Events in the Wild


Group Functions at Saint Louis Zoo

by Astrid Zeppenfeld

The Saint Louis Zoo is consistently rated one of the best attractions in the area. Locals and tourists alike flock to Forest Park to take advantage of being able to see all the great animals up close and in action. From gray elephants and hippos to striped tigers and zebras to dotted giraffes and leopards to colorful birds and amphibians, it is a rainbow of animal sights.

But did you know that, beyond all that striped and dotted, colorful action the ordinary zoogoer takes in on every visit, this 90-acre attraction includes almost 35,000 square feet of dedicated meeting and event space? In fact, you have the choice of four different venues for your next business event: McDonnell Center at River Camp, Lakeside Café, The Living World, and the Event Tent.

Lakeside Café and The Living World may be the most obvious choices, but McDonnell Center at River Camp is a hidden gem in the meeting and event planners’ world. Behind all the majestic River’s Edge animals is a beautiful 3,123-sqare-foot banquet room, which can be divided into three equally sized individual meeting rooms. The foyer and hall with their combined 825 square feet make for additional indoor space, perfect for greeting your attendees or organizing happy hours. For outdoor breaks, the 1,088-square-foot patio is just gorgeous. Especially the picturesque waterfall and colorful plants in the warmer months make a nice, natural backdrop to your business event. But fear not; even if your event is set in the cold winter months, you can still enjoy the patio using space heaters.

McDonnell Center Photo 5 1

River’s Edge itself beckons your attendees to move during any scheduled meeting breaks. Take the loop and enjoy the elephants walking around proudly while you get your steps in yourself, before heading back inside for the next presentation. Don’t forget to check out the aquarium from the visitor side of River’s Edge after you’ve had the opportunity to practically share your event with the native Missouri fish because one wall of the banquet room is actually not a wall, but one side of the aquarium.

Danielle Gross, Curriculum Manager at Washington University – St. Louis, has held scientific retreats there in her function as Program Coordinator for Sciences. For her attendees, she chose to have both the continental breakfast at the beginning of the day and the bar for happy hour set up alongside the aquarium. Gross states, “Our students loved it; the ambience is beautiful. We also had a plated lunch, which was fantastic!”

She was enormously impressed with the catering staff and menu, “When you book an event space at the zoo, they provide you with a catering menu. You can choose, for example, a Mediterranean or a Fiesta theme. Students and faculty loved the food. Of course, they accommodated gluten-free and vegan requests. And the staff is just great! Originally, we had anticipated a certain number of attendees, which, surprisingly, changed the day of. Instead of around 60 people, we had to now accommodate and feed about 70. Everything had been pre-ordered, and now we needed more. However, not only did the competent staff reassure me that it would all work out; they made it happen! It was such a relief!”

McDonnell Center Photo 2

An executive administrative assistant with a large corporation in St. Louis echoes that sentiment, “We held a two-day event for a small group at River Camp, which was a great experience from start to finish. The entire staff was very accommodating, and, having booked another catered event at the Zoo prior to the one at River Camp, I thought the catering was very good both times. I would definitely plan another event at the Saint Louis Zoo.”

Jason Moder, Director, Event Sales at the Saint Louis Zoo, concurs, “We have our own exclusive catering, so everything is done in-house. We have a kitchen onsite and the staff is all employed by the Zoo, so everyone is here every day.” But… there’s another perk! “The nice thing for many companies is that the catering for their event here is under the not-for-profit umbrella, so that means no sales tax,” Moder explains.

Even if you’re not worried about the sales tax or saving money on your event, for Gross, there is one additional, immensely valuable perk to utilizing the Saint Louis Zoo event space for your next business function. “Part of my job for these types of events is to help bring poster boards to the venue, and they are huge! Someone will come out to your car with a golf cart to help you transport everything to the venue. And, when your event is over, you’re still not left alone; that golf cart is available to help you out with all your materials as well.”



Astrid Zeppenfeld is MEET Magazines’ Senior Editor from St. Louis.


Contact Information:

Jason Moder

Director, Event Sales


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