis purchased it from the Smithsonian. In 1910, the people of St. Louis opted to form a zoo, building it around the bird cage from the world’s fair. By 1914, an independent commission was formed and the search began for a suitable location. Some of the suggestions included Fairgrounds Park, Carondolet Park, the Creve Coeur area and Tower Grove Park. Forest Park was not considered at first because the people residing in the area were worried about the smell from the animals. The then head of the St. Louis Parks Department, Dwight Davis, was opposed as well, until 77 acres was set aside for the zoo. At the same time, the five-man Zoological Board of Control was established. In 1916, the board of control was increased to nine members and the people of St. Louis voted to establish a mill tax to build the St. Louis Zoo. It was noted that this was the first time a mill tax was supported by the local population.
From 1920 to 1969, the St. Louis Zoo would undergo several expansions before reaching the size that it is currently. The zoo is open Friday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the North Star Summer Zoo Weekends and Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Parkway Hotel, Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark and Holiday Inn Express St. Louis Fenton are three hotels closest to the St. Louis Zoo.