The St. Louis Science Center celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2009. Opened in 1959, the science center has grown tremendously over the years and has earned high marks from both visitors and scientific organizations. Rated as one of the top 5 science centers in the country by the Association of Science and Technology Centers, the St. Louis Science Center has the added attraction of being free for visitors.
The free admission is designed to help bring in as many visitors as possible to the facilities. In addition to exhibits for all ages, the Science Center also has an Imax and a famous planetarium named for James McDonnell. The planetarium was added in 1963 after the original museum was built. It was remodeled in 2001 to include a special Zeiss Universarium Mark IX Star projector, one of just four in the world. The Planetarium features a number of space shows daily along with a Star Port exhibit about the future of life in space.
The museum did a massive $34 million dollar expansion in 1991 and now spreads over 4 buildings - the main visitor's area, the Imax, the McDonnell Planetarium, and the Exploradome, which houses travelling exhibits. Generally, the travelling exhibits change 1 - 2 times annually. Typically there is a supplemental ticket fee for the travelling shows. Members of the Science Center receive a discount on such tickets as well as financially supporting the Science Center.
Parking is free in front of the McDonnell building, unlike at the main visitors entrance where there is a small charge. The Science Center is available for private parties and events by arrangement with the main office. Special group tour packages can be arranged, and the museum is extremely popular with school groups, scouting organizations, and other youth clubs. Daytime visits during the week are generally much less busy than the weekends.