By Kristen Bailey
St. Louis, the Gateway to the West, is also the gateway to adventures in education with so many ways to play—and learn at the same time! Meet the Budweiser Clydesdales or plan a mission to Mars in the many museums of this Midwestern city.
The historic Grant’s Farm invites families to visit the cabin of America’s 18th president, and to see some elephants perform! Formerly owned by the Anheuser-Busch family, the farm was acquired by the St. Louis Zoo in 2015. Animal encounters abound with the chance to feed a baby goat by bottle, feed parakeets, or visit the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales in their stables. Daily, families can watch elephant shows or see the famous horses’ “official prep school” where they learn to earn their reputation! Head over to Grant’s little wooden cabin nicknamed “Hardscrabble” before finishing up with a cold beverage at the Bauernhof, a 19th century Bavarian farm and courtyard.
If the animals at Grant’s Farm aren’t enough, scurry over to the St. Louis Zoo to visit all of their scaly, furry, and feathered friends. Pet stingrays at Caribbean Cove in the zoo’s Lakeside Crossing area. Sneak past Big Cat country with its lions and tigers in the Red Rocks Zoo zone. Learn about the Gorilla family house in the Wild Zone, or wander past Black Rhinos in the River’s Edge Zone. The Discovery Corners area offers the Monsanto Education gallery and the Emerson Children’s Zoo, both with chances to get up close to some creepy, crawly creatures!
Visit a Mars base, learn about the human body, and get involved in the Hollow Tree Animal Clinic at the St. Louis Science Center. Start beneath the ever-turning kinetic sculpture at the entrance, then head into adventures like the Amazing Science Demonstrations of Dino Mysteries and Physics Phun. With three floors of fixed exhibits, rotating daily events, and a planetarium, the Science Center is ever-evolving with activities. Kids can attend a lab class in Family Medical School or attend one of the regular dissections. Everyone is bound to find something to pique their interest with the diversity of hands-on games and activities.
A trip to St. Louis wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Gateway Arch. Towering a total of 630-feet over the banks of the Mississippi, the Arch represents the history of America’s Westward expansion. Ride the encapsulate tram a short four minutes inside the leg of the Arch to the observation deck for a 30 mile view of the landscape on a clear day. Look at the toy-sized town of St. Louis and see if how many landmarks like Busch Stadium or the Old Courthouse you can find. Ride back down the Arch and visit the nearby Old Courthouse to learn about Westward expansion and the Lewis and Clark expeditions that made their way down the mighty Mississippi.
The City Museum, imagined by artist Bob Cassilly and concocted out of the former International Shoe Company, is a playground for kids of every age. A hodge-podge of items collected from around the city, the museum has brought together twenty-artisans to create a playground and funhouse out of the salvaged items. Play in a giant ball pit, climb through tunnel ways on the roof, and hop from circle to circle past recovered objects that include old construction equipment, tile mosaics, chimneys, bridges, and airplanes! This museum, as with all the brilliant educational opportunities in St. Louis, encourages visitors to learn the best way– through play.