In St. Louis, you don’t have to ‘Go big or go home!’ There are plenty of great attractions in St. Louis that may not be a household name at the moment, but despite their size or budding popularity, still pack the entertainment punch that your family is looking for.
Check out our list of “Big vs. Small Family Attractions in St. Louis.” Whatever your budget or activity appetite, we’ve got some special selections and venues that will be sure to scratch your entertainment itch.
Feel the Need for Speed
Looking to put the pedal to the metal yourself or leave it to the experts while you cheer on the big race? St. Louis provides high speed fun a quarter mile at a time.
GO BIG: Gateway International
Gateway international Raceway in Granite City, IL, just a short distance from downtown St. Louis, satisfies your need for speed with races every weekend; from NHRA hot rods and drag races to the NASCAR Truck Series. Watch as nitro funny cars rip down the drag strip, motorcycles make their paces down the track, or even check out locals learn how to race like the pros with various driving classes. You can also get in on the action at their Kartplex, an interactive experience for guests who can ride and race their own go-karts against other drivers. Gateway International also offers arrive and drive and group events, as well as a racing series where more advanced drivers compete.
GO SMALL: Pole Position Raceway
Pole Position Raceway in St. Louis offers thrill seekers the opportunity to whip their hair in a safe and family friendly environment. While their go-karts can speed up to 45mph for adults, they stay at a slower 20mph pace for kids. Check out their great variety of packages and options for go-kart riders including the “Arrive & Drive” option, which allows individuals or groups to just walk in and drive in standard races, lasting about 10 minutes. There are also packages for parties (for an unbeatable birthday experience), corporate events, and full facility rentals for large groups which makes their raceway one of the most unique event spaces in St. Louis.
Mix Education with Entertainment
Whether you’re looking to foster those little scientific or historic minds or dial into specific scenarios or moments of time, these educational options don’t hold back on the fun!
GO SMALL: Griot Museum
The Griot Museum of Black History seeks to collect, preserve, and share the stories, culture, and history of Black people – particularly those with a regional connection to American history. The museum, originally opened as The Black World History Wax Museum, is one of only two museums in the country that have a single focus on the accomplishments of the African-American community. Visitors can “meet” and learn about prominent historical figures, from William Wells Brown to Martin Luther King Jr., through life-size wax figure, art, memorabilia and other artifacts. Save $1 on your admission to the Griot Museum with the Family Attractions Card!
GO BIG: Missouri History Museum
Beat the summer heat, or even the rain, by taking a trip to the Missouri History Museum. With a variety of new exhibits that are free to the public, this museum shows the interesting side of history. Lost Buildings of St. Louis tells the story of buildings once prominent in the skyline that were lost due to damage or destruction, A Walk in 1875 St. Louis takes guests exactly 140 years back to old-time St. Louis, and State of Deception, a traveling exhibit organized by the United States Holocaust Museum, displays Nazi propaganda and its power. And their newest exhibit is the History Clubhouse; a space for families to foster a love of history, learning, and museums. Families can step back in time, explore, discover, and play in some favorite St. Louis places in a welcoming environment where nothing is hands-off. You’ll steer a steamboat on the Mississippi, prepare food in the ancient city of Cahokia, sell ice cream at the 1904 World’s Fair, and learn history along the way! And be sure to check out Twilight Tuesdays, a free, bi-annual concert series, held on the lawn of the Museum, that plays host to the best family-friendly musical acts that St. Louis has to offer.
GO SMALL: Myseum
Myseum, located in Town and Country, is one of St. Louis’ newest places for kids to explore (and learn)! Fun and interactive exhibits like the magnetic bridge, liquid crystal wall and the shadow wall and light writer, offer kids a unique outlet for energy and creativity. Voted the “Best Place to host a Kids Birthday Party” in 2013 by St. Louis Magazine, the Myseum incorporates Science and Art into playtime for a hands-on learning experience. Parents can also have peace of mind watching their children play knowing that cleanliness is one of Myseum’s top priorities, and they avoid the typical museum grime that is often found at larger places.
GO BIG: Saint Louis Science Center
The Saint Louis Science Center is the place to go if your young ones need a lot of room to explore. With over 750 interactive exhibits across its massive 300,000 sq. ft. footprint, the Science Center will entertain the entire family for hours. You can build a replica of the famous Gateway Arch, see what kind of dinosaurs lived in St. Louis 200 million years ago, and even take in a movie in their huge OMNIMAX Theatre. Other exhibits include the Structures Area, the Discovery Room and Fossil Prep Lab. The Science Center also offers the chance to see nationally touring exhibits including Robots, Alien Worlds and Androids, and Body Worlds. Make a trip across the skybridge to the James S. McDonnell Planetarium to learn how St. Louis has been integral in the ‘Race to Space’. You’ll be able to see a real F/A-18B Hornet, explore an Apollo space capsule, and catch an amazing planetarium show in the Orthwein StarBay. The St. Louis Science Center has been listed by Forbes Traveler as one of the 25 Most Visited Museums in the country.
GO SMALL: Edwardsville Children’s Museum
For a less crowded, off-the-beaten-path children’s museum experience, visit the Edwardsville Children’s Museum, in Edwardsville, Ill. Open Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the museum offers a variety of exhibits in its community, science and action rooms. Kids will be able to serve up ice cream, work out in the gym, make pretend meals, serve up ice cream and see if they have what it takes to be a firefighter. The museum also offers a variety of events, some of which are free, like monthly story time as well as drop-in art play-dates.
GO BIG: The Magic House
The Magic House Children’s Museum, offers over 100 hands-on exhibits for kids to explore on a daily basis in Kirkwood, MO. Consistently voted as a Top 5 destination by travel publications across the country, The Magic House is a ’must-see’ St. Louis attraction. While the museum does have an admission price, it also provides free family nights once a month where two adults and up to four children from each family can explore the museum free of charge. The Museum houses over 55,000 square feet of permanent, hands-on exhibits and constantly surprises visitors by rotating in new experiences including the annual Sandcastle Beach, the ocan-hopping Children’s China, and the imagination fueled Forts and Clubhouses. Get ½ off your second admission when you purchase your first admission at full price with the Family Attractions Card!
GO SMALL: Delta Dental Health Theatre
Don’t want the kids to dread the dentist visit? Make brushing teeth fun at The Delta Dental Health Theatre which features a variety of programs that promote oral health from the giant teeth, “you-can toucan,” health educator and free smile kits. The theatre’s stage is surrounded by fiberglass teeth that light up as guests learn the importance of dental health, fitness and nutrition habits. The theatre’s goal is to deliver health education programs to Pre-K through eighth grade youths.
Knock the Day out of the Park
Baseball isn’t just a national pastime, it’s a rite of passage for St. Louis youth who will grow up to be among the best fans in baseball. You won’t strike out with either of these great options.
GO BIG: St. Louis Cardinals
Enjoy a St. Louis summer tradition by attending a St. Louis Cardinals game at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals are consistently one of the best teams in Major League Baseball, and tickets to certain games are under $20. They have tons of great promotional giveaways that include bobbleheads, jerseys, and tote bags along with super cool themed nights like Christmas in July, Star Wars Night and American Girl Night, to name a few. You can also get ½ off select Wednesday games with the Family Attractions Card!
GO SMALL: Gateway Grizzlies
For an alternative to a crowded night at Busch Stadium, catch a Gateway Grizzlies game. The Gateway Grizzlies are a minor league, professional baseball team with their home base located in Sauget, IL, just a few miles from downtown St. Louis. The Grizzlies stadium, GCS Ballpark holds about 6,000 people, so fans get a more intimate ballpark experience. The Grizzlies always have great promotions which help them have one of the highest attendance rates for Frontier League teams. From all-inclusive tickets (that include food and a beverage) for just $7, post-game fireworks displays and the famous ‘hot tub suite’, the Grizzlies really know how to make the fan have fun!
Have an Animal Adventure
Another great way to mix education with adventure, these interactive spots are filled with exciting animals that you can be viewed from afar or close enough to be pet and fed.
GO BIG: St. Louis Zoo
For more than 105 years, the St. Louis Zoo has been a fun, free, family-favorite destination. With more than 600 species of animals and dozens of exhibits, there’s always something new to see. You can check out the recently re-opened Penguin & Puffin Coast, featuring the crowd favorite penguins and other water birds, or meet the zoo’s newest addition, Kali, the Alaskan polar bear at his exhibit, which opened in early June 2015. The zoo also has fun events throughout the year including Boo at the Zoo in October, the annual holiday favorite, Zoo Lights, and the summertime Jungle Boogie Concert Series.
GO SMALL: Big Joel’s Safari
Big Joel’s Safari offers a smaller alternative to the St. Louis zoo, complete with fun, interactive exhibits for the family to enjoy. This “zoo made for you” is a family-owned facility in Wright City, MO that’s open to the public from April until October. Experience animals up close and personal with the petting zoo and educational tours. Big Joel’s is open Thursday-Sunday 9am-6pm, except on Sundays when it opens at 10am. Admission is $6 per person for everyone over the age of two.
Get Wet and Wild
Grab your swimsuit, your favorite pair of goggles and a day’s worth of sunscreen because these waterparks are the only places where you can stay cool despite the heat.
GO BIG: Raging Rivers
Raging Rivers is another family-friendly park to bring the kids and a great option for families looking to have a fun day in the sun without spending a fortune. Raging Rivers offers eight rides and a special discount pass for those who arrive at the park after 3 p.m. Among Raging Rivers 900,000 square feet of attractions are classics like a wave pool and lazy river, but they also offer surf city and a shark slide for a new spin on old favorites. Get $3 off your admission to Raging Rivers with the Family Attractions Card!
GO SMALL: Splash City in Collinsville
Splash City has a variety of rides and attractions to stay cool outdoors in the St. Louis heat. Complete with a figure-eight pool for floating around, as well as other attractions like the Flow Rider surfing simulator and Monsoon Mountain, families are sure to have a day of fun at a more intimate park. Splash City also offers swim lessons and hosts special events and parties.
Go Exploring for Adventure!
Combine historical relevance with a dash of intrigue when you dive into these impressive, natural wonders that are sure to capture the imagination of your entire family.
GO BIG: Meramec Caverns
Discover Missouri’s buried treasure at Meramec Caverns. Known as one of the hideouts for the infamous outlaw, Jesse James, Meramec Caverns has more than its fair share of intrigue. Guided tours by trained rangers take guests into the depths of Missouri’s hills to discover complex, beautiful mineral structures. The tour also includes the rarest and largest cave formations in the world. Meramec Caverns also offers lodging, camping, and boat tours along the beautiful Meramec River. Get a free boat ride with the purchase of another boat ride with the Family Attractions Card!
GO SMALL: Bonne Terre Mine
Bonne Terre Mine is the world’s largest subterranean lake that you can explore three different ways: you can take a guided walking tour through the mine where miners dug with a pick and shovel in the 1800’s, you can get a closer look at the crystal clear water with a spectacular boat ride, or you can take the most adventurous method with a fresh water dive. With
mammoth architecture, old mining equipment, staircases, slurry pipes and decades old cat walks suspended up to 100 feet above the lake, there’s always something new to see. They also offer dive classes for first-timers, as well as for experienced divers looking to improve.