Have you ever met a penguin, fed a giant tortoise, scratched a legless lizard? Your group can share an experience like none other: behind the scenes at the Saint Louis Zoo. Get a peek at what it's like to be a zookeeper. See the animals up close and personal. Each tour provides the enthralling, breathtaking experience of seeing the world's dramatic wildlife up close. This is a great opportunity for groups of all sizes and interests.

  • Experience Penguin & Puffin Coast from a zookeeper's point of view. During this one-hour tour, you will learn about our conservation center for threatened Humboldt penguins, see the kitchen/food prep area and have an "up close and personal" visit with two Magellanic penguins! You'll wrap up your tour with a walk through the exhibit. See story story by Show Me St. Louis.

    Tours are offered Monday through Friday, minimum of two guests required and a maximum of 10. 

    One Saturday tour is available per month, minimum of four guests and maximum of 10. (Less than four guests are permitted; however, full payment of $240 is required.)

    Please note: Penguin Encounters are not available from October 22 - December 3, 2016.

    Meeting times may vary.
    Duration: ~1 hour
    Fee: $60 per person

  • Take a stroll to Red Rocks and experience a rare opportunity to feed the Zoo's "gentle giants," the reticulated giraffes. See their long eyelashes up close and watch their tongues as they grasp a leafy branch or a piece of bread from your hand. Learn about their behavior, feeding ecology and why their necks are so long!

    Minimum of two guests and maximum of 10. 
    Meeting time: 10:15 a.m.
    Duration: ~45 minutes
    Fee: $60 per person.

  • This behind-the-scenes tour of the Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium offers an up-close-and-personal look at one of the largest and diverse collections of snakes, lizards, turtles and tortoises, as well as amphibians and crocodilians! Take a look at safety protocols, snake anti-venin, keeper tools and the difference between snakes and lizards, turtles and tortoises. Test your inner strength and challenge yourself to take a touching opportunity.

    Minimum of two guests and maximum of 10.
    Meeting times: 10:15 a.m. or 1:15 p.m.
    Duration: ~45 minutes
    Fee: $45 per person

  • This visit to the Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium takes you into the heart of tortoise territory! Your visit to the giant tortoises, some of which weigh up to 600 pounds, includes hand-feeding carrots to these colossal ancient reptiles. Bring your camera for great photo opportunities!

    *Guests must be able to walk well downhill on uneven terrain in the tortoise yard.

    Minimum of two guests and maximum of six. 
    Must be at least 6 years of age. Closed-toed shoes are required. 
    Meeting times: 10:15 a.m. or 1:15 p.m.
    Duration: ~45 minutes
    Fee: $45 per person

  • Meet a group of small primates from Madagascar, our ring-tailed and black lemurs. Learn about their unique behaviors and detailed family histories! Watch the lemurs interact with each other and feed them healthy treats with a zookeeper. This tour is offered only during the warmer months, when the lemurs live in their outdoor habitats.

    Minimum of two guests and a maximum of 10. 
    Must be at least 8 years of age.
    Meeting time: 1:15 p.m.
    Duration: ~45 minutes
    Fee: $50 per person

  • Visit the off-display cheetah habitats with a zookeeper. Meet these fast cats and learn about their unique behavior and chirping vocalizations, and why they don't live near the other big cats at the Zoo. You will also discuss how the keepers use enrichment items to keep the cheetahs on their toes!

    Minimum of two guests and a maximum of 10. 
    Meeting times: 10:45 a.m. or 1:15 p.m.
    Duration: ~45 minutes
    Fee: $60 per person

  • Visit the world's largest big cats, the noble African lions or the majestic Amur tigers "up close and personal" at Big Cat Country with a zookeeper. Learn about their training, enrichment, animal husbandry and conservation in the wild.

    Minimum of two guests and a maximum of 10. 
    Meeting times: 10:45 a.m. or 1:15 p.m.
    Duration: ~45 minutes
    Fee: $60 per person

  • Go behind the scenes of the Sea Lion Show to meet a California sea lion superstar! Watch the zookeepers train these magnificent animals to do amazing behaviors using positive reinforcement. You will learn the ins and outs of the main stage attraction and may even have the opportunity for a photo with one of the show's stars!

    Tours not available on weekends during show season, April through September.

    Minimum of two guests and a maximum of six. 
    Meeting times: 10:15 or 11:15 a.m.
    Duration: ~45 minutes
    Fee: $100 per person

  • Come join us on an adventure that showcases endangered species from three continents! Witness key social interactions of African painted dogs, as well as the shy and solitary Andean bears and Malayan sun bears. Take a closer look at these magnificent animals and learn about the importance of their new habitats. Learn firsthand from keepers about their training, enrichment, husbandry and conservation in the wild.

    Minimum of two guests and a maximum of eight. 
    Meeting times: 10:45 a.m. or 1:15 p.m.
    Duration: ~45 minutes
    Fee: $60 per person

  • Gather your family members or friends and head to the Emerson Children's Zoo for a fun and informative behind-the-scenes tour. Guests are invited to meet, touch and take photos of some of our contact animals "up close and personal." Explore the back rooms and kitchen area. Hear interesting stories about the Children's Zoo residents, and learn educational conservation messages about them.

    Includes Children's Zoo admission.
    Ages one year and up.
    Minimum of two guests and maximum of six.
    Meeting times: 10:30 a.m. or 3 p.m.
    Duration: ~45 minutes
    Fee: $55 per person

  • Go behind the scenes of the Emerson Children's Zoo to see the elusive South American creature that sleeps over half the day away! Learn about sloths and their remarkable and strange behaviors from the keepers who care for them. Create a fun enrichment activity for the sloths and take a special peek into their habitat. Be sure to bring a camera along to capture this one-of-a-kind experience! See story by Show Me St. Louis.

    Includes Children's Zoo admission. 
    Ages 5 years and up.
    Minimum of two guests and maximum of four.
    Offered seasonally, Labor Day through May 1: 10:30 a.m. or 3 p.m.
    Duration: ~30 minutes
    Fee: $75 per person

  • Come to the Monsanto Insectarium and see rare and amazing invertebrates from all over the planet. What do these animals have in common? No backbone! Go behind the scenes in the containment room where endangered American Burying Beetles live. Get up close and personal with a giant spiny stick! This is the perfect opportunity to learn about a variety of spineless wonders firsthand from the keepers that take care of them.

    Minimum of two guests and a maximum of 10.
    Meeting times may vary.
    Duration: ~45 minutes
    Fee: $25 per person

  • This tour takes you behind River's Edge to the hidden rhino barn. There you will be introduced to one of our stately black rhinos, hear stories about him from a zookeeper, learn about his species' plight in the wild and feed this dinosaur-like vegetarian. You might even get to touch his armor-like skin!

    Minimum of two guests and maximum of six. 
    Must be at least 8 years of age.
    Meeting time: 1:45 p.m.
    Duration: ~45 minutes
    Fee: $60 per person

  • Go behind the scenes of the historical 1920s Bird House. See the kitchen where hundreds of diets are prepared daily for our diverse bird collection. Visit the incubator/propagation room and off-display birds on the lower level.

    Minimum of two guests and maximum of 10. 
    Meeting times: 10:15 a.m. or 1:15 p.m.
    Duration: ~45 minutes
    Fee: $35 per person

  • Have you ever seen an elephant ear? How about a bengal tiger canna? Let the experts, zoo horticulture manager Tony Range, guide you on a fascinating and educational one-hour walking tour. Experience the flora in the immersion exhibit River's Edge, plus the beauty of colorful annuals and trees at the Zoo.

    Minimum of four guests and maximum of 20. 
    Offered Monday-Friday, June through October at 8:30 a.m.
    Fee: $15 per person

What Everyone's Been Talking About!

  • Thank you so much for the Penguin Tour. It was more then I could have imagined. We spent the rest of the day at the Zoo, but nothing was as awesome as those penguins.
    - Belinda I., Willits, CA

  • I just wanted to take a minute and thank you for getting us set up for the gentle giants tour. The boys, my parents and I had so much fun. The tour guides were so knowledgeable and the zookeeper was very informative and patient with the kids. Thank you so much for that amazing opportunity. 
    - Cathy, Missouri

    Yesterday was simply life changing!!The girls talked nonstop the entire way home about being that close to the giraffes.  Dianne was incredible and kind, accommodating, warm, friendly and genuinely wanted us to fall in love with everything about the zoo.  The other family also had a new six year old that was receiving this as a birthday gift as well.  I just cannot shout this from the rooftop enough, this is one of the most amazing experiences we have ever given our girls.  We always do experiences at their birthdays and Christmas instead of toys (the grandparents like to cover that aspect!), you can bet as long as we live in Missouri, this will be at the top of our list. Thank you again for all of your flexibility and guidance. 
    -Sarah, Missouri

    My son and I, along with a few others, had the amazing opportunity to partake in the Gentle Giants experience at the Zoo. I cannot even tell you how amazing this experience was for all of us. My son, who is now 11, has been a huge fan of giraffes for as long as we can remember... Our tour director was Mandi and the zookeeper's name was John. I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful they made our encounter with the giraffes. I can still hear my son's laughter ringing in my ears as I write this. My son...walked away from the day wanting to make the zoo the profession of his. I can't think of a better profession. Seeing the giraffes behind the scenes made the zoo become even more alive to him and the giraffes seem more like friends than exotic creatures from far away. We will remember our encounter with them forever and hopefully we can experience another behind the scenes tour in the future. The Saint Louis Zoo is such a wonderful place, everyone seems so happy there, especially the animals! 
    - Jeanice N., Godfrey, IL


  • My daughters and I had the amazing experience of the Tour de Tortoise. We got to meet and feed Galapagos tortoises and it was so wonderful. I am writing to thank you especially for the way our guide treated us. When he heard that my 12-year-old daughter wanted to be a zoo herpetologist, just like him, he took time out of his day to take us backstage and introduced us to a bunch more herps, and showed us how things work. The best part? He told us that it was because my daughter might be his colleague one day and she should get familiar with it. What an amazing human being he is, and I imagine all your keepers are the same. Thanks to the Saint Louis Zoo, my daughter knows how a great zoo herpetologist behaves both with animals and guests. 
    -Dannye F., Iowa

    In the nine days we were in St. Louis, we actually spent two of them at the Zoo. [The tour of the Herpetarium] was thrilling and educational...we all could have stayed for hours listening to the zoologist. He talked about the animals and his experiences. It was exactly what I was hoping for. My son had asked me in late winter, if we could do "some lower 48 things" for the summer. This behind the scenes tour clearly met that criteria. I will always view my zoo, the St. Louis Zoo, as the best. The tour just put a whole lot of exclamation points on that. Thank you for helping me make a memory for my son. Please send along my thanks to those who lead us. 
    -Rob M., Alaska

  • I just wanted to tell you that we had the most amazing time on our Behind the Scenes tour Friday! Mike and Bob were such great hosts for our group and were nice stewards of the Zoo. Getting to go behind the scenes of Big Cat Country was more than we could have ever imagined! Travis was a wonderful guide and we all learned so much about each of the big cats while getting to meet them up close and personal. It is impossible to pick a favorite part of the experience since there were so many highlights but we will always treasure the great memories and pictures. And not to mention, it was a unforgettable way to celebrate my mom and dad's birthday. :)Thanks again!
    - Diane, Missouri

  • Haha, the happy birthday singing was the icing on the cake (pun totally intended) :) :) :),  Thanks for the passing my note on - ya'll deserve the recognition!  Feel free to post my feedback wherever you want - I'm super happy to help spread the word about how great the tour was. I had no idea they existed until my husband surprised me and it was a dream come true to meet the animals (especially the primates - I'm holding my breath for an orangutan tour, hint, hint, because they are my absolute FAVORITE ANIMAL EVER.  The lemurs were amazing though and I love them too). Thanks again for making such an awesome experience available.  Have a great day!

     - Amber, Missouri

    I just wanted to tell you how much we enjoyed our Leaping Lemurs tour.  James gave a great talk, we learned a lot, and the lemurs were adorable and engaging.  Thank you to the St. Louis Zoo for having such great programming.We are looking forward to Cheetahs!

     - Andrea S. & Andrew N., Illinois

    My sincerest gratitude to you for helping me make my Mom's 60th birthday a memorable one. The lemur encounter was a huge hit with my mom (and us!). I don't know if you noticed, but after the encounter, my Mom gave me a big hug and shed a few tears of joy. She told me that this was her best birthday ever!! Having encounters like these where people get to see, touch and interact with animals truly makes a lasting impression on us and drives home the point of conservation.

    - Bryan C., Missouri

  • The guides were excellent and suited the activities to my grandson's age and interests. He was very quiet during the tour, but he told me when we left, that he loved it, and let's do this every year!
    - Lilian, Missouri


  • I just wanted to say that we had a great time at our Creepy Crawlies behind the scenes tour. My kids (4 and 6) had a blast being able to touch and hold all of the different insects and animals. Tim was awesome as a guide making it both education and fun. He played along with everything my little guys said. Overall it was just a blast! We will definitely be back to experience the other tours.
    - Dan, Missouri 

    I would like to pass along a thank you to the Insectarium zookeepers, especially Bill, who was our main guide. They were wonderful, and went above and beyond to make this a memorable experience. I'm looking forward to our next  visit to the Zoo, especially the Insectarium.
    -Olivia S., Iowa

  • My son and I had a wonderful time today at the Birds of a Feather tour. Mel was an exceptional guide and really personalized the tour for his interests. She did a great job answering questions in a way that was interesting to me as an adult while still keeping my 9-year-old involved. We can't wait to try another one! Thanks again for offering this type of program.
    - Jessi Clark, O'Fallon, MO