Interstate 44, also known as the I-44 corridor in the St. Louis region, is a convenient pathway to outstanding outdoor fun and adventure with numerous A-plus attractions for the whole family to enjoy and explore. The attractions below are organized from East to West along the I-44 corridor.
Tower Grove Park
In a city with plenty of park prowess, Tower Grove Park stands supreme as a classic Victorian park that has a variety of free or affordable recreational, cultural and educational opportunities for everyone while never compromising its great heritage and character. Donated to the city in 1868 by Henry Shaw and opened to the public in 1872, Tower Grove Park is a National Historic Landmark, the city’s second largest park (289 acres) and an important green space filled with grassy meadows and assorted flowerbeds. Adjacent to the Missouri Botanical Garden just off I-44, the busy park is a worthy neighbor with well-preserved athletic fields, trails, tennis courts, a wading pool and three playgrounds. Cultural and educational activities abound including the Summer Children’s Concert Series, the Tower Grove Farmers Market, lecture series, art exhibits and band concerts. Park patrons can also enjoy the Piper Palm House, a free public venue that hosts three St. Louis Symphony shows, and The Music Stand (built in 1872), which is still used for performances and private weddings.
Missouri Botanical Garden
An outdoor oasis tucked over 79 acres in St. Louis, the highly decorated Missouri Botanical Garden is a National Historic Landmark, a local treasure, a global tourist attraction and is recognized as one of the top three botanical gardens in the world. Founded in 1859 by Henry Shaw, the Missouri Botanical Garden is the country’s oldest botanical garden in continuous operation and attracts over 901,000 local families and worldwide visitors to annual events like the Orchid Show, Gardenland Express holiday flower and train show, the Japanese Festival, Chinese Culture Days, Whitaker Music Festival and the Best of Missouri Market. Visitors walking the garden grounds will find numerous fountains, fine pieces of sculpture, including seven monumental bronzes, and breathtaking and eye-catching horticultural displays.
Laumeier Sculpture Park
Looking to sculpt out your itinerary with a monumental experience? Internationally recognized and one of the nation’s oldest and largest sculpture parks, Laumeier Sculpture Park presents 60 works of large-scale outdoor sculpture in a 105-acre park located near I-44 and I-270 in the heart of St. Louis County. Free and open daily, Laumeier welcomes 300,000 visitors each year with an amazing array of sculptures including Alexander Liberman’s “The Way,” and the largest collection of Ernest Trova sculptures in the world, all displayed on landscaped grounds and wooded hiking trails. In addition to numerous collections and exhibits, Laumeier offers many educational and outreach programs and events, including the Annual Art Fair in May.
Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center
Named after the general area for manufacture and storage of explosive powder used in the Civil War and World War II, the Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center is anything but explosive. Nestled within 112 acres of oak hickory forest in suburban Kirkwood, Powder Valley is a quiet, tranquil oasis for visitors looking to hike, go bird watching and escape the hustle and bustle of urban living. In addition to three paved trails, Powder Valley’s nature center has two levels of exhibits related to backyard wildlife and conservation practices in urban areas, a large aquarium (fish feedings every Saturday at 2 p.m.), interpretative programs on many conservation topics, demonstrations, exhibits and displays.
World Bird Sanctuary
Perched just off the intersection of Interstate 44 and Route 141 in Valley Park, the World Bird Sanctuary is one of North America’s largest facilities for the conservation of birds, featuring a variety of bird species spanning 305 acres. Founded by Walter Crawford in 1977, the Word Bird Sanctuary is not only a unique attraction but an outstanding learning experience with an array of customized programs for children and adults. With a team of naturalists to guide you, the World Bird Sanctuary offers guided tours, free seasonal shows, the always popular Birds in Concert every Thursday in August, bird banding demonstrations, plenty of hiking trails, picnic pavilions, and a Nature Center.
Lone Elk Park
Adjacent to the World Bird Sanctuary, Castlewood State Park and the Tyson Research Center, Lone Elk Park is a wildlife paradise enveloped in an urban setting in St. Louis County west of Valley Park. Teeming with free-roaming elk and bison, the 546-acre park officially opened in the fall of 1971. Six bison were then purchased two years later from the Saint Louis Zoo. Free and open daily, Lone Elk Park is also home to white-tail deer, wild turkeys, waterfowl and other small mammals. It also has picnic facilities and a lake for fishing (closed this year for repairs). Lone Elk Park officially opens at 7 a.m. in the summertime and 8 a.m. in the winter. The gates, however, are physically opened and visitors are free to enter by 6:30 a.m. year round.
Endangered Wolf Center
Considered the cornerstone of wolf conservation in the United States, the Endangered Wolf Center is located on the north side of I-44 in Eureka and approximately 20 miles southwest of St. Louis at the Washington University Tyson Research Center. Founded four decades ago by the legendary naturalist Marlin Perkins and his wife, Carol, the Center’s mission is to preserve wolves and re-introduce them to the wild while providing educational components through expanded programming such as tours, field trips, outreach, scout groups, distance learning, camp experiences, evening programs, and private event opportunities. The Center offers daytime tours and evening wolf howls. Reservations are required.
Route 66 State Park
While getting your kicks on iconic Route 66, why not stop at Route 66 State Park for some additional kicks by the Mother Road. Route 66 State Park’s Visitor Center located just east of Eureka, offers a treasure trove of displays, memorabilia and souvenirs from a road that occupies a special place in American popular culture and history. Outside, the park features hiking, biking and equestrian trails as well as great bird watching in a scenic backdrop where diverse trees and plants abound and deer and wild turkeys roam free. The park also has picnic grounds with a playground, allowing you to sit, eat, relax and take in the splendid scenery.
Hidden Valley Ski. Tube. Ride.
Hidden in name only, Hidden Valley Ski. Tube. Ride. remains a highly visible and popular wintertime place for skiing, snowboarding and tubing. Open daily in the season and located off I-44 in Wildwood, Hidden Valley offers beginner, intermediate and advance terrain for skiers, group and private lessons, and other fun activities and events. For added excitement by the whole family, the Polar Plunge Tubing Park provides plenty of thrills (and some spills) with rapid runs down specially designed tubing lanes. With plenty of nearby lodging and a sizeable ski lodge featuring a bar, cafeteria, and retail options, Hidden Valley is the place to be for winter fun.
For those passionate about pets, Purina Farms provides a plethora of pet-centric events for participants and spectators. Located just 10 minutes west of Six Flags St. Louis in Gray Summit, Purina Farms is open year-round and is one of the region’s favorite family friendly destinations. At the aptly named Incredible Dog Arena adjacent to the Visitor Center, fans are treated to entertaining canine performances daily including dog diving, agility and flying disc. There’s also cow milking demonstrations at the Visitor Center along with wagon rides, an animal petting arena, animal barn, educational exhibits, an indoor theatre and a hayloft play area with a rope swing and crawling tunnels. Unless when noted for special events, parking and admission to Purina Farms is free.
Shaw Nature Reserve
Close to the junction of Highway 100 and I-44 in Franklin County, the Shaw Nature Preserve is a 2,441-acre natural asset with a replicated prairie, ample woodlands, wetlands, and flower-filled trails where numerous butterflies, birds and other wildlife can be spotted. Operated as an extension of the Missouri Botanical Garden and open year-round, Shaw Nature Preserve not only has emerged as a renowned habitat restoration and reconstruction area but a place where scores of school children and adults learn more about nature and the environment.
Called the crown jewel of Missouri and a hideout for Jesse James, Meramec Caverns features a stunning labyrinthine of dazzling mineral formations that rank high on the “wow” barometer. Nestled in the solid limestone of the Ozark Plateau about sixty miles west of downtown St. Louis, Meramec Caverns is one of the most interesting tourist-accessible caves in the United States. Rich with geological and historical significance, visitors will quickly discover why Meramec Caverns has remained a popular show cave for nearly a century. To guide you, trained rangers will lead you down well lighted walkways to a breathtaking and unique cave system. Outside, Meramec Caverns is equally impressive with a zip line, outstanding campgrounds, canoe floats, dining, a motel, and riverboat rides. You can even pan for gold.
Onondaga Cave State Park
For outdoor lovers seeking scintillating above ground and subterranean adventures, Onondaga Cave State Park on the Meramec River in Leasburg is the place to explore. On the surface, visitors are treated to spectacular panoramic views of the Meramec River atop the park’s Vilander Bluff Natural Area. Onondaga also provides easy access to this beautiful river for fishing, swimming, and canoeing. The park also has a newly renovated campground and a Visitors Center that showcases Missouri as a cave state. Deep down below, adventurers can explore the wonderful depths of Onondaga Cave, considered one of the most astounding caves in the United States because of its amazing abundance and quality of stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones and rim stone dams. Cave tours are available daily from March through October.