Last week, over Spring Break, some friends of mine kidnapped me for a day trip to a zoo I hadn’t visited in 23 years… the St. Louis Zoo.
Of course, 23 years is a small metaphorical drop in the hat for the zoo, whose history is directly tied in with the 1904 World’s Fair. That year, the Smithsonian Institute built a flight cage to showcase birds and, following the fair, the city purchased the attraction. Over the coming decade, public interest would create the funds for the zoological park, which would continue construction of what is now called “Historic Hill” through the Great Depression.
Several buildings, the architecture of which reflects the early years in which they were built, still stand on Historic Hill today. Peabody Hall holds seasonal exhibits, the Bird House (with its attached garden) shows off exotic birds from all over the world, the Primate House keeps small monkeys and lemurs engaged with visitors, and the Herpetarium maintains populations of amphibians, snakes, tortoises, turtles, and lizards.
The zoo has continued to expand over the years and now features over 90 acres of land with more than 560 unique species on site. In addition to Historic Hill, the districts are split up according to major habitat. The Red Rocks section includes Big Cat Country and habitats for zoo familiars giraffes and their odd cousins Okapi alike. In the Wild, you can find the Great Apes, Penguins and Puffins (housed indoors in a freezing cold exhibit), the Polar bear, and more. There’s also Discovery Corner with the Children’s Zoo and the Insectarium and the River’s Edge with a wide variety of animals you would find at the edge of various rivers… including elephants, hyenas, and hippos. Honestly, the best part of this whole exhibit is coming face to face with a hippo.
When it comes to embracing history, a new Bird House would be built in 1930, but the old flight cage still stands as an exhibit within the zoo. In fact, it holds an artificial Cypress swamp these days, which is too peaceful by far.
The St. Louis Zoo is located at 1 Government Drive in St. Louis, Missouri and is open during the summer daily from 9 am-5 pm. The zoo is free, but other sundries (such as parking) have a fee. For more information, including information on how to become a member of the zoo, be sure to check out their website or their Facebook page.