The Soul of STL

Your quick tour of Forest Park.

By Moe Godat


Whether you’re moving to a spacious suburb or to an apartment in the heart of the city, you’ll always have access to the area’s “regional backyard,” Forest Park. Measuring 1,293 acres, Forest Park is nearly 500 acres larger than New York City’s Central Park and also ranks as the 6th most visited urban park in the United States.

Since its establishment in 1876, Forest Park has served as a refuge for both local wildlife and its 13 million annual visitors. Many still consider Forest Park “the soul of St. Louis,” a nickname tied to its role in preserving the metropolitan area’s natural beauty while also containing several major cultural institutions.

The founders of Forest Park intended for the area to be open to everyone regardless of economic status, so many of its attractions are free for general admission. In 2017 the Saint Louis Zoo was recently voted the #1 zoo in the nation by USA Today, housing over 17,000 wild animals of roughly 560 species and drawing in three million visitors annually.

After you visit the new polar bear exhibit, visit some of the park’s other free attractions, such as the Saint Louis Art Museum, which contains work spanning five millennia from six continents, or the Missouri History Museum, which provides an in-depth look at the city’s influence on American culture. These locations provide new exhibitions every year that remain on display for several months before new ones take their places. These exhibitions often require an additional fee, but inclusive memberships to either museum are also available.

You don’t need to be a science buff to enjoy the Saint Louis Science Center, which also offers a free general admission to displays designed for all ages. This location’s main attraction is the James S. McDonnell Planetarium, a 24-meter dome used primarily for displaying a 360-degree view of a simulated night sky, but also screens movies periodically. Tickets for the planetarium shows are available for purchase both upon arrival and online.

Forest Park remains a point of St. Louis pride with the diligent upkeep of over 45,000 trees, architectural hotspots such as the Jewel Box greenhouse, and America’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theater, the Muny. Want to learn more about your new home? Forest Park is a great place to start.