A kid enjoys STEAM activities like playing with Legos at MADE for Kids in St. Louis.

Traveling to St. Louis? Full STEAM Ahead!

Tuesday October 17, 2023

By Rachel Huffman

To equip children with the skills and knowledge that they’ll need to be successful innovators in a 21st-century workforce, teachers – and parents – are leaning into STEAM, the educational discipline that engages students around the subjects of science, technology, engineering, the arts and math.

While STEAM (and its predecessor, STEM) teaches kids how to think critically, solve problems and harness creativity, it’s also fun for the whole family! Here are some of the best places to participate in STEAM activities in St. Louis – we bet your kids won’t even realize that they’re learning.

A young girl starts down a slide on the roof of City Museum.
Photo by Dan Donovan

Ever evolving and always thrilling, City Museum is a unique attraction full of weirdly wonderful spaces created by a team of artists and certified playground engineers. Let your children lead you into a bow whale’s mouth, through an underground tunnel system, down a 10-story slide and atop a Ferris wheel. Igniting the imagination, City Museum also pushes the boundaries of art with exhibits consisting of pancake designs, Louis Sullivan architecture, objects found in outhouses and George Dehil’s taxidermy butterflies, moths and insects.

A scene from Pippin is performed by COCA in St. Louis.

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, 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.

Teenagers use their wits to get out of a room at Escape Challenge St. Louis.

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.

The Gateway Arch is a modern engineering marvel – and one of the most unique STEAM activities in St. Louis.

Completed in 1965, the Gateway Arch remains a modern engineering marvel. Unique in its design and majestic in its setting, the stainless-steel-faced structure towers 630 feet above the banks of the Mississippi River. Although its sparkling skin is stunning, you don’t have to simply look at the Gateway Arch; you can take a tram ride to the top! After you squeeze into a futuristic, five-person pod, it takes four minutes to ascend. (Insider tip: Sit by the window to see the complex construction hidden from view in each of the legs.) Back on solid ground, visit the Museum at the Gateway Arch, where you can take a deep dive into the history of the monument, learning new tidbits about its design, construction and lasting legacy.

A variety of phones are on display at the Jefferson Barracks Telephone Museum.

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. By acquiring, preserving and exhibiting telephone-related artifacts, the museum aims to engage visitors in experiences that inspire interests in the fields of history and engineering. Its exhibits also invite people to reminisce about the comical lack of privacy on a party line, the juvenile joy of three-way calling, the newfound freedom of cordless phones and other happy memories of telephonic communication.

A visitor reads a sign in braille at Laumeier Sculpture Park.
Photo by Aaron Fuhrman

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, encourage your kids to invent their own titles for the sculptures and ask them what they see, think and feel about each. Like so many of the magical places in St. Louis, Laumeier Sculpture Park is free and open to the public.

A teenager enjoys one of the many STEAM activities at MADE for Kids in St. Louis.
Photo by Gregg Goldman

Get crafty at MADE for Kids, a 7,000-square-foot makerspace created by The Magic House. Suitable for kids aged four to 14, the wonderland features an immersive makers workshop, artists studio, design lab and entrepreneurs marketplace where kids can use their imaginations to tinker, create, invent, explore and discover. Watch as your youngsters experiment with screen printing, 3D printing, laser cutting, stop motion animation and more – you’re bound to be impressed.

Meramec Caverns features glistening stalactites and magnificent stalagmites.
Photo by Gregg Goldman

Want to uncover buried treasure in Missouri? At Meramec Caverns, one of the most awe-inspiring caves on the planet, you’ll find 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. Some of the most incredible undiscovered landscapes lie beneath our feet, and a trip to Meramec Caverns might inspire your teenagers to pursue science under the surface.

A group of kids interact with the plants at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Photo by Dan Donovan

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 kids to pick out some of their favorite flora – after all, there are more than 27,000 plants from which to choose!

Kids dig for dinosaurs, one of the STEAM activities at Myseum.

A combination children’s museum, science museum and indoor playground, Myseum has 30 unique exhibits to explore. Kids can dig for dinosaurs, play with glow shapes, interact with the video wall, “work” at an imaginary zoo clinic and more. Every visit offers something new, educational and, above all, fun for growing minds. Just remember to bring socks.

Two visitors create their own blues song at the National Blues Museum.
Photo by Gregg Goldman

The National Blues Museum traverses the history of the blues and celebrates the genre as the foundation of all modern American music. Featuring artifact-driven exhibits and 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.

Visitors can get up close and personal with trains at the National Museum of Transportation.

Do your kids love planes, trains and automobiles? The National Museum of Transportation has one of the largest 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. There’s a lot to climb in and on at the museum, and for the littlest ones, there’s the Creation Station play area.

People of all ages marvel at the night sky at the Saint Louis Science Center, where STEAM activities abound.

The Saint Louis Science Center specializes in “Aha!” moments. As you test the laws of physics, sneak by a life-size, animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex, observe 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.

Daredevils ride rollercoasters at Six Flags St. Louis.

Everybody scream! Six Flags St. Louis boasts nine exhilarating rollercoasters – plus, Bugs Bunny National Park, where toddlers can ride, fly, spin and climb to their hearts’ content. One day, they might even build rides that surpass those thrills.

The St. Louis Aquarium is retrofitted into a 19th-century train station.
Photo courtesy of the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station

Paddlefish, sea dragons, cownose rays – the creatures that inhabit our rivers and oceans are fascinating. Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the St. Louis Aquarium for personalized animal encounters that the budding marine biologists in your family won’t soon forget.

The St. Louis Wheel lit up at night.
Photo courtesy of St. Louis Union Station

Reaching a height of 200 feet, The St. Louis Wheel is the tallest observation wheel in St. Louis. It boasts enclosed, climate-controlled gondolas and sweeping views of the St. Louis skyline. Want to splurge? The VIP gondolas offer opportunities for kids to learn concepts in math, engineering and geography; plus, they have leather captain’s chairs and a glass floor.

Kids enjoy STEAM activities at The Magic House.

An epic adventure for preschoolers and young children, The Magic House offers hands-on interactive exhibits where they can investigate scientific wonders, discover a new culture and take on the role of a doctor or veterinarian. Older kids will also enjoy surrounding themselves in an enormous bubble, experimenting with a 3D printer and taking a video with their hand on an electrically charged ball. (Spoiler alert: It makes your hair stand up.)