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St. Louis Parks: Free attractions: The St. Louis Zoo

Arguably the greatest free attraction in the city, The St. Louis Zoo is not only renowned for its elaborate exhibits, but also for a continuing focus on diversity.  Located in the heart of Forest Park, the sprawling Zoo contains more than 18,000 animals and 700 species.  “I love going to the Zoo,” senior Hannah Beaty said. “It’s the perfect place to ride my bike to and spend an afternoon.”

The most recent addition to the Zoo is Caribbean Cove, a sting-ray exhibit built in 2009 where, in addition to petting sting-rays, visitors can also see small, shy sharks that the Zoo said are not a danger to humans.  Another popular attraction is a massive, multi-million dollar penguin exhibit that, despite its polar temperatures, is not only impressive, but about as up-close-and-personal that one can get with arctic creatures in the center of the Midwest.

If penguins aren’t the key to happiness, though, River’s Edge will bring visitors to the desert to see everything from leopards to elephants, including the Asian elephant Raja, the first elephant to be born at the Zoo. Raja has since fathered three other elephants, the most recent of whom, Kenzi, was born this past summer.

Historic Hill holds another Zoo favorite, with a primate exhibit that has long held a place in St. Louis’ heart, and continues to attract visitors of all ages. Recently celebrating the ‘Zootennial,’ or its 100-year-anniversary, the Zoo is steeped in St. Louis tradition. “Anytime I have visitors in the area, I bring them to the Zoo,” senior Brianne Keller said. “It is an iconic location for the city of St. Louis, and the fact that it’s free is one of the best selling points.”

Based around a Flight Cage purchased from the 1904 World’s Fair, the Zoo has found itself to be as equally prized an asset of the city as the great Fair itself. With more than 3 million visitors a year, the appeal of the Zoo and value to the city can’t be missed.

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