One of the reasons I love raising my family in the St. Louis area is that there are so many opportunities to experience fun, culture and family time on a budget. One of the best (not so) hidden gems of the St. Louis area is the St. Louis Zoo.

When people think of great zoos, St. Louis doesn’t usually come to mind. But the St. Louis Zoo is one of the best in the United States. In fact, according to a recent USA Today readers’ poll, it was considered the best zoo in the country.

From “The River’s Edge” where you can watch hippos, elephants and other amazing wildlife, to the “Penguin & Puffin Coast” where you can watch polar bears play, there isn’t a dull moment when you take your family to the zoo. When our kids were younger, we could spend the whole day there and not see everything. We always left wanting to see more.

Best of all, admission is free. You’ll pay amusement park prices for the food and about $20 per car for parking, but admission to the zoo costs nothing. And, as an added bonus, the zoo is located in Forest Park. One of the oldest and most storied city parks in the U.S., Forest Park hosted the 1904 World’s Fair. Some of the exhibits are still a part of the zoo.

If you’re looking for a great and affordable afternoon getaway, you can’t beat the St. Louis Zoo. We always loved taking our kids, and now that they’re older, they still want to go. It really is a great way to make lasting family memories while you’re visiting St. Louis.

Learn more about the St. Louis Zoo, as well as info about other fun activities in the city.

Rev. Steve Colaw serves as senior pastor at Gateway Church in Saint Peters, Missouri.

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