Forest Park, located fifteen minutes due west of downtown St. Louis, was the location of the 1904 World’s Fair. Ever since, the St. Louis Park District has been adding tourist attractions to the grounds. Besides the museums and zoo, it is also home to hiking trails, monuments, natural highlights, indoor/outdoor recreational centers, and landmarks. Any honest tourist would admit that there’s enough to do here to keep a family busy for many days.
If you want to get exposed to worldwide, local, and ancient art, but don’t want to drive all the way to the Smithsonians in Washington D.C., then drop by the St. Louis Art Museum. This incredible place has over a dozen permanent collections, boasting over 30,000 works! Take the Ancient Egyptian Collection, for instance. This display highlights hieroglyphics, explains the mummification process, and even has a real sarcophagus! Or, if you prefer the art of war, check out the Arms and Armor display, which has suits of armor and weapons from the 15th through the 18th centuries. Maybe you’d like to see art from around the world, like African headdresses, weapons from the South Pacific, and pottery from Asia, and other exhibits that hail from literally every continent on earth. These are just a few of the permanent displays in this three-story building.
Nor are all the collections indoors! The Grace Taylor Broughton Sculpture Garden is a beautiful array of outside artwork. There’s enough to do here to keep an art or history lover busy all day; but if you just want to do something different to de-stress for a couple of hours, this is a classy way to do it. Tickets are recommended, but admission is free.
Much like an art museum, the Missouri History Museum is a great way to spend the last couple of hours of the day. They have some fascinating permanent exhibits about St. Louis through the ages, the Spirit of St. Louis (an airplane that Charles Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris in 1919) and the 1904 World’s Fair.
Another permanent display is the History Clubhouse. This section of the museum is dedicated to instilling the love of learning, history, and museums inside children and their families. Please keep in mind that viewing the History Clubhouse is free, but requires a ticket to enter.
If you’re still around in the evening, check out Twilight Tuesday, a seasonal outdoor concert series that takes place on the front lawn of the museum. The public is more than welcome to come out with lawn chairs, drinks, and bug repellent to enjoy the lineup under the St. Louis sunset.
The Science Museum is an interactive playground that features anything that could be remotely considered scientific. The best thing is, your kids will have so much fun that they won’t even realize that they’re learning! They have entire rooms dedicated to forensics, technology, DNA, and agriculture. Children of all ages can explore the environment and ecology exhibits. Watch your child’s eyes widen in wonder as they feel what an earthquake feels like, watch a simulator create a tornado, or dig out dinosaur bones in the paleontology display.
Every hour, there are science demonstrations on the lower level with incredible themes like “Creepy Chemistry” and “Boiling Hot… Boiling Cold.” You’ll definitely want to pace yourself, however, because it’s very easy to spend all day here and not really want to leave at closing time.
Then again, why not make your visit a weekend trip? The Science Center and Drury Hotels has a package deal to make your stay that much more affordable and enjoyable.
If you like animals, you need to check out the St. Louis Zoo. Although general admission is free, there are some attractions that require purchased tickets to enjoy, such as the sea lion show, zooline train, and the conservation carousel.
Enter by the north entrance, so you will see Living World first. This center is a marvelous welcome/information center where you can get a good overview of the park and plan your visit. And while you’re there, look through the Insectarium, which offers a good look at some spectacular bees, bugs (behind glass of course), and butterflies. Also in the Discovery Center is a display of some of the rare, smaller creatures, like naked mole rats, meerkats, and tree kangaroos. But that’s only the beginning. Throughout the zoo’s 89 acres, there are literally thousands of critters, and more are arriving all the time!
If by the end of your visit, your kids are singing the Gayla Peevey’s classic song “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” or inserting some other animal into the lyrics like “baby tiger” or “dolphin,” stop by one of the gift shops, which are located at different places around the zoo.
#5: The Muny
Enjoy a good theater production? Check out the Muny, one of the finest outdoor theaters in the world! They host all sorts of fun, locally and nationally cast musicals, ranging in style from The Little Mermaid to Gypsy and Legally Blonde. Check out their season schedules to determine which show you want to see and to get tickets!
This post originally appeared on Daring Penguin Travel Blog, published January 10, 2016. It was part of a larger article, 30+ Places to Check Out in St. Louis.