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Free entertainment in St Louis- the extraordinary Forest Park

Updated on February 3, 2017

Forest Park: A Yearlong Family Favorite St. Louis Destination

SO much to see and do!

St. Louis and its surrounding areas are home to many wonderful discoveries, from Cahokia and Lewis and Clark to the City museum and the Katy Trail. It's mixture of parks, art, music, festivals, museums, innovation, architecture, culture and rich history make it an amazing place to explore.

Forest Park has it ALL!

One of the most fascinating, beautiful places, which takes a little bit of everything St. Louis has to offer and mixes it up into one big beautiful kaleidoscope, is Forest Park. Forest Park has been called the "back yard" of St. Louis, and, indeed, it lives up to it's name. In 1876, the formation of this 1,293 acre park began, the end result of much debating as to what role parks should play in urban development. The park was originally to be 3 times the size of New York's Central Park, which many found excessive, so it was cut in half. It is the 7th largest urban park in the United States, and one of the finest in the world.

Art Museum

The site of the 1904 Worlds Fair, these grounds have been an oasis for people of St. Louis and around the world for more than a century. Among the miles of bike trails, trees, ponds, bridges you will find treasures tucked away ready to be discovered. One of the most stunning sites is the St. Louis art museum. The art museum sits at the top of what locals call "art hill", a long sloping hill with a reflecting pond at the foot of it. A bronze statue of Saint Louis sits atop at the entrance of the museums front steps. This art museum is a national leader with over 30,000 works of art. The building itself is one of the few remaining opulent buildings left over from the 1904 Worlds Fair, when it was called the "Palace" of Fine Art.

St. Louis Zoo

In 1875, park Superintendent M. G. Kern sketched out a plan for a zoo, which was to be a place of public instruction and amusement, open to all and free of charge. In the late 1800's, the Forest Park Zoological foundation raised funds to acquire and house animals. What started as a small collection of animals grew after the close of the World's Fair, as many of the animals brought to the city for the event were left behind. In 1916, after much debate about moving the zoo to a new location to free up acreage for the park, St Louis voters decided that it was to remain on the property and voted in a zoo tax, which remains in effect today, allowing for FREE admission to this world class zoo!

Museum of History

The Museum of History was opened in 1913 with the country's first monument to President Thomas Jefferson. It was built by the Louisiana Purchase Exposition company, with funds from the 1904 Worlds Fair. The museum itself marks the original entrance to the Fair. This museum is dedicated to collecting and interpreting vast artifacts and deep history of the St Louis area.

Jewel Box

In 1936, the Art-Deco style "Jewel Box" opened. Appropriately named, the structure was created with 50 foot panes of glass , sitting on 17 acres of rose gardens, lily ponds, sculptures and benches. Inside is an elaborate greenhouse with permanent collections of plants, flowers, tropical trees and foliage. Nearby is the park's only natural lake, with canoes and paddle boats ready to go for a float and soak in the scenery.

Science Center

The Science Center is one of only two science museums in the nation that is free to the public. It is simply magnificent. With new traveling exhibits every couple of months, IMAX movies, hands on exhibits everywhere for kids to actually experience the science they are learning about, it is a fantastic place for the entire family.

A Favorite Family Destination for all Seasons!

The summer is a wonderful time to go and walk or bike the paths, go wading in the fountains, picnic and paddle around. The huge sycamores in all their glory are breathtaking. But Forest Park doesn't slow down when winter rolls around. The Steinberg Ice Skating Rink is the nations oldest outdoor skating rink. It is an idyllic, old fashioned skating rink, surrounded by trees and lamplights, and the soft glow of the city skyline behind it. It is a tradition of many St. Louis families to go Christmas Eve and "skate in" Christmas morning at midnight. With hot chocolate, music, and bonfires, there is no better way to spend Christmas eve.

And finally, my favorite Forest Park/St Louis tradition, the Art Hill Sled. Whenever there is a snowfall, you will see bonfires in trash cans lighting up the slope of the hill, droves of kids and adults of every age sledding down on anything they can find. It is a long walk up that hill and a short, fast ride down, but it is an experience that you never forget. And one of the many reasons that I love Forest Park and St. Louis.

St. Louis' Forest Park is a fascinating and beautiful place that evokes old world ideas of outdoor spaces and entertainment. With it's amazing variety of things to see and do, it's long and cultured history, and it's innate beauty, it is definitely a place you don't want to miss when visiting St. Louis!

For other things to do while your visiting St. Louis, read these articles: and

Looking for a place close to Forest Park to eat, drink and hear some beautiful music ? Read about Tavern of the Arts here:

For more historical, fun and free places to visit in St. Louis, read more here :

Forest Park, St. Louis

Watercolor I painted of old tree at Forest Park, near the base of Art Hill.
Watercolor I painted of old tree at Forest Park, near the base of Art Hill.
Forest Park scenery
Forest Park scenery
skating at Steinberg Christmas Eve
skating at Steinberg Christmas Eve


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    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 6 years ago from Midwest

      Ah I love Forest Park. I lived in St. Louis not far from there for many years on "The Hill" - I miss the smell of the bakeries right outside my door ;) but I certainly don't miss St. Louis traffic lol.

      Forest Park was always a favorite and my son loved the zoo SO much when he was growing up. We'd go there frequently on weekdays to avoid huge crowds and it was always a real treat.

      The Jewel Box is cool too :) and of course the art museum as you mentioned is absolutely fantastic.

    • agreenworld profile image

      Dawn A. Harden 6 years ago from CT-USA

      Did not know that Forest Park was supposed to be 3 times the size of Central Park but there was a change of heart. Interesting. Thanks for an informative hub. Voted up!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      What a great look at St. Louis. I guess you would love Forest Park! Thanks for sharing--maybe you could post some photos or even videos in this hub.