Explore St. Louis

Animals! Water! Freebies! The Kids' Guide to St. Louis

A romp through St. Louis, one of the family-friendliest destinations in the U.S.

Looking for a destination with a few things for the kids to do? Welcome to St. Louis, a cornucopia of family-friendly attractions that rivals any city in the U.S., and some of the best of them are free.


There may be no more exhilarating way to see the city than from a helicopter. Gateway Helicopter Tours soars above St. Louis in four different tours, from the Gateway Arch to Forest Park and more; reservations not necessary. The more earthbound St. Louis Fun Trolley Tours offers a 75-minute, 23-mile, fully narrated tour from downtown St. Louis to The Loop, including Laclede’s Landing, the Gateway Arch, Busch Stadium, St. Louis Union Station and Forest Park.

View of Forest Park from Gateway Helicopter Tours
View of Forest Park from Gateway Helicopter Tours (©D. Lancaster)


The Saint Louis Zoo in Forest Park is one of the best in the U.S., and it’s free (free admission; pay for parking and some special attractions). Please don’t miss Sea Lion Sound, River’s Edge and Centene Grizzly Ridge. Grant’s Farm offers animal shows, camel rides, paddleboats, Clydesdale stables, the Tier Garten animal feeding and petting area and a tram ride through the 160-acre Deer Park. Free admission; parking $12 per car. Purina Farms, near Gray Summit, Missouri, offers plenty of hands-on contact with cats, dogs and farm animals, a full-sized barn, hayloft play area, theater, pet center, canine demonstrations, refreshments and gift shop. Admission is free, reservations required.

Sea Lion Sound at the Saint Louis Zoo
Sea Lion Sound at the Saint Louis Zoo (©D. Lancaster)


Citygarden’s two downtown blocks west of 8th St. between Market and Chestnut enclose 25 sculptures by major international artists, winding paths and water features that include bubbler fountains and shallow pools—perfect for younger kids. And it’s free. On the other end of the watery spectrum, Splash City in Collinsville, Illilnois, delivers wet and wild fun, including surfing and body-boarding at Flow Rider, lap pool, lazy river, toddler-friendly wading pool, and 50-ft.-high Monsoon Mountain watery playground with slides. At Six Flags near Eureka, Missouri, kids are treated to more than 100 rides, shows, games, attractions and concerts, plus Hurricane Harbor Water Park.

Hurricane Harbor at Six Flags
Hurricane Harbor at Six Flags (©Six Flags)

Learning + Fun

The Saint Louis Science Center (free admission) features some 700+ exhibits on ecology and environment, aviation, technology and human adventure, plus special traveling exhibits, Planetarium shows, Omnimax films and more. The Magic House-St. Louis Children’s Museum offers a mind-boggling array of experiences that range from science to literature to civics.

Saint Louis Science Center
Saint Louis Science Center (©D. Lancaster)

Pure Fun

Let your inner Tarzan loose in a session at the Circus Harmony Flying Trapeze Center, equipped with state-of-the-art safety gear, trained instructors and more fun than you can shake a monkey at. Men, women and children can defy gravity at the facility in Chesterfield. City Museum, St. Louis’ one-of-kind, kid-friendly palace, combines four floors of wildly eclectic experiences and a rooftop theme park.

Circus Harmony Flying Trapeze Center
Circus Harmony Flying Trapeze Center (©D. Lancaster)