Armed with revolutionary inventions and grand architecture, St. Louis, Missouri, served as a virtual playground in 1904 when it hosted the World’s Fair. Today, the city still inspires and stirs the imagination of little ones with its assortment of kid-friendly attractions that not only educate but provide cutting-edge entertainment.
Party Like an Animal
Based in Forest Park, just five minutes west of downtown, Saint Louis Zoo is spread across 90 acres and is home to more than 19,800 animals. Kids can enjoy a 20-minute train excursion around the zoo, a spin on a carousel and a 4-D motion simulator ride. There are also animal stage shows, playgrounds and interactive exhibits for children, such as a stingray touch tank and children’s petting zoo. Grant’s Farm is a 281-acre farm based 20 minutes southwest of downtown St. Louis. Get up close and personal with the farm’s more than 900 animals, including the famed Budweiser Clydesdales, who sit housed in stables, and the massive deer park which you can tour from a tram. The farm also offers camel rides, areas where you can feed goats and a carousel.
The Magic House is 15 minutes southwest of St. Louis’ city center. Housed inside a lavish, 55,000-square-foot Victorian mansion, the museum includes an assortment of hands-on exhibits. Kids can embark on a series of adventures, such as performing puppet shows, making giant bubbles, climbing Jack’s giant three-story bean stalk, playing a variety of instruments and solving mysteries by analyzing fingerprints and crawling through secret passageways. The City Museum is based right in the heart of downtown and housed inside the former 600,000-square-foot International Shoe Company factory. The massive museum, dubbed a giant children’s playground, includes an enormous cave with a 10-story slide; a unique play zone where kids can climb through wrought-iron slinkies and airplane fuselages and frolic in two huge ball pits; an aquarium filled with stingrays and sharks and outfitted with an underwater tunnel; and a skateless park where little ones can run or slide down skate basins, half-pipes and ramps.
Science and Nature
Based 10 minutes southwest of downtown St. Louis, the Missouri Botanical Garden is a pristine green space spread across nearly 80 acres. In particular, kids can explore the almost 2-acre Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden where they can take a steamboat ride on a small pond, explore limestone caves, make their way through a pioneer village and climb a treehouse. Children can also visit the garden’s butterfly house where almost 2,000 butterflies flutter around inside a tropical conservatory. Tucked away in the far southeastern corner of Forest Park, Saint Louis Science Center has more than 700 interactive exhibits, most of which are geared toward children. Kids can dress up like scientists with lab coats and goggles, dig for fossils, watch science demonstrations on stage and erect structures out of foam building blocks. The center also has a planetarium where 9,000 stars are projected onto an 80-foot dome and an IMAX theater whose five-story screen shows short films.
All the World’s a Stage
The Muny is also inside Forest Park. Opened in 1917, it is the nation’s largest and oldest outdoor musical theater. Each year, the theater stages seven Broadway musicals from mid-June through mid-August in their 10,800-seat theater. The company often stages family-friendly productions, including such past shows as “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Sound of Music,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” The theater’s website has a list for parents detailing the content of their productions, including any possibly questionable or offensive material in each show. Metro Theater Company is just five minutes west of the heart of St. Louis. The theatrical company stages shows specifically for children, including fairy tales, musicals and biographical stories on pioneering historical figures. Productions are held at a variety of venues, including St. Louis Public Library and Missouri History Museum.