Many families visit St. Louis knowing that they've got to make time for the zoo. Sometimes, though, they just don't allot enough time for a proper visit. You'll need more than a few hours in the afternoon, because the thing is, the zoo is huge -- 90 acres. You need at least half a day to really do it justice. After all, it's one of the biggest zoos in the nation, and definitely one of the biggest free zoos. It's also located in gorgeous Forest Park, which is the crowning jewel of St. Louis and offers even more family activities, should you find the time!
Location: 1 Government Drive, St. Louis
Greeting card giant Hallmark has created a magical experience for families, and the price is right: free. Utilizing materials left over from the greeting card manufacturing process, Kaleidoscope is all about nourishing the creative spirit. For one hour, kids and their families can let their imaginations run wild and create art to their heart's content. Painting, puzzle-making, melted crayon wax -- the creative possibilities are truly boundless.
Location: 2500 Grand Boulevard, Kansas City, MO
Located 45 minutes southwest of downtown St. Louis (just past Six Flags amusement park on Interstate 44,) Purina Farms has something for animal lovers of all ages. Legions of schoolchildren and their families have visited for decades to see cow-milking demonstrations, pet the barnyard animals, take a tractor ride and play in the hayloft. Purina Farms has a brand-new indoor Event Center for dog shows, and features daily performances of high-flying canine sports, like flying disc.
Location: 200 Checkerboard Dr., Gray Summit, MO
Kids thrill to the cascading waterfalls, swirling riverpools and natural waterslides that characterize this serenely beautiful mid-Missouri gem. The "Shut-Ins" are named for the narrow part of the Black River that, more than a billion years ago, became confined to a narrow channel of erosion-resistant rock, creating a waterpark by nature's design. The park is a popular weekend destination, and the day-use parking area only has 100 slots, so pack up the family and arrive early!
Location: 148 Taum Sauk Trail, Middlebrook, MO
Widely considered the crown jewel of St. Louis, Forest Park is frequently compared to New York's Central Park. In fact, Forest Park is bigger -- by 450 acres! Besides its breathtaking scenery, the park offers abundant recreational opportunities for the entire family, including ice skating in the winter and pedal-boating on the lake in the summer. As if that's not enough, Forest Park is also home to some of Missouri's most venerated cultural institutions, many of them free, including the zoo and the art museum.
Location: 5595 Grand Drive, St. Louis, MO 63112
Image by michaelfranks6 (Hyena) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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