Plan your next visit to Grant's Farm on a Tuesday, the attraction's least busy day of the week.
With a world-class zoo, affordable attractions, a rich cultural scene and the iconic Gateway Arch, it’s no wonder St. Louis is a popular vacation destination for families throughout the region. Sometimes this can add up to crowds and long lines at popular destinations, which can be overwhelming for small children. Here are a few tips for avoiding the hassle of the hustle and bustle.
Saint Louis Zoo If your little one is dying to meet Kali but turns into a bear in long lines, zoo officials suggest stopping by around 9 a.m. when zookeepers have just finished cleaning his habitat and he has access to the outdoors. Early morning is a good time to visit the rest of the Saint Louis Zoo, as well, and the best time to find parking. Another plus to an early morning visit: Admission to Conservation Carousel, the Children’s Zoo and the Stingrays at Caribbean Cove is free during the first hour the zoo is open. Zoo officials also suggest visiting during fall, winter and spring, when crowds are lighter and many animals are more active. Even on the coldest days there is plenty of indoor fun at the Wild Wonder Outpost Discovery Room, the Children’s Zoo, the Insectarium, the Herpetarium and the Primate House .
Grant’s Farm Bottle-feeding the baby goats at Grant’s Farm is a St. Louis tradition that is not to be missed, but on busy days, waiting to get into the animal park can be hard on little animal lovers. The farm is less crowded earlier in the week; Tuesdays tend to be the least crowded, with Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays being the busiest days. Plan visits from 8:30 to 10 a.m., if possible, or between 2:30 and 3 p.m. if you don’t mind the heat. Fall is also an optimal time to visit, as vacation season has ended and schools are back in session.
Gateway Arch The best time to ascend the Gateway Arch is first thing in the morning; that's 9 a.m. during the winter months and 8 a.m. in the summer. This is particularly true during the summer months when school is out of session, which is the busiest time of year for tram rides. Tickets often sell out, so it's a good idea to purchase them in advance at gatewayarch.com/buytickets. Though December through March tend to be the quietest times to visit, summer nights at the Arch are also quieter and boast spectacular views of the St. Louis skyline. With extended summer hours till 10 p.m., there’s plenty of time to enjoy the view. Saint Louis Science Center "We specialize in making science fun every day," said Bert Vescolani, president and CEO for the Saint Louis Science Center. "One of the best things about the Science Center is there are a variety of activities for the whole family. To beat the crowds, great times to visit during the summer are mornings and Thursday evenings, when we are open late until 8 p.m. With more than 700 exhibits, including our newest permanent exhibit GROW, the OMNIMAX® Theater and James S. McDonnell Planetarium, we are confident you will have a hands-on learning experience at every Science Center visit." General admission is free. For information on exhibits, events, hours and show times, visit slsc.org.
The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum According to Carrie Hutchcraft, director of communications for The Magic House, with the exception of the third Friday of the month, Friday evenings are a great time to visit; crowds are usually lighter and the museum stays open till 9 p.m., giving families plenty of time to play. The first Friday of each month The Magic House offers Fit Kid: Free Kid, when kids can play, get fit and even earn free admission. Note that the third Friday of each month is Free Family Night; while admission is free, it tends to be more crowded.
Myseum Jeff Deutch, owner of Myseum, says this science-inspired playtime destination tends to be more crowded on weekends due to birthday parties, though things slow down after 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays. School breaks and summertime tend to be busier, as well, though it depends on the weather; the attraction is especially popular on cold or rainy days. To ensure plenty of space to explore your favorite attractions, Deutch suggests visiting on a weekday while school is in session or Friday evenings till the museum closes at 8 p.m. Visitors may also call Myseum at 636-220-7930 to find out if any large groups are expected that day.
Missouri Botanical Garden The early bird gets the crowd at Missouri Botanical Garden. Afternoons between 3-5 p.m. are often the quietest times to visit the Garden. The heaviest crowds are before noon on Wednesdays and Saturdays when St. Louis City and County residents enjoy free admission. Of course as the flowers bloom, so, too, do the visitors. Even in the winter months, several indoor gardens offer respite from the grayness of winter.
The Butterfly House The Butterfly House in Chesterfield is also a great place to visit in the afternoon when crowds thin out. August and September are great months to visit prior to the start of school field trips. Admission is free in the morning on the first Tuesday of every month for St. Louis City and County visitors and crowds are heavy with no strollers allowed inside.
Six Flags St. Louis For more ride time with less wait, plan a visit to Six Flags St. Louis in September. When planning a summer trip, visit on a weekday, when lines tend to be shorter, start your visit with attractions that are furthest from the park entrance, and visit popular attractions early in the morning or after 5 p.m. Purchasing The Flash Pass is another great way to avoid lines.
City Museum Explore the tunnels, caves and slides at the City Museum on Wednesdays and Thursdays in the winter, or Mondays and Tuesdays in the summer.
History Clubhouse, Missouri History Museum The History Clubhouse offers families the opportunity to step back in time, explore, discover and play in some favorite St. Louis places in a welcoming environment where nothing is hands-off. During the summer weekday mornings tend to be busiest due to the Summer Family Fun Series, which features free concerts, storytelling, crafts and activities throughout the Museum. When you arrive, visit the Information Desk to pick up History Clubhouse tickets. All visitors must get free tickets for a one-hour session in the History Clubhouse. Tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 10 a.m. daily. On days when volume is low, visitors are welcome to stay as long as they like. While the Summer Family Fun Series is a great opportunity for families to enjoy a morning of free entertainment at the Missouri History Museum, those looking to explore the History Clubhouse at a leisurely pace are encouraged to visit in the afternoon or on the weekend.
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