Sleeping under the stars has been a summer family tradition since, well, forever. And while the St. Louis area has tons of great traditional outdoor campgrounds, we thought we’d get a little ‘wilder’ by looking for some unique camping spots that are definitely ‘off the beaten path’.
Note: If you’re more of a ‘it’s-not-real-camping-without-a-tent’ kind of camper, we’ve also included a list of our favorite traditional camping areas around the St. Louis area below.Saint Louis Zoo Lions, and tigers, and bears…OH MY! Not to worry though, all of these fearsome creatures are locked safely inside their cages at the Saint Louis Zoo. That’s right! One of America’s top rated zoos also offers the opportunity for kids 5 and up to experience a menagerie of different camping options including: School Group Wild Nights, Sleep-over at the Zoo for Scouts and youth groups, and even a totally cool ‘Under the Seas’ style experience with Sea Lion Tunnel Overnights. And just so the kids don’t get too wild, zoo staff keeps everyone busy with crafts, music, flashlight tours, and other activities throughout the evening.The Magic House The Magic House is one of St. Louis’ most treasured daytime attractions, but did you know that the magic also comes out at night? On select evenings, Scouts can sleep "under the exhibits" and have the Magic House all to themselves with Scout Camp-Ins. Girl, Daisy and Cub Scouts are welcome to explore more than 100 hands-on exhibits in the Museum, enjoy evening snacks and breakfast, earn badges, and receive a special Magic House Camp-in patch!City Museum When people ask us about truly unique St. Louis attractions, City Museum is always near the top of the list. Combine this ‘hands-on’ art museum/funhouse (that among its many features includes: thousands of salvaged industrial objects, a human Habitrail, a Ferris wheel, a giant ball pit, and a ten-story slide) with camping, and you’re in for one of the most remarkable nights of your life! Your whole party will keep busy with fun activities throughout the night and you’ll have unlimited access to MonstroCity, the Enchanted Caves, Art City and more! A pizza dinner and breakfast buffet are included. You’ll also earn a commemorative “SlumberCity” badge.Saint Louis Science Center What better place to look at the science of sleep (or a lack thereof) than at the Saint Louis Science Center? Their overnight camp experience will give kids the ability to build and create their own inventions, check out an Omnimax and/or Planetarium show, explore the museum after everyone has left, conduct some amazing science demonstrations, and earn a souvenir patch. And with select camp-ins, you’ll be able to sleep under the stars inside of the James S. McDonnell Planetarium!Missouri Botanical Garden Looking for breathtaking scenery when you head to the great outdoors? Then look no further than the stunning landscapes located just off of Shaw and Tower Grove Avenue at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Get the garden all to yourself as your scout troop will be able to explore the Children’s Garden, complete nature crafts, go on a night-time letterboxing adventure, work toward scout badge requirements, and more! The best part? Plants don’t snore!Shaw Nature Reserve Want a fresh place to lay your head but actually want to use that expensive tent you bought years ago? Check out the Shaw Nature Reserve. They combine a unique experience with traditional camping. Enjoying a weekend there will consist of a variety of activities including water or winter ecology, night hikes, themed crafts, and stargazing. At night, campers will bunk in the historic lodges constructed in the 1800’s and roam the reserve to find as many creepy crawlies as they can shake a flashlight at.Traditional Campgrounds:Pin Oak Creek RV Park We know what you’re thinking…“Wait, I don’t even own an RV!” Don’t let the name fool you; Pin Oak Creek RV Park is a fantastic spot for tent campers because they offer level ground and a ton of shade to keep you cool in the hot summer months. Add in their huge list of on-site activities including: paintball, putt-putt, a fishing pond, and a swimming pool, and the kids will be so tired they’ll be in bed before the sun goes down. Don’t feel like sleeping on the ground? They also have a huge selection of cabins to choose from and, of course, they have full hookups for those who have an RV.Jellystone Park Home to classic cartoon characters, Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo, Jellystone Park focuses on strengthening family ties and creating great memories. Their accommodations range from primitive tent sites and RV hookups to low-key cottages and rustic cabins. They feature live entertainment, mini golf, a rec center, game room, playground, train rides, character visits from Yogi the Bear, and a pool for the whole family to enjoy! In case that’s not enough stuff to keep your little campers occupied, they’re conveniently located next to Six Flags St. Louis and have select camping packages that include tickets to the theme park. Just keep an eye on your pic-a-nic baskets!Meramec Caverns The All-American Summer Road Trip isn’t complete without a stop at one of Route 66’s most iconic destinations, Meramec Caverns. For years, vacationers have seen the billboards and hand-painted barn ads for this Missouri wonder and ventured deep in into the Earth to explore its subterranean beauty, but many aren’t aware that there’s also a huge campground near the caves that can be your base of operations for a Mid-Missouri camping trip. Scenic riverfront campsites, sheltered pavilions, and barbecue pits make this a fantastic camping area and with activities like panning for gold, zip lining, and riverboat cruises on the Meramec River, there’s enough to keep every little explorer busy. Whatever your style of camping, from unique indoor camping events to ‘roughing it’, the St. Louis region has exactly what you’re looking for. Be sure to pack your Family Attractions Card to get discounts on some of your favorite camping spots and the attractions that are nearby. It’s a big world…so get out there and explore! Just don’t forget the s’mores!