Grant’s Farm Celebrates 60 Years

Thursday May 1, 2014

By Explore St. Louis Guest

As the city marks its 250th birthday, a St. Louis attraction that’s a true gem is celebrating 60 years of helping families make great memories.

You and your family can do a lot of things at Grant’s Farm that you can’t do anywhere else.

But to Andy Elmore, general manager of Grant’s Farm, many visitors are not even aware of the most significant thing they are doing—making memories to last a lifetime.

And while a few of the Grant's Farm experiences have changed since the attraction opened in 1954, the memory-making remains the same.

Visitors who came as children, and later took their kids to Grant’s Farm, are now bringing their grandchildren there, Elmore said.

“In my opinion it’s very special that they can come to Grant’s Farm and have some of the same experiences and create the same great memories with their grandkids that they were able to create themselves as children,” he said.

Some things haven’t changed much since August Busch, Jr. opened the farm to the public—goat feeding, the deer park and, of course, the Clydesdales.

“Those core great experiences are still real cornerstones of the experience today,” Elmore said.

And admission to Grant’s Farm remains as it was all those years ago when tours first started—free!

Here are some of the things you can do without charge at Grant’s Farm:

Ride an open-air tram through the 180-acre deer park for a glimpse of a variety of exotic animals from six of the world’s seven continents. “You never know what animals you’ll see and which ones you won’t, so it’s always a little bit of an adventure,” Elmore said.

Enjoy an animal encounter.

Get an up-close look at a variety of animals at the “edutaining” animal shows in the Tier Garten amphitheater.

Get an “elephant education.”

Visit the Clydesdale barn.

Sample an Anheuser-Busch product—if you’re 21 or older.

For a nominal fee you can:

Ride the carousel.

Jostle about on a camel ride.

Feed the goats.

Take a behind-the-scenes Clydesdale tour to learn about the stages of Clydesdale training, see how they travel and get up close and personal with a Clydesdale.

Every year Grant’s Farm adds new attractions to keep the experience fresh for visitors.

This year’s new additions are Swan Boats you can paddle on Mirror Lake (extra charge) and a giant cage that is home to hundreds of colorful parakeets. For $1, you can feed the birds from a stick.

“Even though we’ve added all these new things over the years, we’ve been true to the original atmosphere, look, feel and what Grant’s Farm delivers and what we deliver are family memories,” Elmore said.

Visitors sometimes wonder why it’s called Grant’s Farm and what its connection is to the Busch family. The attraction is located on 281 acres of the original piece of land gifted to Ulysses S. Grant, who would later become president of the United States, and his bride Julia by his father-in-law Frederick Dent.

At the turn of the 20th century, August Busch, Sr. bought part of the original plot of land. In the early 1900s, Busch used the property as a summer and weekend retreat.

Construction was started on the Bauernhof (German for “farmstead”) in 1907. It was completed a few years later when Busch began living there.

The “Big House,” where the Busch family lived for many years, was completed in 1912.

When Busch first began coming to Grant’s Farm, it was almost a full day carriage ride and Gravois was a dirt road, Elmore said.

Also in 1907, “Hardscrabble,” a four-room log cabin Grant built, was moved to the property.  Hardscrabble, the only house built by a U.S. president, was originally located a mile northeast of Grant’s Farm.

The cabin was displayed at the 1904 World’s Fair. Hope was that the owner at the time would sell it to the city and leave it in Forest Park as a memorial to Grant, but the deal fell through. August Busch, Sr. bought it and moved it to what’s now known as “Grant’s Farm.”

Visitors can view the cabin from the tram as they traverse the deer park.

Grant’s Farm is owned and operated by Anheuser-Busch. It is adjacent to Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site.

People also sometimes wonder why Mr. Busch opened his estate to the public. “A little bit folklore and legend” says that August Busch, Jr., who bought the Cardinals in 1953, entertained the ball players and their wives there. “One of the wives suggested he open it to the public and share it because they had such a wonderful experience here,” Elmore said. “I don’t know if that’s 100 percent true, but it’s the legend of Grant’s Farm.”

Since opening, the attraction has had more than 24 million visitors with a little over 500,000 people visiting last year.

To celebrate Grant’s Farm’s 60th anniversary, the attraction launched a Facebook campaign May 1, asking guests to submit photos of themselves visiting Grant’s Farm over the years.

Pictures will go up on a board at Grant’s Farm.  “Hopefully people will come in and see their picture posted, and we will share on social media,” Elmore said. “We think that’s pretty fun.”

The attraction also started 60 days of giveaways through its Facebook page on May 1.

Music events are being scheduled, too, Elmore said. Details will be announced soon.

If you go:

Grant’s Farm is located at 10501 Gravois Road (enter from Grant Road)

Admission to Grant's Farm, tram rides and all shows are complimentary. There is a parking fee of $12 per car and $30 per bus. No reservation is required to visit.

Summer hours:
Tuesday – Friday: 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sunday: 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Open daily from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Memorial Day and Labor Day

These are entry times; the park closes 90 minutes after the entrance closes

Insider’s tip: Want to avoid the heaviest crowds. Plan to visit on Sunday morning.

Guest Blogger Kathie Sutin a freelance writer from St. Louis, Missouri contributed to this blog.