1. Ride in a teeny pod to the top of the 630-foot Gateway Arch where you'll take in views of the St. Louis skyline, the Mississippi River, and Illinois farms. (Gateway Arch, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, near the intersection of Market Street and Memorial Drive, 314-655-1700)
2. Fasten your seatbelt and take a ride on the Screaming Eagle at Six Flags St. Louis. When it opened in 1976, the coaster was the largest built, and today its shaky, belly dropping plummets and turns still elicit shrieks of adrenaline-laced joy. (Six Flags St. Louis, I-44 exit 261, 636-938-5300)
3. Wade through the fountains at Citygarden. Strictly taboo in most parks, swimming in fountains is actually encouraged in the innovative downtown park. (Citygarden, N. 9th Street and Market Street)
4. Sled down Art Hill in Forest Park. All you need is a few inches of snow and something flat and sturdy to slide on! (Art Hill is located across the street from St. Louis Art Museum in Forest Park)
5. See the stately Clydesdales during an Anheuser Busch Brewery Tour or at their stable at Grant's Farm. (Anheuser Busch Brewery, 12th & Lynch Street, St. Louis, Mo., 63118, 314-577-2626; or Grant's Farm, 10501 Gravois Rd., St. Louis, Mo., 63123, 314-843-1700)
Photo courtesy of Anheuser Busch.
7. Watch hippos swim at Hippo Harbor in the River's Edge at Saint Louis Zoo. You'll also want to watch the sea lions dive and frolick when their new Sea Lion Sound opens in the summer. (Saint Louis Zoo, One Government Drive, St. Louis, Mo., 63110, 314-781-0900)
8. Take a scenic float down the Huzzah or Meramec rivers or Courtois Creek. Plenty of outfitters near Sullivan and Leasburg, Mo. (about an hour and half from St. Louis) can help families get on the rivers, but you'll definitely want to float during the week to avoid the weekend party crowd.
9. See the Cardinals play ball. Any trip to a Cardinals baseball game in Busch Stadium is a good one! (See the St. Louis Cardinals 2012 schedule.)
10. See two great rivers converge, the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. At Edward "Ted" and Pat Jones Confluence Point State Park, you can literally dip a toe in both the Missouri and the Mississippi at the same time. (Confluence Point State Park, 1000 Riverlands Way, West Alton, Mo., 63386)
11. Catch a show at the Fabulous Fox. Among others, in 2012, The Fresh Beat Band, Imagination Movers, "Bring it On," Riverdance and "The Lion King" all take the velvet-curtained stage. (Fabulous Fox Theatre, 527 N. Grand, St. Louis, Mo., 63103)
12. Take a whirl on the St. Louis Carousel at Faust Park. The historic carousel was built in the 1920s and was originally located at the Forest Park Highlands amusement park. (St. Louis Carousel at Faust Park, 15189 Olive Blvd., Chesterfield, Mo. 63017, 314-615-8383)
13. Gaze into the giant eyeball at Laumeier Sculpture Park. "Eye" by Tony Tasset is located in the unique park's Museum Circle. You'll also want to stroll through the park to see other larger-than-life works of art. (Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott Road, St. Louis, Mo., 63127, 314-615-5278)
14. Cue the foghorns! When they blast in Forest Park each September, dozens of hot air balloons simultaneously light their torches, illuminating the colorful balloons while spectators watch. You won't want to miss the Balloon Glow. In 2012, The Great Forest Park Balloon Race celebrates its 40th anniversary. (Balloon Glow, Sept. 14, 2012, Great Forest Park Balloon Race website)
15. Watch a Sumo wrestling match, and maybe even participate! A few lucky kids get the chance to wrestle with a former pro during the annual Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden during Labor Day weekend. (Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis, Mo., 63110, 314-577-5100)
16. Tap a maple tree in Rockwoods Reservation. Each February the Missouri Department of Conservation hosts a Maple Sugar Festival where visitors can tap trees and learn how to make maple sugar. This year the festival is 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012. (Rockwoods Reservation, 2751 Glencoe Rd. , Wildwood, Mo., 63038, 636-458-2236)
Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation.
17. Grab your conductor's hat and take a ride on the Wabash Frisco and Pacific Railroad in Glencoe. The mini steam engines pull passengers young and old along the Meramec River. (Wabash Frisco and Pacific Railroad, Washington and Old State Road, Glencoe, Mo., 636-587-3538)
18. Experience a play under the stars. The Muny, St. Louis' outdoor theater, presents "Aladdin" July 5-13, and this production is a great way to introduce young children to musical theater. (The Muny, 1 Theatre Drive, St. Louis, MO 63112, 314-361-1900)
19. Paddle with your pooch. In the dog days of summer, the Boathouse in Forest Park offers families the opportunity to compete in a paddleboat race with their best four-legged friends. The winning team takes home the golden fire hydrant. (The Boathouse, 6101 Government Drive, St. Louis, Mo., 63110, 314-367-2224)
20. Build a miniature arch at Saint Louis Science Center. After traveling to the top of the real arch, your family can work together to build a smaller version of the landmark. (Saint Louis Science Center, 5050 Oakland Ave., St. Louis, Mo., 63110, 314-289-4400)
What events and activities top your must-do list in 2012? Leave us a comment below!