I’ve written about how I like to seek out botanical gardens when we travel because the kids always enjoy them. When we were in Saint Louis, we spent about half a day at the Missouri Botanical Garden, and as usual the children loved it. We had planned a morning there and ended up staying for lunch and beyond because there was so much to see and do.
The garden was founded in 1859 and is the oldest continuously-operating botanical garden in the United States. It covers 79 acres so we didn’t see all of it, but highlights for us included:
A working cuckoo clock;
A labyrinth that the children could run through on their own while we watched them from a lovely tower;
The Western hemisphere’s largest Japanese garden where there are ponds and streams and peaceful gravel gardens, to say nothing of koi to feed;
The children’s garden, which is really more of a wonderful playground with ladders and walls to climb, rope bridges to cross, a cave to explore, slides to go down, and (crucial on a hot day) water to play in;
The Climatron, a geodesic dome that is full of tropical plants and animals and which also houses an exhibit about sustainability that had lots of interactive exhibits; and
Some Dale Chiluly sculptures, which I enjoyed just as much as at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.
A few tips…
The garden’s website recommends allotting three hours for your visit. With kids, you could easily spend the better part of a day, especially if yours like to walk a lot. We had planned to drive over and see the Saint Louis Arch afterward (not to go up in, but just to see and take some pictures) but we ended up spending so much time at the garden that the kids didn’t want to go anywhere else.
We had a tasty and reasonably-priced lunch at Sassafras, the garden’s main restaurant, which happens to also be certified as the first “green” restaurant in the state of Missouri by the Green Restaurant Association. There are healthy options on the menu, and the portions are generous.
The summer house of the founder Henry Shaw is on the grounds and is open for tours – don’t skip it, even if you’re there with little ones. It’s worth seeing and there’s an excellent exhibit on how the work of slaves made the garden possible is in the basement; for Tommy it tied in well with our earlier visit to the Milton House. Ask the docent at the door for a scavenger hunt sheet and spend a little time looking for the items on it in the lovely herb garden that surrounds the house.