Residence from both sides of the Mississippi River are looking forward to getting to Forest Park, eager to seek relief from their cabin fever after enduring a St. Louis winter that doesn’t seem to want to let go of it’s chilly grip. Just as it seems we might be able to get out of our homes and enjoy a resurgence of blooming flowers and budding trees in Forest Park, the early months of 2013 have ushered in heavy rains and continued cool temperatures. For now the ‘Crown Jewel’ of St. Louis will have to wait for the surge of 9 million plus residents and tourists who visit Forest Park annually during the warm weather months.
In 1874 the General Assembly passed the ‘Forest Park Act’ which established the park and created a county-wide property tax to fund it. On June 24th 1876, during the year of America’s Centennial Celebration, the 1,375 acre Forest Park, the largest City owned and operated park in the United States to this day (Central Park in NY being the second largest at 890 acres) was dedicated before an estimated crowd of over 50,000 men, women and children. No small feat considering the park was carved out of heavily forested landscape accessible only by horse back and horse drawn carriages on rutted muddy roads. By the early 1890’s street car lines reached the park carrying over 3 million visitors a year, setting the stage for Forest Park to be the perfect location to host the 1904 World’s Fair!
Today the approximate annual visitors to Forest Park reach close to 10 million persons.
Much of Forest Park was stripped of its trees in order to accommodate the 1904 World’s Fair. The promoters of the fair made good on their promise to the City of St. Louis to restore the park after the fairs conclusion. This was accomplished by planting thousands of trees and the creating dozens of vistas.
Here are just some of the attractions to explore in Forest Park. The most attended attraction is the world renowned St. Louis Zoo which attracts close to 3 million visitors annually. A must see is the St. Louis Art Museum. Like the zoo the Museum is free. There is the Muny Amphitheater. The Jewel Box, a 1936 art deco style green house. Steinberg Skating Rink built in 1957 and hosting summer sand volleyball in addition to winter ice skating. You can visit the McDonnell Planetarium with its projector displaying as many as 9,000 heavenly bodies against its 80 foot high ceiling. There is The Missouri History Museum. There are playing fields to accommodate every sport. Paddle boat rentals are available at The Boat House. There are two perfectly manicured golf courses providing 54 holes of challenging play.
You can see the park on a bicycle, roller blades, jogging or walking. The best way to see Forest Park however is on a Zero G Touring Segway PT! There are literally miles of winding paved paths through the park. On a Segway you are immersed in a 360 degree view of St. Louis Forest Park with all its natural beauty and the thousands of flowers on display!