Climb The Walls
Rock wall climbing has exploded in popularity in recent years, and St. Louis is hardly immune to the craze. A number of businesses offer brave local residents an opportunity to strap on a harness and scale manmade walls to hyperventilating heights. The experience can be challenging, a little scary and incredibly exhilarating. That's a perfect recipe for breaking down barriers between parents and their 'tween or teen children. The most popular local rock climbing option is Upper Limits Indoor Rock Gym & Pro Shop with locations in Downtown St. Louis and in West County. Both locations offer thousands of square feet of sculpted climbing surface and challenging obstacles. Climbers under 18 must submit a waiver signed by a parent or guardian. A daily pass is $15 (or $12 for kids 10 and under), but various packages and memberships also are available. Other local rock climbing options include the St. Louis REI Store in Brentwood and the Center of Clayton.
Keep It Classy
Sometimes the best way to connect with your kids is to level the playing field. One way to do so is by taking a class together on a subject that is new to both of you. Whether you're interested in learning to speak German or crochet a pair of socks, there's a class out there waiting for you. The Continuing Education Department of St. Louis Community College offers a broad range of interesting classes for learners of all ages. Craft stores like Michaels and Jo-Ann Fabric offer a number of affordable courses for 'tweens, teens and adults on subjects ranging from cake decorating to jewelry design. For those with culinary aspirations, a number of local businesses offer cooking courses for both the young and the young-at-heart. Dierbergs School of Cooking, with offerings at Dierberg's stores throughout the St. Louis area, have a number of affordable classes appropriate for 'tweens, teens and adults.
Ready, Aim, Fun!
What better way to show your love for your 'tweens or teens than by blasting them to smithereens in a spirited game of laser tag. This kind of organized silliness has a way of bridging the generation gap. A number of businesses in the St. Louis area offer laser tag for mercenaries of all ages. The Adrenaline Zone serves the St. Charles area. In West County there's Chesterfield Sports Fusion, which offers laser tag, mini-golf, rock climbing, dodge ball and more. On the Illinois side of the river, laser tag is available at The Edge in West Belleville and Lazer Force in Caseyville. Single games of laser tag cost between $7 and $9 per person at the aforementioned locations.
Hit the Trail!
Technology can be a wonderful thing, but it can also be a real impediment to quality family time. Why not leave it all behind for the day? Take your 'tween or teen on a technology-free hike or bike ride. You can simply pick the trail or bike path nearest you, or venture to more iconic local spots like the Katy Trail or Forest Park. For those looking to start a family tradition of hiking, the St. Louis County Parks Department has developed the 30/30 Hikes Program, which features 30 local hikes that can be completed in 30 minutes each. Whatever location or activity you choose, remember to make the time special for you and your family. If your teen is being asked to step away from Facebook, make a similar commitment by leaving your phone in your car (or at least turned off and out of sight).
Bowl 'em Over
Take your kids bowling. It's the one perennially un-cool activity that everyone secretly enjoys. Chances are good that you'll still embarrass them, but they won't have much room to talk: We all have to lace up those garish rental shoes, assume awkward bowling form and suffer through a shameful number of gutter balls. If you're going to be mortified, shouldn't it be in the company of family? There is, of course, no shortage of bowling alleys in the St. Louis area. Choose from old school favorites like Tropicana Lanes in Richmond Heights, Saratoga Lanes in Maplewood, Crestwood Bowl in, well, Crestwood, or go with new retro-cool options like the Pin-Up Bowl in the Loop or Moolah Lanes in Midtown.
The City (Museum) Never Sleeps
There's a simple reason the City Museum gets included on so many St. Louis Sprout & About "best of" lists: It's an oasis of awesomeness that appeals to the kid in all of us. That makes it the perfect place to spend the day with your 'tween or teen children. With its carnival atmosphere, psychedelic décor and myriad tunnels, slides and climbing structures, the City Museum has a way of erasing cynicism and lowering inhibitions among even the most aloof teenagers. It's easy to spend hours exploring the museum and working up an appetite. Refuel afterward with a chili dog and a milkshake at Crown Candy Kitchen, just a mile and a half from the museum. If that doesn't bring you closer to your child, you're in for a long couple of years.