Top Five for Kids Under 5
Local dad and blogger Kevin Mitchell’s top five for kids under 5 in St. Louis.
Citygarden was design specifically for you and your family, and any downtown visit should include it. This oasis of interactive art, gardens, and dancing fountains for kids (including toddlers) to run through is a perfect hour-long stop between visits to the Arch or the ballpark – both within walking distance. The winding path takes the family through 24 conversation-inducing sculptures. Then there are six rain gardens, a children’s spray plaza, and a 180-foot-long shallow pool with a six-foot waterfall, all especially popular on a hot afternoon (Note: you’d be wise to have a towel handy).
Absolutely a must for toddlers and big kids, this St. Louis treasure was once President Ulysses S. Grant’s farm, but it is now so much more than that. You start off with a short tram ride where you drive by the four-room, two-story cabin Grant built himself in 1855. Then you better keep your eyes open or you’ll miss the free-roaming animals that include bison, antelopes, zebras, and more. You’ll hop off at the main zoo area where young ones love to feed the goats (warning: those little guys can be aggressive). A short walk takes you by giant tortoises, wallabies, lemurs, camels, parrots, and more. Plus there are a couple of short animal shows.
Parents with younger kids especially like this place because it’s so easy to walk (they rent strollers too). You’re done in less than an hour or two, and then you end up in the German-inspired old-world square where … wait for it … wait for it … parents get two free beer samples. Have a snack or lunch, just make sure you also walk through the little museum and see turn-of-the-last-century cars and carriages plus meet some of the horses.
A couple of things to keep in mind, though: While admission is free, parking is $15. And if it’s a nice Saturday in the summer, you would be wise to be there as close to the 9 am opening as possible. If you try to go at noon or 2 pm, the long line into the parking lot will be a killjoy. It is seasonal, too, closed during late fall and winter. But it is a must for visiting families!
This place rocks. Zagat named it the country’s best attraction for children, and it regularly makes national “best of” lists. Once inside, you’ll understand why. There are hands-on interactive exhibits appealing to preschoolers and younger children, especially the Children’s Village where they can grab a tool and fix a car, climb up to a treehouse, do some grocery shopping, fish, bank, and serve pizza in a restaurant.
Upstairs is great for bigger kids, with an electrically charged ball, 3-D printer, giant kaleidoscope wheel, three-story slide, and so much more. In the Star-Spangled section there’s a national treasure hunt, a voting booth, and the chance to sit at a replica of the president of the United States’ desk. There’s so much more—and that’s not even counting the special exhibits. It’s all located 15 minutes from downtown in the quaint suburb of Kirkwood, which is a gem of its own filled with parks and restaurants.
Those with the littlest kids will want to get there at opening, as afternoon tends to be for older kids, and after 2 pm it tends to be the least crowded. Allow at least four hours.
A whole lot of fun for all, especially for those with little kids (it’s for those 2–12, but really under 10 enjoy it the most). This combination children’s museum, science center, and indoor playground is a delightful way to spend two to four hours. There are over 30 diverse exhibits to explore, including a zoo vet clinic, an interactive video wall, and a magnetic ball wall! Definitely keep this in mind if some other outdoor plan gets rained out.
We love our animals—in fact the Purina pet food company’s roots started here in 1894. The company owns a really fun farm and visitor center 40 minutes southwest of downtown. The Incredible Dog Team is a hoot, especially for young ones, and the Pet Center features a 20-foot multi-level home for cats. There are also wagon rides, interactive exhibits, cow-milking demonstrations, a baby animal petting area…it’s a nice respite from the sometimes hectic on-the-go aspects of other tourist attractions.
Local Dad and blogger Kevin Mitchell gives us his top 5 picks for kids of all ages!