To help limit the spread of Coronavirus and to support public health efforts, many family attractions have closed temporarily. In the meantime, we invite our readers to enjoy virtual events highlighted in our Things To Do calendar. When you do go out, follow public health guidelines: wear masks, practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently. To learn why social distancing is important and effective in lessening the spread of COVID-19, hear from Dr. Alexis Elward, Chief Medical Officer at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Explore the Big Muddy at the Great Rivers Festival

For one afternoon, your kids can morph into Lewis and Clark, exploring America’s great waterways. Or environmentalists, learning how to protect nature’s delicate ecosystem. Or even rock stars, grooving to the sounds of the hottest bands in the region. All the while, your entire family will be inspired by the power and beauty of the Mighty Mississippi.

As part of the St. Louis 250 birthday celebration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Meeting of the Rivers Foundation are hosting the Great Rivers Festival on Saturday, May 17. Head to the east side for this free, family-friendly event celebrating the legacy and influence of the river that shaped – and continues to shape – how the region lives and works. It’s a party is so big it spans the Mississippi River and spills into two states.

“The Great Rivers Festival is a way for us to celebrate this awesome confluence region and the rivers that make it up,” said Angela Smith, Natural Resources Specialist with Interpretive Services and Outreach Programs at the Corps’ National Great Rivers Museum in Alton. “Without these rivers, the region would not be anything close to what it is and what it offers today. Our primary theme for the Festival is ‘There is something for everyone – a celebration of our shared resources.”

For the past 10 years, the Museum, located in the shadow of Alton’s Melvin Price Locks and Dam, has been an interactive resource, guiding guests through the rich history of the Mississippi. During the festival, the fun expands beyond the Museum’s doors and pours onto its campus, offering a diverse mix of activities, entertainment and food.

Your kids can enjoy a live bird program from the World Bird Sanctuary and meet our cold-blooded friends at Serengeti Steve’s Reptile Experience. In addition, there will be a fishing pond, a sand sculpture artist, taxidermy demonstration, dredge and barge tours, and the chance to put your mark on a community mural which will be displayed at the Museum. In addition, your family can dance the day away to everything from hip-hop to bluegrass.

On the Missouri side, hit the calm backwaters of Ellis Bay at the Riverland Migratory Bird Sanctuary in East Alton. Your family can try out canoes, kayaks and paddleboards for just $5 per person and talk with the St. Louis Canoe and Kayak Club about water safety.

Serengeti Steve and the Reptile Experience

From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. that evening, the Audubon Center’s Birds, Beer & Bluegrass event will offer some grown-up fun in the great outdoors for guests 21 and older. Tickets are $75 per person, and proceeds benefit the Center.

For families, the Great Rivers Festival offers a taste of the activities and natural beauty that make the Mississippi such an incredible destination. And just as important, it gives everyone a greater appreciation of how the River helped build St. Louis into the amazing region it is – an important aspect in light of the city’s 250th birthday and the 10th birthday of the Museum.

Remarked Smith, “The Mississippi River and the confluence region have a lot to offer, and there’s something for everyone. Whether you enjoy the food and music culture, the arts, animals, or paddling – we have something for you.”

The Great Rivers Festival will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Museum, located at #2 Lock & Dam Way in East Alton, and the Bird Saturday at 301 Riverland Way in West Alton. For more information visit or check them out on Facebook at

Photos courtesy of the National Great Rivers Museum via Facebook

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Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL 

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