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The Gateway to the West: 10 fun things to do with kids in St. Louis

by Liz Walker

I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and never fully appreciated its history, beauty, and diversity. I've learned more about my hometown in the twenty years since I moved away, than I ever knew when I was there. What I've discovered over the years is that St. Louis has something for everyone. If you want sports, entertainment, education, culture, or just plain fun, you can find it St. Louis. In fact, trying to find only 10 things to include in this article was a real challenge. I finally decided on activities that my kids and family have enjoyed over the years. For a more complete list and a visitor's guide you can call 1-800-916-0040. I've also listed some useful St. Louis links and books at the end of this article.
  • A very brief history:
The first known occupation of the area was by a civilization of mound builders called the Mississippians. The culture disappeared around the time of the Middle Ages leaving only their mysterious earthen mounds as reminders of their existence. The area was re-discovered by Europeans centuries later and in 1764 the city was founded by French fur traders and named for King Louis IX. It was the starting point for Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery, and at a time when it boasted only about 1,000 permanent residents it was the fur trading center of America. It would later become the gateway city for families seeking their futures in the west. In 1904 St. Louis was the site for the World’s Fair. It's where the ice cream cone was invented when a vendor ran out of bowls for his ice cream. He rolled a waffle and placed a scoop of ice cream on top of it - creating - you guessed itÉthe ice cream cone!

St. Louis Stops:

  • Stop #1
St. Louis Arch and Riverfront. (314) 425-4465 At 630 feet, the arch is the nation's tallest monument. You can ride the tram to the top to see St. Louis "from the air". If you have small children prepare them for a noisy, bumpy ride. During peak hours there is a long wait but that gives you time to tour the underground Museum of Westward Expansion which includes artifacts and exhibits related to the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The museum is free. Admission to the tram ride for children 3-12 is $2.50, 13-16 $4.00, adults $6.00. Tram summer hours are 8:30 AM - 9:15 PM. While you are on the Riverfront, check out the first floating Mac Donalds built on a Riverboat. They serve the same Happy Meals they serve everywhere else, but the meals are so much happier on a big boat. If you really want to go somewhere though, you can ride the Becky Thatcher or Tom Sawyer and see St. Louis from the river just like Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) did. (314) 621-4040.
  • Stop #2
Forest Park - Bounded by Kingshighway, Lindell and Skinker Blvd. This is where you'll find the St. Louis Zoo, (314) 781-0900, the Art Museum (314) 721-0072 and the St. Louis Science Center (314) 289-4444. - The Zoo is one of the few free zoos in the world. Like so many places in St. Louis, it is a mixture of historical and state of the art buildings and exhibits. A new Children's Zoo (which charges a small fee) just opened with koalas and meerkats in a kid friendly environment. - The Art Museum was the fine arts palace of the 1904 World’s Fair. It is now one of the top 10 museums in the nation and includes collections of art from around the world. Open W - Sun. 10 AM - 5 PM, Tues. 1:30 PM - 8:30. Admission is free with a nominal charge for special exhibitions. - The St. Louis Science Center located in two buildings on the southeast corner of Forest Park. It includes over 600 hands on exhibits. A life size animated dinosaur greets you at the entrance. Admission is to the center is free but there is a small charge for Discovery room programs, Omnimax theater, and Planetarium. Call (number above) for show times and prices.
  • Stop #3
Grant's Farm - 10501 Gravois (314) 843- 1700. Owned and operated by Anheuser-Busch, Inc., the farm was once home to Ulysses S. Grant. A trackless train takes visitors to a Wildlife Park, petting zoo, bird and elephant shows, and the Clydesdale stallion barn. Admission is free but reservations are required. Open 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM mid-April - mid October.
  • Stop #4
The Magic House - 516 S. Kirkwood Road. (314) 822-8900. This is a true hands on museum with education that entertains. Exhibits include an electrostatic generator that make your hair stand on end and a human size maze. Admission is $4.50. M-Th 9:30 AM - 5:30 PM, Fri. 9:30 AM - 9:00 PM, Sat. 9:30 AM - 5:00 PM. Sun. 11:00 - 5:30.
  • Stop #5
The Butterfly House - Faust County Park - 20 miles west of downtown. (314) 530- 0076. See more than 60 different species and as many as 15,000 individual butterflies. Get up close and personal as they fly free inside the glass conservatory. Wear bright colors, like red, and you'll attract the "flying flowers". $5.00 for adults, $4.50 for seniors, $4.00 for 3-12 year olds.
  • Stop #6
The City Museum - 701 N. 15th St. (314) 231-2489. Not your average museum - this is a fun place for kids to visit. But adults, prepare yourself. It's wild, its loud, and its sensory overload, big time! The museum's exhibits include architectural artifacts and ornaments in the St. Louis Architectural Museum, a working Glass Studio, and lots of tunnels to explore - you know those giant habitrail things - only here, they're suspended from the ceiling! It's housed in a renovated shoe factory and many of the design elements are brightly painted "re- claimed" factory parts. Admission is $6.00.
  • Stop #7
Museum of Transportation - Barrett Station Rd. between Big Bend and Manchester. See more than 300 moving vehicles on display here, including locomotives, streetcars, aircraft and automobiles. Open daily 9 AM - 5 PM. $4.00 adults, $1.50 children and seniors.
  • Stop #8
SPORTS FANS ----- BASEBALL - Busch Stadium - Home of the St. Louis Baseball Cardinals and Mark McGwire. For schedule and ticket information call (314) 421-3060. FOOTBALL - St. Louis Rams playing in the Transworld Dome. Super Bowl 2000 CHAMPS! For schedule and ticket information go to:
Order 1999 Rams Fact Book.
  • Stop #9
Cahokia Mounds - Collinsville, Illinois. It's only 15 minutes from downtown. If you remember your history (from the beginning of this article) its the place where human settlement began in this area. It's the largest Native American City north of Mexico with archaeological finds dating from 700 - 1400 AD. Open daily, 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM. A $2.00 donation is suggested.
  • Stop #10
Just a short drive from downtown (about 30 minutes) you'll find Eureka, MO home of Six Flags Over Mid-America. You'll find it at I-44 Exit 261, Eureka, MO (314) 938-4800. You can ride "Mr. Freeze", "The Screaming Eagle", and "Batman - The Ride". Or you can just sit back in a shaded outdoor caf*, sip a cool drink, and watch the kids scream their hearts out.

The big hitter...

Learn about the mound builders...

For current guide information.

This page was created by Liz Walker. Copyright 2004. Last Updated 06/20/04
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