Water definitely helps us stay cool, have fun and wear out the kids. If you want that wave-pool/body-flume/lazy-river/water-park experience, we have it. If you just want a gentle stream or a sidewalk bubbler to splash in, we've got that, too. We even have a nice, sandy beach on the shores of Illinois' largest man-made lake. So grab your sunscreen and let's get wet.
Kids absolutely love Citygarden, even if the names of the internationally famous artists whose works festoon this downtown sculpture park mean nothing to them. They love the field of bubblers to run through and the pools of water to float in. It's free, and it's a food-truck magnet.
Admission to Six Flags St. Louis includes all those fabulous rides and Hurricane Harbor Water Park with plenty of crazy slides, a wave pool, lazy river, and toddler-friendly wading pools—the complete package. Admission $62.99 adults; $47.99 children 48 inches and under; free kids 2 and under. Parking $20-$25 per vehicle.
Another complete package is Raging Rivers, equipped with a wave pool, giant slides, a 600-foot raft ride, lazy river, wading pools, and a pretty spectacular view of the Mississippi River. Admission is $24.95 for guests 48 inches and taller, $20.95 for seniors & guests under 48 inches, discount after 3pm. Fees for parking, tubes, lockers.
Collinsville, Illinois, has made itself a Mecca for water-worshipers with Splash City, featuring surfing and body-boarding at Flow Rider, lap pool, lazy river, toddler-friendly wading pool, and 50-foot-high Monsoon Mountain watery playground with slides. $18 adults, $14 seniors, $15 kids 3-16, free kids 2 and under, $5 off after 4pm. Free parking and inner tubes. Open daily through Aug. 9, 11am-7pm; Aug. 10-Sept. 1, Sa-Su 11am-7pm. 10 Gateway Dr., 618.346.7529
Missouri Botanical Garden is a kid's paradise, loaded with streams to wade in, bridges to cross, waterfalls to duck under, sidewalk bubblers to cool off in, fish to feed—and that's not even counting the two-acre Doris I. Schnuck Children's Garden, complete with a waterfall, steamboat, cave, rope bridges, tree house and more, geared for kids 12 and under. Open daily 9am-4pm. Garden admission $8 adults, free kids 12 and under; Children's Garden admission $5 kids 3-12, free for adults.
We can't deliver the ocean in St. Louis, but we have the next best thing: a nice sandy beach at Carlyle Lake (Illinois' biggest manmade lake) one hour east of St. Louis. The lake is a favorite for sailboats and features several swimming spots, each equipped with a sandy beach. The largest (and closest) is the Dam West Beach, which also offers shaded picnic areas and a playground. Nearby Eldon Hazlet State Park features 9 miles of hiking trails and great views of the lake. Dining options abound.
Aquaport, in Maryland Heights, delivers all kinds of watery thrills with numerous pools and slides, lazy river, the Extreme Bowl (enclosed tube slide into a funnel-shaped bowl which drops you into a pool below ... crazy) and plenty of free parking. Open daily through Aug. 11, Sa-Su Aug. 12-Sept. 7. Admission $15 adults, $10 kids 4-15, free kids 3 and under.
Tower Grove Park, a vestige of a more genteel era, still features the exotic pavilions that were built for the park's opening in 1872. Today, the 289-acre park accommodates a variety of activities with ball fields, tennis courts, walking paths and a wading pool and Muckerman's Fountain, staffed by lifeguards, open daily and free. Great place for the kids to cool off after perusing the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning.
Tilles Park, a charming 75-acre park that attracts tennis players, dog-walkers, joggers and anglers by the dozens, has turned itself into a major toddler destination with a fabulous playground and a spray fountain play area.
The Magic House-St. Louis Children's Museum enjoys a richly deserved national reputation as a premier family attraction where visitors are treated to a mind-boggling array of experiences that put fun and learning hand-in-hand. Among those experiences is the opportunity to splash around in a circular stream in the outdoor play garden. Open Monday-Saturday 9:30am-5:30pm, Friday until 9pm, Sunday 11am-5:30pm. Admission $10, free for kids under 1.