adventures with kids · kids · travel with kids · Uncategorized

St. Louis Zoo: Tips for Having a Great Experience

The St. Louis Zoo really needs to be at the top of your list if you’re visiting St. Louis. We live Tennessee and have a membership at Nashville Zoo which we love. I was skeptical that the St. Louis Zoo could be better or different than our beloved zoo, and I was pleasantly surprised.

The zoo is huge. We didn’t come anywhere near seeing it all the day we went. I don’t even know that we saw half! You almost need to look at a map before you go and plan what you want to see the most that day, then plan on coming again in the future to see everything else.

My niece was our amazing tour guide for the day. She grew up in St. Louis and lives right outside of St. Louis so they have been fairly regularly. We were able to see some of the animal feedings and interactions with the trainers which was really neat.

Hedgehog experience

There is a train that routes around the entire zoo, which is a real lifesaver and can save you many footsteps. You do need to know it is popular! We had to wait between 5 and 20 minutes each time we rode the train.

Go early. Arriving when the zoo opens will allow you to avoid crowds. It was definitely more crowded toward the end of our time than when we got there. I would also say to go on a weekday. We have not been on the weekend, but I can imagine it would be more crowded on those days.

The zoo wasn’t so crowded that we couldn’t let the girls walk ahead. Go early!

The zoo is free! What the what? They could easily charge for admission or membership but they don’t.

They DO make money. Food, train rides, carousel, souvenirs and all the extras will cost you. Particularly the animal encounters. To save money you may want to consider packing your own lunches and snacks. We totally tailgated in the parking lot!

Animal encounters. I want to go back to the St. Louis Zoo for this reason alone. While we were there, we noticed several zoo patrons getting to have special experiences that the rest of us weren’t. When we saw the sea lion show, there was a young lady in the audience who was able to go behind the scenes and work with the sea lions. They trained her to do some tricks with them. I was honestly jealous! But then we read anyone could do them if you pay!

At the children’s zoo I saw a little girl who got to go back where the food is prepared for the animals and she was able to handle an baby owl. I want to handle a baby owl!

Baby owl! 🦉

We did the stingray experience which ended up being the coolest part of our visit. You get to feed them and pet them! I was a little nervous about it but if you follow their instructions and do it correctly, you will not get stung. And the baby rays were so adorable!

Stingray experience

There are SO many experiences offered and animals you can see up close and personal: big cats, giraffes, sloths, penguins and more.  The good news is that anyone can do these. You have to schedule them in advance and there is a cost. We will definitely book one of these experiences next time we go!

travel with kids · Uncategorized

Going Inside the Gateway Arch

For as long as I can remember, even since I was a kid, going to the top of The Arch in St. Louis has been on my bucket list. This summer, our family had a chance to experience it. If you ever have the opportunity, you just have to do this.

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Inside the arch museum.

 

What can you expect? And what tips could we give?

  • Go early. If you go early it is way less crowded. We arrived as close to opening as we were able. It wasn’t crowded at all. As we left, I noticed lines were much longer.
  • Get tickets online in advance. I read several blogs before we went where visitors shared that tickets were sold out when they arrived. To avoid this, just go to the Gateway Arch website.
Take screenshots of your online tickets! You won’t have internet access underground.
  • The Arch is a national park now and the newest one at that! It was just declared a national park one year ago.
  • You will need to venture underground to get to access the arch.
  • You will pass through an airport-type security before you can enter the arch or museum.
  • The park has been completely renovated. The museum that you have to pass through to go up into the arch is state-of-the-art, brand new and beautiful. There is a cafe, gift shop and clean restrooms.
  • The Gateway Arch is the tallest structure in Missouri standing at 630 feet. Even after venturing to the top myself, it is a little surreal that we actually went to the top!
  • You will be in very close quarters with people. Traveling up you will ride in a tram, and each pod holds five passengers. They are small. My husband had to duck his head.

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  • While in your pod riding up to the top, the door has a window so you can see the gears and inner workings of the arch, much like you might imagine in an elevator. My ten-year-old got motion sickness from it and we instructed her to close her eyes or look away.
  • When you get to the top, it is surprisingly crowded. There were probably forty or more people up there, which I was not expecting.
  • When you’re at the top you can feel the arch swaying a little if you stand still. I had read about it in advance, that it was normal, so it didn’t scare my crew.
  • There are windows at the top so you can peer out and see the city on one side, and the Mississippi River on the other.

The windows at the top
View of the city from the top

Our favorites? I loved the adrenaline of going to and being at the top. My husband had been when he was a kid, but it had been a long time so he was glad to get to go again. Madeline, my five-year-old said she loved going up and down the arch. Anna Claire, my oldest, loved the cafe and gift shop and said the whole thing was a neat opportunity.

I hope you will make a point to venture to The Arch! It’s an experience of a lifetime.

Here are some more pics. Enjoy!

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Me standing outside the arch.
Just inside the main entrance. The entire building is beautiful.
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The girls holding their tickets. Your ticket number indicates what elevator/pod you will be in.
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The inside of a pod.
The numbered doorways to the pods
My big girl just got over her fear of escalators weeks before this trip.

 

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My people in front of the arch.

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adventures with kids · travel with kids

Louisville Zoo: Tips for an Unforgettable Trip

The Louisville Zoo surprised and delighted us. We are members at the Nashville and go fairly often. We expected this zoo to be really similar to it, but we were thankfully mistaken. A special thank you to our friend Grace and her family. We visited the zoo as her guest, and we were grateful to her for the experience, and for helping us navigate. She guided us through like a pro!
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They have a a carousel just like our zoo!

One of the things that stood out most to me, were the animals we saw. So many that we don’t have at our zoo like lions, polar bears, gorillas or sea lions. I planned on taking tons of pictures, but it’s the videos that really get across how amazing the animals were so that’s what I will attempt to share here.

Lion

I could have stayed here for the longest. I loved how active he was while we were there and how close up we were able to get!

Polar Bear

Check on the zoo website before you visit. Our group was able to see the polar bear and grizzly bear feeding and demo. I was so impressed with the knowledge of the staff and that there were experts at almost every station to teach us more about the animals.

Grizzly Bear

The grizzly bear was so much fun to watch. We not only got to see it’s feeding and demo, we also got to watch him eat a melon and play a little head nodding game with it which made more sense after watching the demo and seeing that was part of it.

Tiger

I can’t tell you how many times we said “perfect timing” while we were at the zoo. It rained twice. Once while we were under the cover of the carousel and once under the cover of the tiger exhibit. We were able to see the tiger feeding and demo and the tiger was also very active for us before and after putting on such a great show.

Gorilla

When we first got to this exhibit neither of the gorillas that were visible to us were active: one was sleeping and the other was over in the corner. I’m so glad we waited and were patient. The sleeping one woke up and the kids played a head scratching game with him.

Splash Pad + Food and Beverage

If you visit the zoo in the summer, be sure to have your kiddos wear swimwear under their clothes. There is an awesome and sizable splash pad where they can cool off. They also sell Dippin Dots and frozen wine in this area. The splash pad is well-placed because we encountered it about the time our crew was getting tired and hot.

As far as lunch, there are burgers and chicken sold near the splash pad, or there is another food and beverage location in the Africa area which is where we ate. You really can make a day of being here.

Zoo Favorites

Our favorite features of this zoo were that there were many animals we can’t find at our zoo, the demos and being able to see them fed, and the splash pad! This will definitely be on our list when we return to Louisville. And we will return!

Noteworthy things to try next trip that we missed this time: pony or camel ride, sea lion show, train ride (wasn’t operating the day we were there).