Founded as a planetarium in 1963, the St. Louis Science Center is a collection of buildings that include a science museum and a planetarium in St. Louis, Missouri today. It’s located in the southeastern corner of Forest Park, where all the other museums and educational entertainment facilities can be found in the city. The St. Louis Science Center boasts an impressive 750 exhibits in the complex that is over 300,000 square feet in size. It’s the largest of its type in the United States, and according to the Association of Science and Technology Centers, is one of the top 5 science centers in the entire U.S. today.
The northern and southern sections of the massive Science Center are connected via a pedestrian bridge over the interstate, which is also home to more exhibits, like the radar guns one where visitors can investigate traffic patterns below them.
Admission to the Center is free thanks to a public subsidy that came from the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District. The St. Louis Science Center is proudly only one of two centers in the entire U.S. that offers free admission.
History of the St. Louis Science Center
In 1991, the St. Louis Science Center was the most visited science center in the world. By 2007, the complex was hosting 1.2 million visitors each year, with another 200,000 that were served through onsite programs in local schools and community facilities.
The first and most visited building in the current complex today, the Planetarium, opened its doors in 1963, welcoming close to 300,000 visitors every single year. By 1983, it was combined with the existing Museum of Science and Natural History that had been located in Clayton. At that time, the Planetarium was renamed the Saint Louis Science Center.
In 1991, a major expansion tripled the size of the facility, with an air-supported building, the Exploradome, being added next to the main building. In 2003, a Community Science Resource Center southeast of the main building was also added to the growing complex. By 2011, Boeing wanted a piece of the science action, and opened a 13,000 square foot exhibit space for traveling exhibitions, which replaced the Exploradome as it was once known.
Most recently, this new space was renovated into what’s called GROW, a permanent indoor and outdoor exhibit that is dedicated solely to food supplies from farms to folks. This exhibit, which is still available at the center, officially opened June 18, 2016.
Exhibits at the St. Louis Science Center
The main Center building is home to four levels, with the Ecology and Environment Gallery being located on the lower level. Meeting rooms, CenterStage, the Dana Brown Fossil Prep Lab and Dig Site, a dinosaur habitat, and May Hall are also on this level. The first floor up contains the Life Science Lab, ExploreStore gift shop, Energizer human hamster wheel, and a bunch of other spectacles. The second floor is an interactive space, with a Discovery Room for young kids. All bridges connecting buildings are filled with their own exhibits as well that play into the surroundings and views below.
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