When you think of St. Louis, Missouri a few things probably come to mind… the Arch for certain. Maybe you are a Cards fan or see them as a dreaded empire close to #theteamwhomustnotbenamed. Or beer. Maybe its the beer and these guys and their amazing Super Bowl ads that come to mind.
Before we headed to the show me state, I figured we’d see the arch, dress in red and have a local beverage, but I never thought we’d find incredible public spaces in the heart of the city. Forest Park is home to 5 museums, over 8 places to grab a bite, 5 historical landmarks, statues galore, 4 nature preserves and a highly rated playground. Among the largest public parks in the county (5 acres larger than NYC’s Central Park), there is quiet a bit of ground to cover. We traveled by tennis shoe and jogging stroller, but a park run trolley is also available for a minimal fee.
Eat: The Boathouse
Casual restaurant inside the boat rental pavilion. With lots to see- boats on the water and ducks paddling by kids will enjoy this casual spot. If you are up for it and it’s a busy day, put your name in at the restaurant and rent a paddleboat for a water view of the St. Louis Art Museum, World’s Fair Pavilion and the Zoo, or step up to the bar for a drink while kids enjoy the open area to run and play.
Play: Turtle Playground, Variety Wonderland Playground (5595 Grand Drive St. Louis, MO)
With a toddler in tow, the Forest Park’s Turtle Playground was just our speed. Enough for him to climb and explore without me having to climb and explore. The bear requires near perfect supervision since he can climb almost anything and also likes to throw himself off of the thing he just climbed. The Variety playground was great as well and it helped me get in some cardio. Its another of a growing number of playgrounds designed nationwide that allows children of all abilities to play, a really fantastic thing.
Learn: St. Louis Zoo (One Government Drive, St. Louis, MO)
Now, THIS is a zoo. Wow. A must do when visiting St. Louis you will find an immersive and interactive Children’s Zoo that includes a slide that goes through the Otter exhibit (I was very sad that there was a 54″ height limit). This is no drive by experience folks, this is see it, touch it and learn from it zoo fun. Children are encouraged to interact with the animals and their environments. Admission to the Zoo is free, but shows and attractions (including the Children’s Zoo) require tickets. We purchased the safari pass for $12. It includes the Children’s Zoo, the Railroad, the Carousel and Stingrays (which we didn’t do because I get nervous around sea creatures these days. It has been the summer of touchable fish and I am taking a hiatus from fish and other swimming animals. Except for otters. I loved those otters.