St. Louis - Family Fun Beyond the Arch

Tracey Teo

Hit the road for a family trip to St. Louis this summer, and you’ll discover that iconic arch on the banks of the Mississippi River isn’t the only stop that makes it worth the trip.

The top of the Gateway Arch offers one of the best views of the city, and the museum has interactive exhibits that chronicle America’s 19th-century Westward expansion, but go beyond the arch, and you’ll find fresh takes on familiar “edutainment” attractions. Some may help kids catch up on learning missed during the pandemic.  

Saint Louis Zoo

Have you ever said your kids belong in a zoo?

Take them to the Saint Louis Zoo in Forest Park where they can climb and screech with the other primates.

Primate Canopy Trails, a new $13 million exhibit, is home to about 40 monkeys representing 14 species. The 35,000-square-foot expansion connected to the old Primate House takes visitors on a journey from the forest floor to the tree tops. A transparent tunnel lets them follow alongside the lemurs and monkeys, providing a better understanding of the animals’ behaviors.

 Before this first-of-its-kind habitat opened last summer, some of the animals had never lived outside. Now, they are living like monkeys are supposed to – swinging from trees and chattering loudly with their pals.

The black and white ruffed lemur, a creature with thick fur and piercing eyes that glow from a cat-like face, hangs upside down from a tree branch, delighting onlookers who quickly snap photos.  This animal is one of several in the exhibit that are endangered due to habitat loss and other factors.

 Kids get a conservation lesson that makes them more aware of their responsibility to care for the natural world, but they also have more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Anne O’C. Albrecht Nature Playscape

While you’re at Forest Park, a 1,300-acre urban park that’s widely considered among the finest in the country, check out the new Anne O’C. Albrecht Nature Playscape. The sprawling experiential play space features nine activity areas with a variety of natural landscapes ranging from prairies to wetlands.  It’s like driving across the country in an afternoon.

Kids jump from rock-to-rock, splash in a bubbling spring and build sand castles. When they run out of steam, the sensory garden is the place to recharge

The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum

At The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum, a young girl pilots a bush plane through the Alaskan wilderness, flying high above moose and hungry brown bears, while her older brother hops on a snowmobile, expertly navigating the vast frozen backcountry.

 “Molly of Denali: An Alaskan Adventure” is a new national traveling exhibit created in partnership with PBS.  Based on the PBS KIDS animated TV series “Molly of Denali,” it transports visitors to Qyah, the remote fictional village that is home to 10-year-old Alaska native Molly Mabray.

Families wander through a trading post stocked with essential supplies. At the tribal hall, interactive exhibits teach kids about indigenous traditions, such as dog sledding and ice fishing.

Derrick Docket, director of marketing, says the museum has always advocated for play and hands-on, immersive education, but with setbacks due to the pandemic, experiential learning is more important than ever.

“We realize the importance of completing the unfinished learning that many children dealt with since 2020 and hope to be a resource for the adults that are most important in the lives of children – their parents, teachers and caregivers,” Docket said.

While You are in Town

St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station. Shark Canyon, the largest exhibit, never fails to amaze young visitors. 201 South 18th Street, St. Louis Missouri. 314-923-3900,

City Museum. This kid-centric entertainment and educational venue has the world’s largest jungle gym, a rooftop school bus, a 10-story spiral slide and a Ferris Wheel. 750 North 16th Street, St. Louis, Missouri. 314-231-2489,

Saint Louis Science Center. Rocket into outer space at the planetarium or explore the oceans’ mysterious depths at the four-story Omnimax Theater. The center has more than 700 hands-on displays. 5050 Oakland Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri. 314-289-4400,

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. Also known as White Haven, the house was the family home of Julia Dent, the wife of the victorious Civil War general who saved the Union and became the 18th president of the United States (1869-1877). The couple lived there off and on during the 1850s. 7400 Grant Road, St. Louis, Missouri. 314-842-3298,