On the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan, Chicago is the star of the Midwest. Starting out as a meager trading post at the mouth of the Chicago River and growing through the decades to become one of the largest cities in the United States, and now an international trading center. Nicknamed the “Windy City”, Chicago was crucial to the growth of the United States. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Chicago to St. Louis By Plane
2.Chicago to St. Louis By Train
3.Chicago to St. Louis By Bus
4.Chicago to St. Louis By Car
5.Chicago to St. Louis
Chicago to St. Louis: Distance & Other Travel Tips
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Attraction Spotlight: Saint Louis Science Center
On the west side of St. Louis is a sprawling expanse of park land, rivers, and woods known as Forest Park. Consisting of just over 1,300 acres of lawn and forest, the park hosted the famous 1904 World’s Fair dubbed the Louisiana Purchase Exposition.
The park is locally redubbed the “Heart of Saint Louis,” and it holds some of the most important cultural institutions in the state of Missouri and even the entire United States, including several history, and art museums and the world famous St. Louis Zoo. Clinging to the southwestern edge of the park, along the Interstate 64 boundary, is a stable of buildings that make up the Saint Louis Science Center. At over 300,000 square feet, the complex is among the largest of its kind in the nation, and in 1991, it was the most-visited of any science museum in the entire world, and today it sees well more than a million visitors pass through its doors each year. More Things to do in Missouri
The beginnings of the Saint Louis Science Center can be found as far back as the middle of the nineteenth century. A group of wealthy businessman with a penchant for traveling the world and collecting items and artifacts from the many varied cultures they encounter, as well as aggregating examples of plants and animals from around the globe, came together to create a venue for their combined collections. The enthusiasts, which included notable physicians and doctors, also had hands in creating other important organizations including the Missouri Botanical Garden and Missouri Historical Society. The group was christened in 1856 as the Academy of Science of St. Louis, and went on to open a museum space to display their eclectic objects. It was the first such scientific society west of the Mississippi. The society still exists today and continues its altruistic mission pursuing science literacy and supporting educational programming.
Over a hundred years after its beginning, the Academy founded the Museum of Science and Natural History in the city of Clayton’s Oak Knoll Park.
In 1969, the voting public in the city and county of St. Louis, MO elected to approve the creation of a tax district to fund the St. Louis Zoo as well as the Art Museum. Two years later the Science Museum was added when the tax district became the Metropolitan Zoological Park & Museum District, and at that time the Academy of Science of St. Louis divested itself of the Museum of Science and Natural History and functions as a separate organization even today.
Meanwhile, in the city of St. Louis proper, a second root was growing toward the eventual bloom of the museum as we know it today. The city set aside $1 million in 1955 for the creation of a planetarium, and courted renowned and visionary architect Gyo Obata to design the structure. He would later go on to design the Smithsonian’s iconic National Air and Space Museum. The building he brought to life is the most distinctive of all the buildings in Forest Park, with an idiosyncratic hyperboloid structure as its roof, looking at the time like an extraterrestrial machination toward which the inner dome would project its synthesized galaxies. The construction of the building was jeopardized when the project ran far over budget but a donation by the co-founder of St. Louis-based aviation manufacturer McDonnell Douglas allowed it to proceed and purchase vital resources and equipment, including the centerpiece projector.
In 1983 the city of St. Louis sold the projector to the Museum of Science and Natural History and leased the land along with it. Extensive and costly renovations ensued and the building reopened as the St. Louis Science Center.
The Center opened its new flagship Main Building in 1991 following a $34 million expansion project which saw the construction of the building across Oakland Avenue on land once occupied by the headquarters of the Falstaff Brewing Corporation, and it was connected to the old location by a pedestrian bridge that spanned the highway. The new facility opened up seven times as much space as the museum campus had previously, and included the addition of an IMAX theater to the museum’s offerings.
In February of 1997, the St. Louis Science Center added the Exploradome, an air-supported structure that added 18,000 square feet of classroom space and a hall for travelling exhibitions. The location was only temporary, but the success of the shows that took place there inspired the Science Center to build Boeing Hall, which when it opened in 2011 dedicated 13,000 square feet to the purpose.
The St. Louis Science Center offers visitors an exciting array of over 700 different exhibits in its 10 galleries.
In the 50,000 square feet of outdoor space previously occupied by the inflatable Exploradome, the museum offers the GROW exhibit, an exploration of the process that the food supply chain undergoes to take food from the farm to the consumer.
The St. Louis Science Center’s Life Science Lab offers dedicated spaces for educational programs covering a variety of scientific areas that include genetics, agriculture, medicine, and biotechnology, and provide guests with opportunities to engage these topics with hands-on lessons and activities. Visitors can sign up for Daily Dissection classes, which offer a chance to examine the internal structures of worms, insects, starfish, squid, and even sheep eyeballs. The Activity Benches let guests don actual lab coats and safety glasses and use authentic scientific tools. The classrooms even offer a recreated Pacific Coral Reef ecosystem, which visitors are free to take a look at any time there are no classes happening. The display includes clownfish, live corals and a brittle sea star, and a touch screen allows guests to learn about the organisms and the intricate relationships they form.
The Science Center includes a fully featured Makerspace, where STEM concepts—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics—converge in a hands on environment that invites visitors to use the many different tools and materials to explore their creativity and curiosity. In the Makerspace, visitors will find the Air Ball, an exhibit that offers experiments to see how wind affects objects differently, and the Float and Fly, where guests are given simple materials to build an object and test its flight capabilities. At the Sail Race participants can design a sail and race it at the track, then experiment with designs to challenge and set the daily best time. Guests can use magnetic pipes at the Ball Run to get a ball from one end to the other. The Rigamajig invites visitors to build large structures form the supplied materials.
The Discovery Room offers young children an immersive learning environment particularly designed for kids aged 1 through 8. The exhibit hall explores various elements and states of matter. The Water section features Dora the Axolotl, a water table and 270 gallons of aquarium space. Nature gives children a glimpse into animal medicine, an exhibit of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, and a large screen microscope. The Sky section features a rocket that stands two stories tall and includes an emergency escape slide and interactive computerized control panels.
The St. Louis Science Center explores the wonders of the earth sciences in its Ecology & Environment exhibit. The earthquake exhibit explores the phenomenon with a floor that actually rumbles, and the Tyrannosaurus Rex exhibit follows the behemoth dinosaur as it hunts its prey. The Dana Brown Fossil Prep Lab and Dig Site is a one-of-a-kind exhibit that provides a close look at the experience of being on a real archaeological dig in the Badlands of Montana.
The Human Adventure takes a close look—so close it even gets inside—the human body and its various systems and experiences. It explores the senses, the mind, the body and the brain and how they all interact and come together. Visitors can even test their vision, hearing and memory against each other with interactive exhibits.
The Omnimax theater offers an unparalleled theater experience with 70mm film projection system projecting on an impressive five story tall screen and a 79-foot diameter dome for a full field of vision visual experience, rounded out with a 15,000-watt surround sound system.
The James S. McDonnell Planetarium features the world’s fourth Zeiss Universarium Mark IX star projector, which has the ability to project over 9,000 points of light onto the planetariums 80-foot wide dome.
Admission to the St. Louis Science Center is free of charge. Some exhibits and special attractions might require the purchase of an additional ticket. Parking is free at the planetarium, and paid options are in place at the Main Building in Forest Park, but is free for members of the Science Center.
The St. Louis Science Center is conveniently located off of major highways and easily accessible from most directions. From I-64, I-170 and I-44, take the Kingshighway Boulevard exit to Oakland Avenue and the Center is on the left.
From Forest Park, taking either I-64 or I-44, simply follow Kingshighway to enter Forest Park and follow it to Clayton. From there turn left into the planetarium lot.
Back to: Best Things to Do in St. Louis
5050 Oakland Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110, Phone: 314-289-4400
Attraction Spotlight: St. Louis Zoo
The St. Louis Zoo in St. Louis sits on a narrow road that winds through the pocket of trees and lawn on the city’s west side known as Forest Park.
It’s a beautiful location surrounded by ponds and museums, and a fitting location for a zoo of such renowned stature. The St. Louis Zoo is widely held to be one of the leading zoos by a number of metrics, known for its outstanding research and conservation programs as well as its educational offerings. Admission to the park is free, as it has been for over one hundred years of operation.
In 1904, St. Louis was home to the latest incarnation of the World’s Fair, known that year as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. The over six-month spectacular event had a lasting impact on the city, and was the impetus for the creation of several of St. Louis’ lasting institutions. The Fair saw the erection of the building that would later become the venerable Saint Louis Art Museum, and it was also the occasion for the Smithsonian Institution’s fabrication of a giant, walk-through bird cage.
When the World’s Fair was finally over, the population elected by popular vote to purchase the bird cage from the Washington, D. C. organization before it could be returned, for the amount of $3,500. The first pieces of road to the St. Louis were laid, and within a few years the Zoological Society of St. Louis was formed as a group of citizen’s intent on instigating the founding of a proper local zoo. A colorful civic discourse followed, with local media, citizenry and politicians weighing in on where to place such a zoo. Ultimately, a large parcel of 77 acres was chosen and dedicated to be the home for the new zoo, along with a new Zoological Board of Control to run it. By 1916, the city passed a referendum for a mill tax to support the zoo’s construction at long last.
The St. Louis Zoo facility expanded rapidly. By 1921 the moated Bear Pits were added as an attraction, and would prove to be a model for zoos around the world. Soon afterward, the Primate House and eventually the Reptile House and Bird House rounded out the offerings. With the aid of the Civil Works Administration from then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the zoo gradually was able to grow its collection of animals and represented locales with antelope, pandas, lions, elephants and an aquarium. Joining the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District, a cultural tax district in both the city and county of St. Louis, Missouri which reserves subsidies for the zoo as well as art and history museums and the Missouri Botanical Garden, the zoo was able to expand further and retain its free admission policy.
Today, the zoo offers more than 90 amazing acres of animal and environment exhibits, zoo attractions, and shops available for guests. The various exhibits and displays are divided into zones, which focus on particular animal or climate types. The St. Louis Zoo has a considerable range of educational activities and programs available for visitors of any age.
The St. Louis Zoo’s River’s Edge Zone aims to simulate the ecology of waterways and plains around the world, offering insights to the many ways that animals, plant life and humans interact. It is the first “immersion exhibit” built by the zoo, and includes lush and engrossing flora to flesh out the environments and offering a wide variety of unique species from many different continents. Featured animals include South American native wildlife such as Andean Bears, giant anteaters, bush dogs and capybara—a giant man-sized rodent which is the largest of its kind anywhere in the world. Also on display for guests are black rhinos, wild hogs, bat-eared foxes, and a recently added exhibit of painted dogs from the African Savannah; hippos, cheetahs, and hyenas from the African Nile, the Sun Bear Forest with its Malayan sun bears and Asian elephants, and a recreation and examination of Missouri wetlands and a Missouri River aquarium.
With The Wild Zone, the St. Louis Zoo showcases that variety of interesting and surprising ways that animals have adapted to the differing environments and climates around the globe using a litany of natural abilities. The Zone offers a glimpse into a sub-Antarctic habitat containing a number of penguins and puffins, and even offers the opportunity to see a polar bear in its expansive enclosure featuring both above ground and underwater viewing. The Wild Zone also showcases the “Fragile Forest,” the outdoor summer location for the zoo’s population of orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees, and the “Jungle of the Apes,” the winter time residence for the primates. An ornate and highly detailed Mary Ann Lee Conservation Carousel features all animals from endangered or threatened conservation statuses and is a fun way to get children and adults alike attuned to the conservation conversation.
Discover Corner is the St. Louis Zoo’s Zone for unique experiences interacting with wildlife. The Monsanto Insectarium offers visitors an in-depth look at invertebrates and insects that include Peruvian fire sticks, moths, cockroaches, lady bugs, dragonflies, and butterflies. The Emerson Children’s Zoo offers youngsters a petting area for interacting with laid back and fluffy creatures, and also a number exhibits with such animals as meerkats, Tasmanian devils, the adorable fennec foxes, and the adorably odd naked mole rats. At the Caribbean Cove, there’s even a shallow saltwater pool where guests can interact with stingrays.
The Historic Hill zone is situated in the oldest part of the St. Louis Zoo, and still features the original Flight Cage from the 1904 World’s Fair expo that laid the groundwork for the zoo’s creation, as well as the early exhibits that include the Bird House and Primate House from the 1920s. A number of modern enhancements have rounded out the displays here, which include the Chain of Lakes exhibit, showcasing amphibians, waterfowl and other water-based wildlife such as sea lions, alligator snapping turtles, river otters and swans. The Herpetarium is home to an even wider variety of reptiles and amphibians and offers visitor’s the experience of visiting four different climates in one building. Animals featured here include lizards, alligators, crocodiles, frogs and toads, turtles and tortoises, and a number of snakes. The Bird House offers sightings of macaws, hornbills, and eagles, while the venerable Flight Cage contains heron, cormorants, spoonbills, and other aquatic birds indigenous to the ecology of Missouri’s river wetlands.
At the Red Rocks zone, the St. Louis Zoo has an exciting blend of animals that live in the various rough and rocky arid climes of the world. The Big Cat Country exhibit features powerful feline predators including lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars. In the Antelope Yards, visitors will find a collection of graceful and grand prey animals, including giraffes, zebras, camels, okapi, takin, and of course, antelope.
The Zoo line Railroad is a narrated ride along a rail that takes guests throughout the various exhibits and attractions at the park. The twenty-minute tour covers a mile and a half of the most popular areas of the St. Louis Zoo. The Zoo line Railroad has stops at each of the zoo’s different Zones.
The St. Louis Zoo offers a number of different dining options for guests, and each Zone has a location and menu of its own. Throughout the zoo, visitors will find the Cafe Kudu, Lakeside Café, River Camp Café, Safari Grill, Ray’s Grill, East Refreshments, Big Cat Beverages, Tundra Treats, Scoop’s Ice Cream Shop, Carousel Café, and even more options around the zoo campus.
The St. Louis Zoo offers a number of ways for guests of all ages to interact and learn about the wildlife at the park. It’s educational and conservation programming engaged both the general public and conservation professionals of any level.
The zoo offers a number of regularly scheduled shows and feedings. Guests can watch as zoo staff feed penguins, sea lions, and tree kangaroos, and even attend education and captivating shows that offer a peek at the behaviors and personalities of sea lions and other animals.
The St. Louis Zoo facility includes an Endangered Species Research Center and Veterinary Hospital, an expansive 17,000-square foot complex that houses the zoo’s research programs, laboratories, and administrative areas. The treatment areas include facilities that can handle the medical needs of nearly the entire variety of wildlife at the zoo and houses cutting edge radiology equipment and technologies, surgical rooms, and a pharmacy.
The St. Louis Zoo is open every day, save for occasion holiday hours, and admission is free. Some attractions may have a separate fee and may be weather-dependent. The zoo offers paid parking in two different lots.
The zoo is located in Forest Park, which is easily accessible from US 40, I-64, I-44 and I-270. With signs along all of the major highways reaching the zoo is easy and direct.
1 Government Dr, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA, Phone: 314-781-0900