Top Five for Teens & Tweens
Local dad and blogger Kevin Mitchell’s top five for Teens & Tweens.
There is no doubt that this once-in-a-lifetime experience must be had, but we’re going to tell parents how to do it the smart way. Know that the entire grounds have been redesigned and include a new museum and stroller-friendly walkways.
Standing at 630 feet tall, the Gateway Arch is our nation’s tallest human-made monument, and it anchors Gateway Arch National Park. It is the city’s most popular tourist attraction. Visiting on a weekday is better than a weekend, but in either case arriving right when it opens is your best bet. Buying tickets online is also wise, but you can also purchase by phone or at the ticket center located inside the new city-facing entrance.
Figure in some wait time, starting with at least 30 minutes to go through security. But once inside, your tram ticket is assigned a time—you can enjoy the Museum with lots of kid-friendly interactive elements while you wait. Once in line for the tram, there are a lot of screens to look at and fun facts to keep you all entertained while you wait. At the tram, you’ll leave your stroller behind and get into the 5-person “pod” and begin your ascent. You’ll be rewarded at the top with great views. For an extra thrill, on windy days it even sways a little! The windows are small and little kids will need to be lifted up to see out, but you have plenty of time to comfortably enjoy the experience and take plenty of selfies.
After it all, head north to Laclede’s Landing for restaurants and brewpubs with children’s menus where parents can appreciate that draft beer or glass of wine and relax over a good meal.
Hidden Valley, a St. Louis destination since 1982, is located just 29 miles west of downtown St. Louis. Skiers and snowboarders enjoy 65 acres of skiable terrain over 3 peaks, with 320 foot vertical drop and 17 trails for a variety of skill levels! The snow tubing hill is perfect for the whole family with up to 16 lanes.. 2 conveyor surface lifts take you back to the top of the hill.
Hidden Valley is now open year round. A brand new ZipTour includes 4 ziplines, 2 chairlift rides and boasts the Region’s longest most scenic Zipline!
Have some kids and teens who like exploring? Take them to “America’s Cave.” This 4.6-mile cavern system was formed from large limestone deposits over millions of years! The guided tour is fascinating and filled with facts and urban legends. Hey, if it is good enough for Jesse James…. Tip: No matter the weather, bring a jacket as going down the equivalent of five stories into the earth tends to make one a little chilly. Also it’s not conducive to strollers so maybe it’s not a good idea for the very young.
Now, when you’re out of the cave, check out the riverboat rides, canoe rentals, sluicing operation, and zipline. The zipline would be a big hit for the big kids, and teens & tweens — just call ahead because it’s not always open.
The 200-foot-high wheel is a must. It became an immediate hit with locals and visitors alike. Take your kids for a 15-minute perfect skyline view. And for the record it’s not a Ferris wheel but an “observation” wheel. Instead of open-air seats there are enclosed, climate-controlled gondolas—so they are perfect for the littlest ones. Whew.
Want to splurge? Sign up for the VIP climate-controlled gondolas, which offer opportunities for the kids to learn concepts in math, engineering, and geography. Oh, and leather captain chairs. Oh, and a glass floor.
Since 1971, this popular theme park has been thrilling and entertaining kids of all ages, and if you have teens & tweens, it’s pretty much a must. Six Flags St. Louis is the coaster capital of Missouri with nine heart-pounding roller coasters (three wooden and six steel). Combined they feature over 22,700 feet of track.
Located just a half hour from downtown in Eureka, the park is adding attractions every year, so it just gets better and better. If your mix of kids includes toddlers and little kids, no worries. Bugs Bunny National Park has great rides for the little ones and a fun treehouse.
There’s a great water park too, so consider fitting that in. Although, unless you have the stamina to do an all-day run, maybe just one or the other is more reasonable.
It’s a popular theme park, so the universal rules apply: Getting there during the week is better than the weekend and getting there right when it opens is better than at 1 pm. Another option is later in the afternoon as the tired families are leaving, plus night riding is really fun. To save money, bring a picnic lunch, get your hand stamped, leave the park to go eat, and return. Otherwise, rumor has it that the vast majority of those entering the park go left, so going right and hitting a popular ride like Batman is easier. It is a clean, well-run park with fun shows too.