Opened in 1876, Forest Park is one of St. Louis's most treasured resources. Owned and operated by the city of St. Louis, Missouri, the park is located along the city's western edge, nearly in the center of the metropolitan area. The park is bordered by Highway 64/40 and Oakland Avenue to the south, Lindell Boulevard to the north, Washington University in St. Louis to the west, and Barnes-Jewish Hospital to the east.
Forest Park was one of the largest urban parks built in the United States during the latter 19th century, following the example of Central Park in New York. Spread over 1,293 acres, Forest Park is about 500 acres larger than Central Park. The park is one of 105 city parks under the jurisdiction of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry.
Forest Park is home to St. Louis's major cultural institutions: the St. Louis Zoological Park, St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri History Museum, St. Louis Science Center (including the McDonnell Planetarium) and the Muny Opera. Other attractions include the Jewel Box, Boat House, Steinberg Skating Rink, World's Fair Pavilion, Turtle Playground, and Golf Course.
Forest Park serves as the city's oasis, an important source of green space, a respite for migrating birds, and an integrated ecosystem where humans and nature interact. The park also serves as a sports center for golf, baseball, tennis, handball, jogging, bicycling, boating, fishing, ice skating, cricket, rugby, and more.
Since its beginning on June 24, 1876, Forest Park has undergone many transformations. At the time of opening, the park was located in St. Louis County, about two miles west of the St. Louis City limits. For many years the only access to the park was on the Wabash Railroad. The first horse car line reached the park on Laclede Avenue in 1885. In the same year, park advocates recommended building a zoo and started collecting animals.
A movement to celebrate the Louisiana Purchase centennial began in 1898, and Forest Park was selected to host the fair. Construction began in 1901; the fair was scheduled to open in 1903. But as the fair grew in size and scope, it was agreed that it would have to open the following year. In 1904, the St. Louis World’s Fair, popularly known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, drew more than 20 million visitors from around the world to Forest Park.
Today, Forest Park draws more than 12 million visitors a year. The park is considered to be an important gathering place where people of all ages, races and walks of life can gather in a positive way.