Family Dining: Saint Louis Bread Company
With its diverse menu of hearty soups, fresh salads, savory sandwiches and decadent baked goods, Saint Louis Bread Company has been a hit with St. Louis families for three decades. "Bread Co." – as it's commonly known – boasts homey and inviting locations throughout the bi-state area, making it a popular haunt for families, college students and even business executives. Over the past year, Saint Louis Bread Company has further endeared itself to local families by hosting a number of kid-friendly programs including The Great Sandwich Showdown Contest and the Bakers in Training Kids Program. With so much on offer, it's no surprise that Bread Co. was voted as the top family dining option in the 2011 Sprout Seven awards.
Photo courtesy of Panera.
Runner up: Fitz's American Grill and Bottling Works
Wild World of Animals: Saint Louis Zoo
It should come as no surprise that the Saint Louis Zoo tops our list of best places to appreciate animals in St. Louis. But it does afford us another opportunity to crow about this amazing local institution. Widely regarded as one of the finest zoos in the nation, the Saint Louis Zoo offers an important distinction few of its competitors can claim: free admission. Featuring more than 18,000 animals from 700 species on 90 acres of land, the Saint Louis Zoo is a wildlife lover's dream. Highlights include the Emerson Children's Zoo; the Stingrays at Caribbean Cove; the frigid-but-fun Penguin & Puffin Coast; the River's Edge where cheetahs, elephants and hyenas call home; the Fragile Forest with its collection of chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas; and of course Big Cat Country.
Photo copyright Saint Louis Zoo.
Runner Up: The Butterfly House
Museums and Culture: Missouri Botanical Garden
There aren't many places that can claim equal appeal to both botany enthusiasts and small children, but the Missouri Botanical Garden makes the list. Thanks to its diverse calendar of events and exhibits, the Missouri Botanical Garden entices visitors of all ages and interests. 2011 saw the garden celebrating trees through a range of programs under the "TREEmendous" banner, including an exhibit of extreme tree houses. Other celebrations included festivals in honor of both Japanese and Chinese culture; the Whitaker Music Festival, which ran throughout the summer; and the Gardenland Express Holiday Flower & Train Show. 2012 promises to be an equally exciting year with the Orchid Show scheduled for Jan. 28 to March 25 and the larger-than-life Lantern Festival slated to run from May 26 to Aug. 19.
Photo of Doris I. Schnuck Children's Garden courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden.
Runner up: The Magic House
Outdoor Play: Forest Park
For more than a century, Forest Park has been synonymous with outdoor fun in St. Louis. Situated on nearly 1,300 acres of land on the western side of St. Louis City, Forest Park is home to such world-class family attractions as the Saint Louis Zoo, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Museum, the Muny and the McDonnell Planetarium. But that's really just the tip of the iceberg: The park boasts endless running and biking trails, a massive golf course, a state-of-the-art playground, the stunning Post-Dispatch Lake and Grand Basin, the massive art deco greenhouse known as the Jewel Box, the Dwight Davis Tennis Center and the Steinberg Skating Rink. It's simply impossible to not have fun in Forest Park.
Photo of Pagoda Circle by Bruce Seymore, courtesy of Forest Park Forever.
Runner up: Lone Elk Park
Bravo! Fox Theatre
When the former Kiel Opera House was re-opened and re-christened as the Peabody Opera House in October, the occasion understandably grabbed a lot of local headlines. But St. Louis' other premiere theatre, The Fabulous Fox, isn't bowing to the competition. 2011 saw the Fox playing host to smash Broadway hits like "Monty Python's Spamalot," "Billy Elliot," "Mama Mia!" and "Jersey Boys"; concerts by Robert Plant, Steely Dan, Merle Haggard & Kris Kristofferson and Santana; and family shows including "Yo Gabba Gabba! Live!" and "A Christmas Carol." With a calendar like that and a magnificent setting like the Fox, it's little surprise that St. Louisans still regard the venue as fabulous.
Photo of Fox Theatre by Dan Donovan, courtesy of Fox Theatre.
Runner up: The Muny
Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Museum of Transportation
Nothing gets the motor running like a visit to the Museum of Transportation. Located on 129 acres of land in West St. Louis County, the museum has been thrilling car, train and transportation enthusiasts for more than 65 years. The museum is currently home to more than 70 locomotives, about half of which are the sole survivors of their type. Also on display are more than 200 road vehicles ranging from horse-drawn carriages to classic hot rods. For many young visitors, the highlight of a trip to the museum is a ride on the miniature train (trains run April through October, weather permitting). Beginning in February 2012, the museum will host a "Roads, Rivers & Rail" exhibit celebrating transportation of the American Civil War.
Photo by Jessica Pupillo.
Runner up: MetroLink
Uniquely St. Louis: City Museum
On Monday, Sept. 26, St. Louis awoke to the tragic news that Bob Cassilly had been killed in a bulldozer accident. The 61-year-old sculptor had been involved with countless projects in St. Louis, but it is surely his City Museum for which he will be best remembered. Since opening to the public in 1997, the City Museum has dazzled and delighted both the young and young-at-heart. With its serpentine tunnels, claustrophobic crawl spaces, bent-metal climbing structures, mosaic-covered walls and surreal sculptures, a visit to the City Museum can feel a bit like tumbling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. Unlike most "museums," the City Museum is a decidedly hands-on affair with a dizzying array of activities and displays to touch, see and explore. Done properly, a trip to the City Museum should leave you and your family both enchanted and exhausted.
Photo of City Museum roof by Jennifer Lin.
Runner up: Jeffersonal National Expansion Memorial
From the calendar
The Sprout Seven were selected through open nominations and online voting.