You read the websites. You know what time they open, what time they close, how much it costs to get in and instructions on where to park. But what do the employees of St. Louis area attractions want you to know about making the most of your visit? Did you remember the quarters for the fish food at the botanical garden? Did you know that the carousel is free the first hour the zoo is open?
I contacted six of the most popular St. Louis area attractions to see what they had to say about when to go, what to bring, what to leave at home, and any other secret “insider” tips they wanted to share. I also added a few of my own secret tips because, well, that’s just the kind of girl I am.
When to go: Tuesdays are the lightest days (the farm is closed Mondays). Also, the earlier the better – as the day gets hotter the animals along the tram ride move to shaded areas.
What to bring: Small stroller – the tram drivers will store it for you in the front of the tram and the in/off/out is easier if you leave the huge one at home (they also rent strollers).
What to leave: Wagons are not allowed.
Insider Tip: Cash for the fun pass. They are $5 and you get two bottles to feed the goats, a carousel ride and a snow cone.
When to go: Crowds lighten up in the afternoon and Friday nights are the lightest (with the exception of the third Friday night of the month when admission is free) and Fridays they are open until 9pm. Also nice days when most people are doing outdoors-y stuff.
What to bring: Lunch – you can brown bag it on the outdoor pavilion or waterfall patio if you don’t want to eat in their on-site cafe.
What to leave: The stroller – there’s not much walking and kids will definitely want to ditch it the minute you walk in.
Insider tip: If you have a group of 15 or more (1 adult for every 5 children) you get the group rate of $5.75 per person. Also, be sure to hit the art studio where your child can make a free take home masterpiece (clay sculpting, puzzle making, etc.). Facebook fans get deals on admission, membership and special previews.
When to go: September – November on a weekday, when the weather is still good and school is back in session.
What to bring: The big stroller – there’s tons of walking and while you might be okay inside the zoo, the walk to the car when the kids are done can be long and hot. It can also hold things you’ll need while visiting – sun screen, hats, snacks, diapers and don’t forget some empty plastic cups with lids – there are lots of water fountains around and bottled drinks there are not cheap.
What to leave: Your cutoff jean shorts that don’t cover your entire ass cheek. Really people. This is a family place. My kids want to see giraffes, not double boobie bumpy hoosiers.
Insider tip: The carousel, train and children’s zoo are all free the first hour the zoo is open.
When to go: The Children’s Garden is free on Saturday morning from 9-12 (for St. Louis city/county residents) and free for garden members all day on Tuesdays. You need to be IN the parking lot by 9:00am to get a spot in the lot on these days, otherwise you can park on the street. Other days the park is big enough that it’s usually not crowded.
What to bring: Quarters for the fish food, sunscreen, a picnic blanket and a cooler with wine and cheese for their free Wednesday night family-friendly summer concert series. The Children’s Garden is free from 5-7 and the concert is afterward.
What to leave: A picnic blanket and a cooler with wine and cheese. You can only picnic at the Wednesday night concerts.
Insider tip: Make sure you grab a map on the way in. The garden is huge and the last thing you need is to walk around in circles when your toddler has a poopy diaper. Also, hit the splash pad in the Children’s Garden. There is an entry fee on every day but Saturday, but that means it’s usually not crowded. The splash pad is open every day it’s over 70 degrees.
When to go: Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the lightest days and Friday is the least crowded night. Come on a Wednesday or Thursday in the winter and you’ll practically have the place to yourself.
What to bring: A small wallet you can fit in your back pocket. There’s tons of crawling, climbing and sliding and you won’t want to be dealing with your purse or diaper bag.
What to leave: Flip flops. You’ll need some tennis shoes for all the awesome museum action.
Insider tip: The roof is free (it’s normally $5) on Wednesdays and Thursdays after labor day until it closes for the season the weekend before Thanksgiving. Also, groups of 15 or more get in for $8 if you make a reservation through the groups department.
When to go: St. Louis city/county residents get free admission on the first Tuesday of every month from 9-11 am.
What to bring: Sunscreen and tennis shoes for the kids – there’s a great park right outside and your kids will throw a fit until you let them play.
What to leave: The stroller – the path ways are narrow and you don’t want to cause a traffic jam. Plus the kids will want to get up close and personal with the butterflies.
Insider tip: Groups of 10 or more can get the group rate of $4.50 for adults and $3.50 for children ages 3-12 (kids under 2 are free).
Do you have any other secret tips you’d like to share? Feel free to leave them in the comments below. Now get out there and enjoy your city!