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Saint Louis Zoo Pending Visit

Discussion in 'United States' started by RetiredToTheZoo, 10 Oct 2016.

  1. RetiredToTheZoo

    RetiredToTheZoo Well-Known Member

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    I plan on being in St. Louis in the next week or so and would like to incorporate a visit to the zoo, as it's been many, many years since I was there. I would appreciate any advice or suggestions anyone might want to offer. Such as, is this a half day (3-4 hrs.), an all day (6-8 hrs.), or a two day visit? What are the must see exhibits? If time becomes short, what exhibits would you skip? I'll be going in the middle of the week, so any suggestions on arrival time, traffic, parking, etc. Thank you very much for any help.
     
  2. jibster

    jibster Well-Known Member

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    Funny that you post this, as I was in almost the same situation as you just last week when I found myself in St. Louis for the first time in 20 years (I had been to the zoo several times, but haven't been back since 1996, before most of the current marquee exhibits had been opened). I had been planning on writing a more full review (and may still do so), but I'll set down some of my thoughts here, for what they're worth.

    I'd say the zoo is a long half-day at the least; I spent almost 4.5 hours there, covering basically all of the zoo (save the Stingray exhibit and the Sea Lion show), and not really taking any breaks. If you're a person who really likes to linger at exhibits, I'd definitely allow a full day if you want to cover it all. Two days is probably not necessary.

    As for the exhibits themselves, the high points are all of River's Edge (to my mind, the indisputed highlight of the zoo and one of the best exhibit complexes in the country), Penguin and Puffin Coast, and Sea Lion Sound. The great ape enclosures, while not new, are spacious and well-suited for their inhabitants (who were particularly active during my visit). For me, the most skippable exhibits were Polar Bear Point (a very disappointing new exhibit with far too little water and far too much mock rock for its lone inhabitant - but you really can't miss seeing it if you see Penguin and Puffin Coast) and the historic Monkey House (which has a decent collection of species, but small, poorly lit, and often rather sterile and barren exhibits - I love primates, but found nothing worth going out of one's way for, although there is at least one extremely rare species in the Spectacled Langur - which was unfortunately nowhere to be seen and may no longer be in the collection). If I were limited for time, I would probably skip most of the Historic Hill section, as the historic Bird House and Herpetarium are nothing too special (though both, notably the Herpetarium, have a good collection of species there is nothing particularly noteworthy in the display) - but the Great Flight Cage has been impressively updated as a Cypress swamp exhibit and the Bird Gardens makes for a pleasant diversion. If you're at all a fan of hoofstock, Red Rocks is probably a must-see, for although the exhibits are nothing special, the collection boasts one of the best remaining roster of species.

    As for when to arrive, I would recommend arriving at opening time for several reasons: first, you are much more likely to find free street parking around the north end of the zoo early in the morning (to avoid the hefty $15 fee for parking in the north or south lots); second, you can avoid charges for the Children's Zoo (worth visiting for the very nice Tasmanian devil exhibit, even though the rest is mostly forgettable) and the Stingray exhibit (each costs $4 to enter, but entrance to both is free during the first hour the zoo is open); and third, animal activity is usually higher in the early morning. If you go at opening, I'd highly recommend starting with the Stingrays (if you're interested in seeing them), followed by the Children's Zoo, then River's Edge - such a path would save you $8 and avoid too much backtracking. As for traffic, I can't help too much as I visited on the weekend.

    If you have any other questions, I'd be happy to help out.
     
  3. jayjds2

    jayjds2 Well-Known Member

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    It's definitely an all day visit. The only absolutely must see (in my opinion) is River's Edge. It's probably the best exhibit complex at the zoo, with both older and newer exhibits. If you want to see the Children's Zoo without paying, arrive in the first hour the zoo is open. It has a few rare species like echidna, tree kangaroo, and Tasmanian devil.

    I'll give a brief summary of all exhibits, dividing up them into the six areas that the map does:
    River's Edge: animals from Africa, South America, Missouri, and Asia. Begins with South America (Bush dog, macaw, anteater, capybara, spectacled bear) with some great exhibits. The newest is for spectacled bear, and it does a pretty nice job. Africa is next, with black rhino, sacred ibis, African wild dog, cheetah, spectacles hyena, bat-eared fox, red river hog, bee-eaters, Nile hippos, and perhaps a few more. The newest exhibit here is for African wild dogs, all-around pretty sold again. Next is Asia, with Asian elephants and a great sun bear exhibit. Beloved elephant "Raja" was born at the zoo 20-some years ago, and he was the reason this complex was built. He is magnificent to look at. The sun bears have a new exhibit that is the second-best I've seen for the species. Missouri is last, with an outdoor pond and a large fish tank.

    The Wild: a little bit of everything. Penguin and Puffin Coast is the most popular attraction here for normal visitors. I'm not too thrilled by it, but it's not bad by any means. The penguins have an open-topped exhibit, though it's tall enough to prevent most visitors from coming in contact with the birds. They have a quite successful breeding program for king penguins. Puffins have a similar exhibit. If you are very sensitive to cold temperatures, you won't want to stay for long. Outdoors is a Humboldt penguin and brown pelican exhibit. Next is Polar Bear Point. Odd viewing, smallish pool, but better than most polar bear exhibits. The train station is another attraction here- takes you around most of the zoo. There are two other stops but if I want to ride it all the way around, this is normally where I'll get on. There is an elephant habitat that can only be seen by riding the train. A big waterfowl lake is home to various waterfowl and flamingos. There are misc. exhibits for prairie dog and red panda that are decent. Lastly is the great ape complex, Fragile Forest. Every species of great ape except bonobos, and in quite good exhibits. If I recall correctly, in the indoor building for gorillas, there are Patas monkeys, though I may be thinking of a different zoo. The exhibits for all the animals in this section are average or better.

    Red Rocks:
    If you like hoofstock, this is the place for you. Nearly all of the zoo's hooofstock is here, representing some rare and unusual species. The exhibits are of varying quality, the main issue being space. Since most exhibits otherwise are the same, here's a species list: Bactrian camel, lowland nyala, ostrich, giraffe, Javan banteng, visayan warty pig, babirusa, Somali wild ass, Grévy's zebra, Sichuan takin, Chinese goral, Speke's gazelle, Soemerring's gazelle, okapi, red kangaroo, emu, and a wallaby species I've forgotten. Big Cat Country is the other exhibit here, with exhibits that are either too big or too small for jaguar, snow leopard, Amur leopard, cougar, lion, and tiger (Sumatran I think). Lions, tigers, and jaguars are in really big pits while the rest are in netted enclosures that are too small.

    Lakeside Crossing: mostly visitor amenities (statues, water features), a sort of breather in the central area of the zoo. Sea Lion Sound is great, a newish exhibit for sea lions and seals. 250,000 gallons in the pool (if memory serves) and a decent land area. The underwater tunnel can get congested if the zoo is busy. Stingrays at Caribbean Cove is a touch pool for stingrays and sharks but it's already closed for the season. Admission is normally $4 for it but again, would be free if you arrived in the first hour.

    Historic Hill: a hill with historic buildings :eek:. The herpetarium is nice, and if you like older architecture you'll love it. Mountain chickens (Aka giant ditch frogs), tuatara (if on exhibit), are quite rare, but several other rarities are in the building as well. Outdoors there are exhibits for a few crocodilians and giant tortoises. The primate house has monkeys and lemurs. Spectacled langurs and sifaka are uncommon, and any macaque (if they are still there) is getting to be rare. The exhibitry isn't the greatest. Chain of Lakes is 3-4 exhibits with river otters, Alligator snapping turtles, and waterfowl. The Bird House has a great collection. Prioritize seeing the horned guans- the only specimens on exhibit in America. They're in the central area but may have a see-through curtain drawn for privacy. The exhibits vary in quality, but none are terrible. Outdoors there are aviaries for birds, mostly larger animals like cinerous vulture. The World's Fair Flighr Cage is ancient, but renovations have made it still good. It has North American cypress swamp birds. Peabody Hall usually has an art exhibit.

    Discovery Corner: the children's zoo and insectarium. The children's zoo has a generic petting farm, as well as a new Tasmanian devil exhibit, and a building with many odds and ends. There's a slide through another river otter exhibit and a few cages that change their inhabitants frequently. The building has the tree kangaroos and echidnas (I've seen the latter maybe twice), a few aquariums, fennec foxes, parrots, finches, rabbits, guinea pigs, and some terrariums. It's a little hectic but if you want to see those species, then I suggest arriving early so you don't have to pay. The insectarium is good, with many species, and a butterfly walk-through. Also included in Discovery Corner is The Living World, which is in the North Entrance but it changes frequently so I'm not sure what's in there.

    Parking: there's a parking lot near both the north entrance and the south entrance, and I think they charge. Otherwise you could park on a street nearby in the park. You'd have to walk, but it's free (just like admission! :p).

    As for what to skip: since the zoo is mostly organized taxonomically, it's up to you. If you aren't a hoofstock fan, skip Red Rocks. If you don't like birds, skip the Bird House, and so on. Have a great visit! Feel free to ask any other questions, and I'll do my best to answer.
     
  4. RetiredToTheZoo

    RetiredToTheZoo Well-Known Member

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    Thank you jibster and jayjds2 for some great reviews, excellent information, and sharing your experiences. I will definitely allow an entire day just for the zoo so I don't have to rush thru to see it all. I really appreciate the tip about parking on the street to avoid the charges. I'm not exactly sure when this trip will come about, but it will happen in the next few weeks, and your guidance here has taken some of the guess work out of what to expect and plan for. Thank you again!
     
  5. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member

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    Jibster & Jayjds2 covered it pretty well, but I agree that one full day is a good amount to spend there. That being said, if you find yourself having time to spare, I would really recommend walking around and experiencing Forest Park. It is personally my favorite city park in the country, with a nice little art museum, paddle boating, and very beautiful grounds with a river, big trees, and some impressive fountains and reflecting pools. The zoo is certainly the highlight of the park, but you would be remiss not to take some time to enjoy the beauty that is Forest Park!

    You really shouldn't have trouble seeing everything assuming you don't linger too much. I agree that River's Edge is a must-see, as is Penguin & Puffin Coast. The Children's Zoo is decent, the ape exhibits are great, and the sea lion pool is new and absolutely incredible. The rest of the exhibits depend on what you want to see: I personally spend at least an hour in both the Reptile and Bird Houses every time, and the the Bird Garden is very pleasant and visually appealing, especially the crane exhibit and small walk-in aviary. The Insectarium is also very neat. I would highly recommend the Cypress Swamp as well, and fortunately the mosquitoes shouldn't be a problem now that it's October!

    I would definitely recommend parking on the street, as it is free and usually not hard to get a spot within easy walking distance.

    Also to Jay: there are no longer any macaques at Saint Louis, and while there may have been patas monkeys in Jungle of the Apes at some point, I have never heard of it and there were none when I visited this summer.
     
  6. RetiredToTheZoo

    RetiredToTheZoo Well-Known Member

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    What a great idea! Thank you.
     
  7. GraysonDP

    GraysonDP Well-Known Member

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    In celebration for my graduation from college I'm going on a road-trip in May from Ohio (where I go to college) and Nebraska going to the Saint Louis Zoo as well as Indianapolis, Kansas City and Omaha's Henry Doorly. Are there any zoos on this route (it's one way) that you guys would recommend adding to the itinerary?
     
  8. GraysonDP

    GraysonDP Well-Known Member

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    It's my first time to all of those zoos so naturally I'm quite excited.
     
  9. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    You've got 4 excellent zoos lined up, with both Saint Louis and Omaha likely in the top 5 zoos in the United States. There are loads of smaller places that you'll drive by on your trip but if you don't mind going a bit out of your way then you could always stop by Wichita, Kansas, and tour Sedgwick County Zoo. I think that is one of America's 10 best zoos and Elephants of the Zambezi River just opened last year.
     
  10. MidwestFan

    MidwestFan Well-Known Member

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    May consider Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines. Fairly quick to visit, but is making big strides in terms of collection and exhibits.