The Zoo's "Penguin and Puffin Coast" exhibit is a great place for a wintertime visit.
The penguins are always entertaining to watch, and the Zoo has taken great care to make the whole exhibit a positive experience, from the time you're waiting in line, until you exit through a penguin and puffin-themed gift shop. The place reminds you of a major theme park attraction in Florida, except at the St. Louis Zoo, it's free!
In summer, there are long lines to see the penguins and puffins. Sometimes up to an hour or more. Over the winter, you practically have the place to yourself. Last week, we stopped by the Zoo thirty minutes before closing time, just to visit the Penguin and Puffin Coast.
When we arrived, there were maybe ten or so other visitors at the exhibit. And during the winter, it's actually warmer inside the exhibit than it is outside! Plus, with so many fewer visitors, there are way more penguins per person.
Rather than the way the penguins scan out over the huge summertime crowds shuffling past them during the summer, when you visit during the winter, the penguins swim up next to you and look right at you. Sometimes, with them so close, you get splashed when they dive in or pop up out of the water. It's great fun.
The person working at the exhibit told us that sometimes the over-exuberant ones pop right out of the exhibit and land on the floor next to you. That's when he has to bend down and pick them up and help them back onto their side of the glass.
Another interesting fact about the exhibit not obvious to the casual observer is the way the tank holding the penguins is one continuous tank. It connects under the walkway, so the penguins can swim back and forth to both sides of the exhibit.