If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you already know that I spent most of the winter complaining about the many, many, MANY snow days when my kids were unexpectedly home from school. But as much as I wanted to tear my hair out as those dreary, snowed-in days kept piling one atop the other, I am now delighted to have my kids at home with me for summer vacation.
What’s the difference? Well, for one thing, the weather; we can now comfortably leave the house without fear of getting stranded in a snow drift. Plus, with all the wonderful activities and attractions that St. Louis has to offer during the summer months, there are plenty of exciting adventures to keep us busy and entertained – and keep me from losing my mind.
Wondering where to go and what do with your kids now that schools are out of session? Here are 27 ways to ensure that your own family enjoys the St. Louis summer (and that last winter’s snow days remain only a distant memory).
1. Set a summer schedule. If you prefer some structure while the kids are out of school, try following a weekly schedule. This one, for example, includes Make Something Monday, Time to Read Tuesday, What’s Cooking Wednesday … you get the picture.
2. Send 'em to summer camp. Haven’t signed your kids up for camp yet? Check out our comprehensive Summer Camp Guide, where you’ll find local options for every age and interest.
3. Or host a camp of your own. Recruit other families to join you, and create your own “summer camp.” This option allows you to swap childcare with adults you know and trust, and kids have a blast because they get to hang out with their friends.
4. Go bowling. Thanks to Kids Bowl Free, children across the country can bowl 2 FREE games every day throughout the summer. Several St. Louis area bowling alleys participate in the program; visit the website to find one near you.
5. Play with LEGOS. Get inspired by visiting the Nature Connects: Art with LEGOS exhibit at the Missouri Botanical Garden; then create a sculpture of your own to enter in the LEGO Brick Buildtanical Challenge.
6. Explore the Children’s Garden. Speaking of MOBOT, don’t forget a trip to the Children’s Garden, where kids can run, climb and even cool off in the Splash Area. If you’re a St. Louis City or County resident, visit on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon for free admission.
7. Help build the History Clubhouse. The History Clubhouse: Let’s Build It! exhibit is open at the Missouri History Museum through October 6, and special Let’s Build the History Clubhouse Weekends (all geared towards families and all with free admission) are scheduled throughout the summer.
8. Earn rewards for reading. Reading a good book is its own reward, but there’s nothing wrong with offering a little incentive too. Branches of the St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis County Library and St. Charles County Library all offer summer reading programs with prizes – and adults can participate too.
9. Start a mother-daughter book club. Turn to Cindy Hudson’s Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs for help getting started. Prefer something gender-neutral? You can certainly use these ideas to create a parent-child book club too.
10. Go to the movies. Wherenberg and Regal Cinemas, both host family movie series with $1 ticket prices on select summer mornings. For more educational (but still entertaining) options, check out the Omnimax Movies at the St. Louis Science Center.
11. Enjoy Farm Fridays at Suson Park. On select Fridays during the summer months, families are invited to Suson Park for hayrides, barn tours, face painting and more.
12. Visit Ballpark Village. St. Louis is a baseball town, which makes Ballpark Village a must-visit destination. Stop by on a special Family Fun Day to enjoy inflatables, face painting, reptiles, rock climbing, live music and activities from The Magic House.
13. Make a sand volcano. Whether you do this activity on vacation at the beach or in the sandbox in your own backyard, kids will be delighted by the eruption – and they’ll learn something about science in the process.
14. Feed the birds. There are lots of reasons to visit Grant’s Farm (ahem, free beer samples), but the opportunity to hand-feed colorful parakeets – a new attraction this year – is one of the best.
15. Take a cooking class. Tired of spending summer vacation in the kitchen? Teach the kids to cook for themselves. Local grocery stores like Dierbergs, Schnucks and Whole Foods all offer kids’ cooking classes that are reasonably priced – and tasty too.
16. Make watermelon cupcakes. These not-so-sweet summer treats are a healthy alternative to ice cream and popsicles, and they’re cool and refreshing on a hot summer day. Make them even tastier by using watermelon you’ve purchased from a St. Louis Farmers Market.
17. See some amazing animals. Spend the day at the Saint Louis Zoo, or check out Amazing Animal Encounters at the World Bird Sanctuary. If you have time for a day trip, head south to visit Critter Lane Petting Zoo in Jefferson County.
18. Plan a play date. Free Morning Play Dates at the Contemporary Art Museum are perfect for preschoolers ages 2-5.
19. Pick your own fruit. Whether you grow the fruit in your garden or pick it at Eckerts, nothing says summer quite like Strawberry Shortcake or Blueberry Pie made from fresh, hand-picked berries. (Babb Blueberry Farm in Franklin County is also a great, low-key place to go blueberry-picking with kids).
20. Catch fireflies. Introduce your kids to this classic summer pastime in your own backyard; then take them to celebrate these “living lanterns” at the annual Firefly Festival at The Butterfly House.
21. Take a train ride. If your little ones love trains – as most of them do – you’ll want to add the free train rides offered by the St. Louis Live Steamers in Kircher Park to your summer calendar.
22. Relax at a summer concert series. From Jungle Boogie at the St. Louis Zoo to the Whitaker Music Festival and the Citygarden Summer Concert Series, live music is part of the St. Louis summer landscape. Grab a blanket, pack a picnic and enjoy some music under the stars.
23. Play outside. Grab some ideas for backyard fun from this list of 50 Outdoor Summer Activities for Kids.
24. Dine from a food truck. Food Truck Friday is the one that started them all, but if you can’t make it to Tower Grove Park, there are now plenty of other area food truck events where you can indulge in your favorites. Most are held in parks where kids can run and play. Try Food Park Frenzy at Fort Zumwalt Park, Feast in the Park at Faust Park, or Food Truck Sunday in Shaw Park, just to name a few. (Find more in our Things To Do calendar.)
25. Splash at a sprayground. Spending an entire day in your bathing suit is one of the best things about summer. And while water parks and swimming pools are awesome, most St. Louis area spraygrounds are FREE.
26. Learn something new (or brush up on something old). Summer learning loss is quite the catch phrase these days. So if you’re worried that your kids need a little education over summer vacation, choose a few activities from this BIG List of Summer Learning Resources.
27. Embrace boredom. There’s nothing wrong with creating a Boredom Buster Jar, but there’s also a lot to be said for letting our kids be bored occasionally too. Children don’t always need to be entertained; sometimes they just need to learn how to appreciate the beauty in doing nothing at all.
Because in the end, isn’t that what summer vacation is all about anyway?
In addition to the events and activities mentioned, you can always check out our Things To Do calendar to find family events happening daily in the St. Louis metro area. Or subscribe to our free Daily Events Email newsletter to have a list of the day's events sent directly to you each morning.
Main photo courtesy of Citygarden
Alyssa Chirco is a freelance writer, mother and margarita lover, not necessarily in that order. In addition to writing for STL Parent, she is Contributing Editor at Parenting Squad, and covers parenting, health and lifestyle topics for publications across the country. She recently moved from the suburbs of St. Louis to a small town in rural Jefferson County, where she is learning to survive with no Target or Starbucks in sight. Follow her on Twitter @AlyssaChirco
Sprinkle in a fun playtime for your toddler or preschooler at Sweetplay Happy Hour. This creative and tasty play experience includes cookie decorating and sensory play and is designed for children 5 and under.
Bring your little ones to Toddler Tinker Time at The Magic House, MADE for Kids for special experiences designed especially for preschoolers and their parents and caregivers. Toddler Tinker Time is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 am. to noon at The Magic House, MADE for kids. It's free with admission.