Travel can enhance a teenager’s self-esteem, education and worldview, but it’s not always easy to find activities that appeal to them. We’re here to help with that.
These St. Louis attractions will challenge teens physically and mentally, give them freedom to explore on their own and introduce them to interesting people.
Most teenagers’ moods also depend on how well they sleep and eat. Check out our recommendations for places to stay and places to eat in the St. Louis area and start your trip off on the right foot.
At Amp Up Action Park, there’s guaranteed fun at every turn. Zip around a custom-built track in the most technologically advanced indoor kart in the world and complete a heart-pounding adventure in the three-level, black light-lit laser tag arena. There’s also an elevated ropes course, axe throwing, arcade games and pickleball. Play as you go or purchase a two-hour pass, and when you get hungry, stop by the Filling Station Cafe or Trackside Tavern for bar bites, pizza, sweet treats and more.
Armory STL, a new entertainment complex in Midtown, is massive – and we’re not exaggerating. The venue has almost 6 acres of flexible indoor space, where everyone in your group will find an activity that they enjoy. Armory STL boasts the largest indoor TV screen in Missouri, a state-of-the-art sound system, arcade games and other activities such as cornhole, table tennis and four-square badminton. There are also putting greens, adult seesaws and a bright-green, two-story slide. Hungry? The kitchen serves up delectable dishes such as the spicy bacon and egg burger with crispy shallots and Sriracha mayonnaise; the brat, apple and Cheddar press with caramelized onions; veggie tacos with roasted sweet potato, black beans, avocado, pickled onion and avocado-yogurt sauce; a pulled pork chip board; and creamy garlic wings. For those 21 and older, there’s approximately 500 feet of bar space where you can order your drink of choice. Overall, the vibe is fun and casual, and entrance is free.
Housed in the 100-year-old Century Electric Co. factory in Midtown, City Foundry is a buzzing hangout that features a European-style food hall populated by chef-driven restaurants and unique boutiques filled with locally made products. The site also includes Alamo Drafthouse and Puttshack. “Not another multiplex,” the former aims to preserve the film-watching experience. It boasts 10 screens and more than 930 luxury recliners, along with a full bar and local food specials – think St. Louis-style pizza, toasted ravioli and gooey butter cake. From the makers of Topgolf, the latter modernizes mini golf with patented technology, Instagram-friendly aesthetics and world-class cuisine. Sandbox, a futuristic, full-body, virtual-reality experience, is another entertainment option at City Foundry. Inspired by Star Trek’s Holodeck, Sandbox’s original worlds will make you feel like you’re living inside a game or a movie.
For unlimited fun under one roof, head to Main Event in Chesterfield. From bowling to laser tag and billiards to mini golf, every activity and game is designed to bring family and friends together. You can also play arcade games, immerse yourself in a virtual reality experience, test your skills on the indoor ropes course and show off your smarts in one of the miniature escape rooms. If you’re in the area on Monday, take advantage of Main Event’s all-you-can-play promotion – it’s just $12.99 a person!
Take flight at Adventure Valley, where 10 zip lines will propel you through a beautiful, wooded ridge in Jefferson County. On one zip line, which is more than 1,100 feet long, you can reach speeds up to 50 miles per hour! If you would rather keep your feet on the ground, Adventure Valley also has a paintball park, which is open on Saturdays and Sundays for those 12 and older. Don’t underestimate how fun it can be to team up with your loved ones and play in a paintball tournament.
Need a good read? Apotheosis Comics & Lounge has some of the best comic books and graphic novels for teenagers on its shelves. The locally owned and operated specialty bookstore also hosts events such as game nights, comedy shows and literary discussions.
Is it safe to paddle the Mighty Mississippi? Big Muddy Adventures, a world-class St. Louis-based adventure company, is often asked that question, and the answer is a resounding yes. The professional outfitter provides access to the wild wonders of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers with its full fleet of canoes and kayaks. Whether you want to do a microadventure in downtown St. Louis, embark on a full moon float to a beautiful, uninhabited river island or add a bike ride along the Katy Trail to your aquatic adventure, river trips with Big Muddy Adventures are always memorable.
Concentration, creativity and collaboration. Perception, patience and persistence. Your team will need these skills to break out of Escape Challenge St. Louis, where ordinary rooms are turned into engaging mysteries. Perfect for problem-solvers aged 12 and older, the scenarios are specifically designed to give guests a unique escape experience. So, gather your group and see if you can beat one of the high scores.
Grab your balls – we’re going bowling! Flamingo Bowl, the bowling mecca of downtown St. Louis, features Art Deco décor, colorful designs and a vibrant atmosphere that even teenagers find fun. The lounge also serves late-night eats such as toasted ravioli, pretzel bites, tacos and pizza to keep them happy.
Believe it or not, St. Louis has a thriving ski scene. Located in Wildwood, approximately 30 miles west of downtown St. Louis, Hidden Valley is a winter playground for adventure-seekers from near and far. The resort has two peaks and 16 trails as well as state-of-the-art snowmaking machines to create the perfect base when Mother Nature has warmer plans. Ski and snowboard rentals are available, and Hidden Valley also boasts the largest snow-tubing hill in Missouri. The Polar Plunge Tubing Park offers guests an opportunity to soar down the snowy hill without a care in the world.
We’ll spare you the bowling puns, and get straight to the point: Pin-Up Bowl is fun at any age. Now owned by Washington University in St. Louis, the intimate bowling lounge in the Delmar Loop is filled with bowling memorabilia and 1940s pin-up girl collectibles. Monday through Sunday, it’s open until the wee hours of the morning, and Tuesday through Saturday, the kitchen keeps cooking until 2 a.m.
Water slides, wave pools and lazy rivers – Raging Rivers WaterPark is a kid’s paradise and the perfect place to cool off if you’re visiting St. Louis during summer. Send your teenagers sailing down the Mississippi Monster, Cascade Body Flumes and Swirlpool and then relax in a rented cabana with an ice-cold drink.
For the best views of the Gateway Arch and St. Louis’ working riverfront, climb aboard one of the Gateway Arch Riverboats. Both the Becky Thatcher and the Tom Sawyer are 19th-century replicas, transporting you to a time when steamboats ruled the river. Cruises are narrated by captains from the National Park Service, who bring the history of the Mississippi River to life. Whether you choose a one-hour day cruise or a two-hour dinner cruise, you’ll learn about the river’s role in the country’s history as well as its impact on St. Louis’ economy to this day.
Open since September 2021, RYZE Adventure Park in Maryland Heights offers more than 100 obstacles, plus a heart-stopping zipline and a death-defying free fall, on its four-story Adventure Tower. Are you up for the challenge? The Adventure Tower isn’t linear, so you can make your own course, picking and choosing the activities and obstacles that you want to do. If you would rather keep your feet on the ground, check out the 18-hole state-of-the-art miniature golf course, which glows with neon lights at night. RYZE also has a spacious covered patio with a TV – that’s usually showing a St. Louis sporting event – and a large, turfed area where you can play yard games such as cornhole, washers and giant Jenga.
Everybody scream! Six Flags St. Louis boasts nine exhilarating rollercoasters (six steel and three wooden) with more than 22,000 feet of combined track. Located in Eureka, the amusement park continues to add attractions, appealing to thrill-seekers of all ages. Need to cool off? Head to Hurricane Harbor, a waterpark inside Six Flags St. Louis, where you can experience zero gravity on the Typhoon Twister, compete for first place on the Wahoo Racer and set sail on Gulley Washer Creek.
Besides the glorious collection of books that it holds, the St. Louis Public Library – Central Library offers unparalleled beauty through a masterful blend of classical and modern architectural styles. Built in 1912, the flagship spans an entire city block, standing proudly as a monument to the past and a cultural beacon for the future. Throughout the year, the library hosts art exhibitions and other events, such as Teen Video Game Night, and if you have time, you can join one of the architectural tours to learn more about the exquisite examples of both Beaux-Arts and Neoclassical architecture at the library.
To warm up in the winter, both shaky skaters and seasoned professionals enjoy taking laps around Steinberg Skating Rink. Situated in the sprawling acreage of Forest Park, it’s the largest outdoor skating rink in the Midwest. After you glide around the festively lit venue, snuggle up with hot chocolate by a fire pit.
Fore! Topgolf has two locations in the St. Louis area – one in Midtown and one in Chesterfield – where you can perfect your swing in climate-controlled hitting bays. Using complimentary clubs, take aim at the giant outfield targets and let the high-tech balls score themselves. At the end of the day, it’s not about your swing or your score, though; it’s about having fun with people you love.
Let’s roll. Fun, food and drinks await! Open for more than 50 years, Tropicana Lanes remains one of the top bowling destinations in the Midwest, and on weekdays, you can bowl as much as you want for $15 a person.
Ready, set, go! At Victory Raceway, the electric go-karts reach speeds up to 45 miles per hour on the indoor racetrack. There are no two-seaters, though – everyone drives!
Sprawling across almost 300 acres of pristine farmland, nestled among rolling hills and spotted with glistening lakes, Brookdale Farms offers an abundance of adventures no matter the season. Explore a flourishing maze of sunflowers, pick homegrown pumpkins or show off your ice skating skills. Brookdale Farms also offers canoe, kayak, raft and inner tube rentals so that you can experience the magic of Missouri rivers on a float trip – a summer rite of passage for locals and visitors alike. As temperatures drop and Halloween creeps closer, though, the farm starts to give us the heebie-jeebies. With more than 100 acres of terrifying trails, its on-site Eureka Fear Farm is the largest haunted attraction in the St. Louis area. Lose your soul in Red’s Corn Maze Massacre, or take a trip on Farmer Bob’s Haunted Hayride. Ancient demonic spirits lurk around every corner, so you’ll have to enter at your own risk.
At Eckert’s, you can almost taste the history. Eckert’s Orchards took root in 1837, and today, there are three farms just across the river in Southern Illinois. Together, the farms present fun for all seasons with you-pick crops such as strawberries in spring; blackberries and peaches in summer; apples and pumpkins in late summer and early fall; and Christmas trees in winter. Eckert’s also has special events throughout the year, which feature live music, festive foods, corn mazes and more.
Did you know that Forest Park in St. Louis is approximately 500 acres larger than Central Park in New York City? Home to world-class attractions – most of which are also free! – as well as walking and biking paths and paddle boat and canoe rentals, Forest Park is considered one of the best urban parks in the country. It’s the perfect place to wile away a vacation day with family or friends.
Add Gateway Arch National Park to your U.S. national parks bucket list! After a $380 million makeover, the national park land around the Gateway Arch and the Museum at the Gateway Arch is picture-perfect and ready for visitors. The verdant grounds feature pretty walkways and two reflection pools, but if you want a bird’s-eye view, take the tram ride to the top of the 630-foot monument. After you squeeze into a futuristic, five-person pod, it takes four minutes to ascend. At the top, small windows reveal spectacular views of the Old Courthouse, downtown St. Louis and beyond to the west and the Mississippi River and Illinois to the east. Tickets often sell out, so reserve your spots ahead of time.
Uncover Missouri’s buried treasure beneath the rolling hills of the Meramec Valley. Meramec Caverns, the largest commercial cave in the state and one of the most awe-inspiring caves on the planet, boasts astounding formations, including glistening stalactites, magnificent stalagmites, an ancient “wine table” and a seven-story “mansion,” which were formed from the erosion of large limestone deposits over millions of years. Trained rangers guide captivating tours along well-lit walkways to some of the rarest and largest cave formations in the world – they’ll also show you where an episode of Lassie was filmed in 1966. The underground oasis is a cool 60 degrees year-round, and you can supplement the spectacular experience with ziplining or a scenic excursion on the Meramec River aboard a canopy-topped riverboat.
The Missouri Botanical Garden has long been a place of beauty, serenity and discovery, as well as an institution of scientific research and education. Every visit represents a new opportunity to learn about plants and how they’re connected to our lives. As you stroll through the flourishing grounds, ask your teenagers to pick out some of their favorite flora – after all, there are more than 27,000 plants from which to choose!
Arguably the best-kept secret in the St. Louis area, the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka aims to help save and protect wild canids by reintroducing Mexican wolves and American red wolves – the two most endangered wolves in the world – into the wild. Want to see the wolves for yourself? The Endangered Wolf Center offers a variety of daytime tours as well as nighttime howls. Education coordinator Jimmy Parsons can imitate each howl, and you might be lucky enough to hear the wolves howl back while learning more about wolf communication. Visiting the center, you’ll also meet other species of canids, including South American maned wolves, African painted dogs, fennec foxes, arctic foxes, swift foxes and a melanistic red fox named Cooper.
A leading zoo in animal management, research, conservation and education, the Saint Louis Zoo should be at the top of your travel bucket list. On any given day, you might see bears splashing in plunge pools, monkeys swinging through the trees or penguins squawking for more fish. Got questions? Look for dedicated education volunteers and docents throughout the zoo, as they’re always happy to share their wealth of knowledge about the animals, their care and the Saint Louis Zoo’s conservation efforts. The thrills never stop, so plan to spend a good chunk of time here. General admission is free, as is street parking.
Hey, there’s a shark on track 36! The St. Louis Aquarium was retrofitted in a 19th-century train station, and visitors of all ages will love discovering which creatures now live along the tracks. The aquarium holds approximately 250,000 gallons of water and more than 13,000 animals. Keep an eye out for green sea turtles, paddlefish, sea dragons, cownose rays and Lord Stanley, the blue lobster. Love aquatic animals? Consider taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the St. Louis Aquarium, which includes personalized animal encounters that your family won’t soon forget.
Walk on the wild side at the World Bird Sanctuary. Founded in 1977, the sanctuary aims to protect and preserve all manner of winged friends through conservation, rehabilitation, education and advocacy. The World Bird Sanctuary encompasses more than 305 acres and houses more than 200 birds, offering a one-of-a-kind wildlife experience. Meet a proud eagle, talk to a colorful parrot, encounter an emu and learn to appreciate vultures. This is one attraction that you shouldn’t miss, and we recommend planning ahead to join a guided tour. Dark winter nights are the perfect time to join one of the Owl Prowls, for instance, where you can meet the amazing birds that fly by moonlight. Held on select evenings from November through March every year, Owl Prowls offer an exciting opportunity to learn more about the intriguing life of owls from a local naturalist. Come face-to-face with live owls, take an easy night hike across the grounds and try to call to an owl in the wild. Hoot. Hoot.
Blueberry Hill opened in the Delmar Loop in 1972, as a welcoming hangout with music, food and pop culture memorabilia, including collections of vintage Pez dispensers, Wurlitzer jukeboxes and Chuck Berry artifacts. Chuck Berry, the first person inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, was a good friend of owner Joe Edwards, and after Berry inaugurated the Duck Room – the legendary live music club that opened inside Blueberry Hill in 1997 – he also played here once a month for 209 consecutive months in an unforgettable concert series. Time your visit to this hallowed and historic setting to coincide with a show that excites your teenagers. Live music performances happen several nights a week, and tickets typically range from $10 to $25.
Vinyl records have made an undeniable comeback in the last few years. In fact, after launching in 2013, Dead Wax Records moved to a larger location on Cherokee Street in 2020 to keep up with the demand for vinyl. Owner Jeremy Miller says that customers buy a wide range of records at the store, but popular vinyl albums, including Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, Billy Joel’s The Stranger and The Beatles’ Abbey Road, are difficult to keep in stock. No matter what songs your teenagers sing, they’ll appreciate the collection here.
The underground vibe of Delmar Hall attracts audiences with varied interests. Opened in 2016 as a modern-day version of Mississippi Nights – the beloved riverfront club that closed in 2007 after a 30-year run – Delmar Hall has quickly solidified its place in the St. Louis music scene. While you’re in town, get tickets to a concert – even if you don’t recognize the artist, the atmosphere of the intimate venue promises a good time.
Built on a foundation of rock ‘n’ roll, The Factory is a new entertainment and event venue at The District in Chesterfield. Encompassing 52,000 square feet, the venue was designed with the performer and the audience in mind. Inside and out, the industrial-style design – featuring exposed brick, weathered wood and metal light fixtures – evokes images of old factories and manufacturing spaces, setting the tone for performances by a variety of artists such as Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Buddy Guy, stand-up comedian John Crist and country music singer Chase Rice.
A Taylor Swift-inspired dance party. An R&B-only musical event. The Emo Night Tour. The Hawthorn knows how to draw young revelers through its doors. Located in the up-and-coming Downtown West neighborhood of St. Louis, the open-concept concert hall and event space is versatile, with more than 10,000 square feet, two full-service bars and rich character. Throughout the year, expect The Hawthorn to host high-energy concerts, memorable fashion shows and family-friendly events – something for your entire brood.
Follow the sounds of summer to Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre – St. Louis. Opened in 1991 as Riverport Amphitheater, the iconic concert venue in Maryland Heights has welcomed some of the biggest names in music – think Guns N’ Roses, Whitney Houston, Van Halen, Coldplay, Nelly, Maroon 5, Kelly Clarkson, Green Day, Bon Jovi, Keith Urban, Jay-Z, Imagine Dragons and Garth Brooks – to its stage. Every season promises a new and exciting lineup, and affordable lawn seats might allow you to see more than one show a year!
As St. Louis continues to write its musical history, The Pageant is making a name for itself as one of the best concert venues in town. Week after week, year after year, the venue brings great, sold-out shows to the area, and its distinct design creates a unique intimacy between performer and audience. No matter where you stand, from the pit to the balcony, you’ll always be within 70 feet of the stage.
St. Louis is a music city, and if anyone in your family likes vinyl records, Vintage Vinyl is the place to go. A legendary record store in the Delmar Loop, Vintage Vinyl was ranked as one of the 10 greatest record stores in the country by USA Today. It offers a treasure trove of vinyl records for audiophiles near and far, but for a record with St. Louis flair, look for Chuck Berry’s Live From Blueberry Hill, Oliver Sain’s St. Louis Breakdown: The Best of Oliver Sain and The Welders’ Our Own Oddities 1977-81.
As the fourth largest multidisciplinary community arts center in the U.S., COCA is a leader in innovative arts education, and COCApresents, its signature performance season, brings thought-provoking programming to multigenerational audiences in St. Louis. The dance and theater productions that make up each season spotlight students of COCA’s Pre-Professional Division dance companies and theater artist program, with whom your own kids might connect. The productions invite audience members to engage in conversation about life’s challenges and successes, joys and sorrows. Although COCA is a place of intelligent and thoughtful dialogue, it’s also a place of good old-fashioned fun.
Whether your teenagers dance at a studio or around the living room, they’ll likely appreciate the breadth of talent at Dance St. Louis. With more than 55 seasons in the books, Dance St. Louis is one of the region’s cultural treasures. The organization presents the full spectrum of dance – from classical ballet to tap and ballroom to hip-hop – and every season promises exquisite performances, which make dance accessible to a diverse audience and nurture local dancers and dance companies.
Ready for a showstopper? The Fabulous Fox attracts audiences from near and far for Broadway shows such as Dear Evan Hansen, Hamilton, Mean Girls, Next to Normal, Six and Wicked. Dress your best and enjoy a night at the theater, where the lights, costumes, stories and songs delight theatergoers of all ages. Before the curtain rises, grab a bite to eat at The Fountain on Locust – and save room for dessert! The ice cream cones, old-fashioned sundaes and creamy milkshakes are irresistible. The boozy floats and signature ice cream Martinis are also must-try treats for those 21 and older.
During summers in St. Louis, the limelight shines on The Muny. For more than 100 years, the outdoor theater has filled Forest Park with the sounds of Broadway, attracting out-of-town professionals as well as local talent for memorable musicals ranging from As You Like It (the very first production ever mounted at what would become The Muny) to Kinky Boots. Every season features first-rate productions that stir up audiences – think Chicago, Footloose, Jesus Christ Superstar, Legally Blonde and Rent. The shows are enchanting, electrifying and empowering, and every night, there are free seats available on a first-come first-served basis, so everyone can experience the magic of live theater.
Employing the best musical theater artists from across the country, STAGES St. Louis has gained a reputation for excellence. It’s committed to preserving and advancing the art form of musical theater through powerful productions, community involvement and inclusive education. At its Performing Arts Academy, the region’s only year-round arts school with a comprehensive curriculum run by a professional theater company, STAGES educates thousands of students every year, and with each new season, STAGES astounds audiences. Its season runs from June through October, and past productions include A Chorus Line, In the Heights, Mamma Mia!, Sister Act and the world premiere of the musical adaptation of The Karate Kid in 2022.
Citygarden is a perfect pit stop between visits to the Gateway Arch and Busch Stadium. The downtown oasis includes conversation-starting sculptures, lush plant life, rain gardens, dancing fountains and a 180-foot-long shallow pool with a six-foot-tall waterfall where you can cool off in the summer. Give your teens space to explore on their own and then ask them about their impressions of the urban park and sculpture garden.
City Museum is difficult to describe; it’s best to just go. Housed in a 600,000-square-foot former shoe company warehouse, the unique attraction is as much a playground as it is a museum, and you’re never too old to have a good time. Exhibits consist largely of repurposed architectural and industrial objects, from broken tiles to safety deposit boxes to stainless steel buffet pans. This is a truly immersive experience, where you can climb into a bow whale’s mouth, rocket down a 10-story slide and pilot a plane suspended in the air. You can also navigate an underground tunnel system, marvel at pancake art, test your circus skills and write with the world’s largest pencil. How serious is City Museum about exploring? The gift shop sells knee pads – which aren’t a bad idea.
The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (CAM) aims to create meaningful engagement with today’s most relevant and innovative art. Not having a permanent collection allows the museum to adapt and respond to the global art world as well as the local community. Free for all, CAM is also a safe gathering place, where teenagers can reflect on the world around them and connect to the most salient issues of our time.
Show me the money! If your teenagers are interested in the economy and, well, money, head to the Economy Museum inside the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in Downtown. Offering free admission, the museum teaches visitors about scarcity, market equilibrium, global trade, the function of the Federal Reserve and more in unexpected ways. Learn to identify the security features of cash. Try to lift a 28-pound gold bar. Buy stocks on the International Stock Exchange. And when it’s time to leave, walk out with a small bag of shredded bills as a souvenir.
In 2007, the Field House Museum was designated a National Historic Landmark; it’s also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been named a St. Louis Landmark. Built in 1850, the red-brick row house was the childhood home of Eugene Field, an American writer best known for his children’s poetry and humorous essays. Dred and Harriet Scott, who filed separate petitions in suits against Irene Emerson to obtain their freedom from slavery in 1846, are also featured prominently in the Field House Museum. Eugene’s father, Roswell Field, took the couple’s case to the U.S. District Court in St. Louis and prepared their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. He then persuaded Montgomery Blair, a high-profile lawyer from St. Louis who was living in Washington, D.C. at the time, to argue the case before the Supreme Court. Learn more about these important historical figures during your visit.
Frank Lloyd Wright is widely recognized as the greatest American architect of the 20th century, and at the Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park, you can experience one of his unique designs firsthand. Nestled on more than 10 acres of grassy fields in Kirkwood, the 1,900-square-foot residence was built for Russell and Ruth Kraus in the 1950s, and today, it remains an excellent example of Wright’s democratic vision, meant to provide middle-class Americans with beautiful architecture at an affordable cost. Tours of the home are available year-round, and advance booking is recommended.
Located in the Old North St. Louis neighborhood, the Griot Museum of Black History reveals the broad scope of Black history and culture with educational and engaging exhibits. Its mission is to collect, preserve, interpret and share the stories of Black people, highlighting their regional connection to American history and their contributions to the country’s development. The core galleries of The Griot include artifacts, memorabilia and life-size wax effigies of historical figures with ties to St. Louis, including Josephine Baker, Dred and Harriet Scott, James Milton Turner and Miles Davis.
Run by the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, High Low is a literary café that revolves around a 600-square-foot gallery space. If your teenagers drink coffee, they can enjoy a made-to-order beverage from Blueprint Coffee while exploring the current show. Then, head outside to see The Walls Off Washington, a collection of bright, uplifting murals – and a source of civic pride.
To the generation that doesn’t remember life before smartphones, we think that you’ll have a blast poking around the Jefferson Barracks Telephone Museum. The self-guided history museum in Jefferson Barracks Park has hands-on displays alongside an extensive collection of telephones manufactured from the late 1800s through 2012. You can also marvel at military telephones from World War II through the Gulf War, operator switchboards from the 1920s and 1960s, a variety of novelty telephones and a telephone poll complete with climbing equipment.
At Laumeier Sculpture Park, you can enjoy more than 60 sculptures al fresco. Meandering along the walking trail through the 105-acre, open-air museum and sculpture park, you get a close-up view of a huge eyeball, a larger-than-life deer and a pile of massive, crumpled cylinders. You can even walk, climb or sit on some of the large-scale pieces. While you’re here, talk to your teens about what they see, think and feel about each piece. Like so many of the magical places in St. Louis, Laumeier Sculpture Park is free and open to the public.
Explore the storied history of St. Louis, from its founding in 1764 to the present day. The Missouri History Museum’s exhibits occasionally change, but they’re always well done. Teenagers might also find the Missouri Historical Society’s See STL walking tours interesting. The tour guides, who have an infectious enthusiasm for the area and its exciting progress, mix engaging storytelling and historical knowledge to create an unforgettable experience. Each tour lasts two hours, and topics range from St. Louis neighborhoods to LGBTQ+ community life to the sound of St. Louis.
The National Blues Museum explores the history of the blues and celebrates the genre as the foundation of all modern American music. Featuring artifact-driven exhibits and high-impact, technology-driven experiences, the museum has a cool factor for teenagers. During your visit, you’ll even have the opportunity to write your own blues song and add a guitar track – no strumming skills required.
The mighty Mississippi River has many stories to tell, and the National Great Rivers Museum wants to share them with you. Housed in a 12,000-square-foot facility adjacent to Melvin Price Locks and Dam, the museum is the direct result of a partnership between the Meeting of the Rivers Foundation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Through interactive exhibits, a theater and free public tours, the National Great Rivers Museum introduces people to the great rivers in the area, their unique environments, their roles in our history and their impact on our lives today. You can do a self-guided tour, but the daily tours led by staff members are more exciting for all ages. Available at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., the tours take 45 minutes, and they allow you to experience the locks and dam from the view of a lockman.
Do your teenagers love planes, trains and automobiles? The National Museum of Transportation has one of the largest and best collections of transportation vehicles in the world, encompassing more than 190 major exhibits. Check out the Union Pacific #4006 – known as “Big Boy,” it’s the largest successful steam locomotive ever built. Ooh and aah at a 1901 automobile – built by the St. Louis Motor Carriage Co., it’s the oldest of only nine such cars still in existence. And marvel at Virgin Hyperloop’s Pegasus pod, which can transport cargo – and eventually people – at airline speeds with zero direct emissions.
Among The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and The Getty in Los Angeles, the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis ranks as one of the 27 best museums in the U.S. according to Travel + Leisure. The Pulitzer houses gripping modern art in an arresting, mega-modern structure that was designed by acclaimed architect Tadao Ando as a way to create a dialogue with the works inside. Visit the museum to see its permanent collection along with temporary exhibitions.
Travel across time, places and cultures at the Saint Louis Art Museum. Boasting one of the country’s leading comprehensive collections, the free museum in Forest Park inspires discovery and elevates the human spirit. Teenagers might enjoy a deeper dive into the artwork with an audio guide, and don’t miss the ticketed temporary exhibitions, which range from ancient armor to impressionist landscapes to hip-hop culture.
Another fantastic and free attraction, the Saint Louis Science Center specializes in “Aha!” moments. As you test the laws of physics, sneak by a life-size, animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex, explore the night sky and build a replica of the Gateway Arch, you’ll ask and answer hundreds of questions. You might also consider paying for a special exhibition or a film at the OMNIMAX Theater if something sparks your interest.
A significant destination and an indispensable resource for the entire region, the St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum reopened on Nov. 2, 2022, after a two-year, $21 million renovation and expansion. Entering the museum, visitors are met with a bright, airy space, where they can take a break and take a breath during their visit. The main exhibition begins with wedding photos, family photos and class photos as well as information about the lifestyles, traditions and values of Jewish communities in Europe so that visitors can better understand what was broken and shattered during the Holocaust. Then, the voices of survivors who relocated to St. Louis guide them through vignettes exploring the history of anti-Semitism, the rise of Nazism, World War I and its aftermath, Kristallnacht, the ghetto system, death marches, the liberation of the camps, the lasting impact of the Holocaust and more. Continuing its mission to teach visitors how to reject hatred, promote understanding and inspire change, the museum pairs its main exhibition with the Impact Lab, where visitors can absorb the lessons of the Holocaust and apply them to today’s global issues.
Make a good move for your family and visit the World Chess Hall of Fame in the Central West End. The world’s largest chess piece marks the spot, and inside, you’ll find first-rate exhibitions that explore the history of the game as well as its impact on arts and culture. The unique exhibitions and related programming appeal to chess novices and experts alike, defying expectations and enhancing everyone’s knowledge of the game. Together with the Saint Louis Chess Club, the World Chess Hall of Fame has received attention from the international chess community, distinguishing St. Louis as the premier chess destination worldwide.
The remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric indigenous civilization north of Mexico are preserved at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site less than 10 miles from downtown St. Louis. The people who lived here – the Mississipians – were accomplished builders, and they erected a wide variety of structures, from practical homes for everyday living to monumental public works that have maintained their grandeur for centuries. With more than five miles of trails, 100-foot-tall mounds and an engaging interpretive center, you and your teenagers will leave the site with a greater understanding of this ancient city and exciting stories to share with family and friends.
The verdant hills of Missouri wine country harken back to the early 1800s, helping to bring the legacy of Daniel Boone to life. In Defiance, Missouri, within the thick limestone walls of the Historic Daniel Boone Home, stories of a daring man offer a glimpse into family matters, risky adventures and hard-fought battles. The home is part of an almost 300-acre site, which also includes a historic village complex with a general store, schoolhouse and grist mill. The mission of the Historic Daniel Boone Home and adjoining village is to interpret the early American frontier experience in Missouri as exemplified by the Boone family and their contemporaries. If you’re interested in taking this trip back in time, call ahead to see what tours will be available during your visit.
At the Mastodon State Historic Site, you can see the Kimmswick Bone Bed. Intrigued? You should be. Here, scientists discovered the first solid evidence of the coexistence of humans and the American mastodon in eastern North America. Today, visitors can learn about the significant discovery and how the landscape of Missouri looked in prehistoric times. If you need to stretch your legs, the Mastodon State Historic Site also offers three trails, including one that leads to the spot where the bones and artifacts were found.
One of the most important historic sites in the U.S., the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis is where the notable Dred and Harriet Scott cases were first heard in 1847. The last slave sale in St. Louis also took place on the steps of the courthouse in 1861 as part of a property settlement. The Old Courthouse is temporarily closed amid a $27.5 million renovation led by St. Louis-based Tarlton Corporation, which will focus on increasing accessibility for all visitors, structural improvements and new exhibitory. The reopening will include an exhibition called Dred Scott: A Legacy of Courage.
Known as the victorious Civil War general who saved the Union and the 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant married Julia Dent in 1848 and lived at her family home, White Haven, from 1854 to 1859. At the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, you can take a guided tour of White Haven, which was run by an enslaved African-American workforce before the Civil War. The park museum – which is housed in a historic horse stable designed by Grant – features six permanent exhibits that dig deeper into the rich and varied history and culture of the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. We also recommend watching the 22-minute orientation film, which provides more insights into Grant’s military service and two terms as president.
Want to take your teenagers to a live sporting event? From Cardinals baseball to Blues hockey to Battlehawks football, St. Louis gives fans something to cheer about all year long! Check out our St. Louis sports guide for more information.
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