No matter what time of year it is, outdoor activities in St. Louis are plentiful. Within the city limits, there are stunning botanical gardens, extensive scenic biking and hiking trails, and even a multi-story jungle gym right downtown.
If more natural environs are what you’re after, there are a ton of things to do outside in St. Louis and beyond. Escape the concrete jungle and venture into the beautiful countryside surrounding the city. From adventure destinations like RYZE Adventure Park and the Eureka Mountain Bike Park to the natural wonders found in the many state parks in the region, none of the destinations on this list are more than a two-hour drive from downtown.
Read on to discover the most fun outdoor family activities in St. Louis and the surrounding region!
MonstroCity at City Museum
Downtown St. Louis
The City Museum is St. Louis’s most unique experiential destination. Included in the price of admission is access to MonstroCity, a multilevel, outdoor interactive sculpture/jungle gym that is fun for kids and grownups alike. You can climb into the fuselage of two Sabreliner 40 airplanes, ascend a 25-foot cupola, and crawl through giant-sized Slinkies into ball pits filled with rubber dodgeballs. There’s nowhere else like this place.
Missouri Botanical Garden
Shaw, St. Louis
Offering 79 acres of curated garden exhibits, including a large Japanese garden and one of the most impressive collections of rare and endangered plants, the Missouri Botanical Garden is a nature lover's oasis in the middle of bustling St. Louis. Founded in 1859 by Henry Shaw, it is the oldest continually operating botanical garden in the country.
The St. Louis Zoo
West End, St. Louis
As the most-visited attraction in the region, nothing beats a day at the St. Louis Zoo – especially because it’s free! The zoo is home to more than 14,000 animals, from penguins and polar bears to elephants and leopards, and it’s globally recognized for its leadership in wildlife conservation and education.
Madison County Transit Trails
Multiple access points all around the city and outskirts
For a smooth, uninterrupted ride on flat, level pavement that goes on for miles and miles, take your bike to the network of MCT trails that run throughout the city and surrounding area. There are plenty of loops so you don’t have to backtrack over familiar territory, and you can bike all the way to destinations like Pere Marquette State Park without a stoplight to interrupt your flow.
RYZE Adventure Park
About a 30-minute drive from downtown
With more than 100 obstacles on their four-story Adventure Tower – including ropes courses, balance challenges, ziplines, and a “free fall” rappelling challenge – RYZE has fun for every age and skill level. Little kids can take part, too, on the fully staffed Little Ninja Course. If you want to stay closer to the ground, challenge your group to a round of mini golf, or enjoy the free Yard Games section with Giant Jenga, Corn Hole, and more.
The Katy Trail
Several entrance points around the city
Extending across most of the state of Missouri, the Katy Trail is America’s longest developed “rail-to-trail” project in the country, built along the former corridor of the MKT railroad. Now, the 237-mile-long trail is a destination for bikers and hikers from around the country. There are plenty of spots to hop on and off, and lots to do in the little towns around the trail, including wineries, breweries, and good old-fashioned Americana.
Eureka Mountain Bike Park
About a 30-minute drive
This expansive, seven-trail bike park offers a ton of turns, drops, jumps, and more for mountain bikers of all levels to build their skills. The park features a dual slalom track, a pump and jump track, multiple skill zone trails, and even a bike playground for younger kids. Don’t forget your helmet (they’re required)!
Eckert’s Farm Fruit Picking
Multiple Illinois locations in Belleville, Grafton, and Millstadt, all between 30 minutes to an hour drive
The summer months in the Midwest mean bountiful fruit! Depending on where we are in the season, Eckert’s Farm showcases beautiful crops of blackberries, peaches, apples, and pumpkins, but it’s best to check their website for what’s available before you go. You can also reserve your field time online before you make the trip.
St. Charles Kinetic Park Pump Track and Skatepark
About a 30-minute drive
Kinetic Park is home to the largest pump track in the United States, the largest outdoor skatepark in Missouri, and a 30-foot rock climbing wall. Best of all, access to all these extreme sports is completely free! There’s fun for every skill level, and it’s open all year round.
Crystal City Underground Kayak Tour
About a 40-minute drive
Join retired veteran Doug Marsan on a kayak tour of the 150-acre underground lake that is part of an abandoned mine that once belonged to Pittsburgh Plate Glass. Many remnants of PPG’s mine remain submerged in the flooded subterranean areas of the Crystal City Complex.
Audubon Center at Riverlands
About a 40-minute drive
The Audubon Center is home to the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, featuring over 8.5 miles of trails through prairie and wetland bird habitats. There are viewing stations and bird blinds all along the trail where, depending on the time of year, birders can catch a glimpse of dozens of species, including plentiful wintering bald eagles.
Grafton SkyTour and Zipline
About a 45-minute drive
Hop on the open chair lift or ride in style in the enclosed gondolas (all for the same price!), and take in “The Best View in the Midwest” as you climb your way to the resort and winery at the top of Aerie’s Hill. If adventure is what you’re after, take flight on the Grafton Zipline canopy tour, which features seven ziplines and two suspension bridges. Make a weekend of it by booking a cabin at the Aerie’s Resort.
Pere Marquette State Park
About an hour drive
For one of the most spectacular drives around St. Louis, hit the Great River Road that runs through the Illinois River Valley into Pere Marquette, especially in the autumn months when the leaves are changing. There’s horseback riding, hikes for all skill levels, historic buildings, and so much more. In January and February, bird watchers can come out to try and spot wintering bald eagles that call the valley home. If camping is a little too rustic, book a room or cabin at the historic and majestic Pere Marquette Lodge, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
About an hour drive
Among the many natural attractions Missouri boasts, there is a vibrant winemaking community about an hour outside of St. Louis. Vineyards and wineries dot the countryside in and around the Ste. Genevieve’s historical district. One of the most unique destinations is Cave Vineyards, a winery where the grapes are grown in a temperate saltpeter cave. Stop and enjoy a tour and a tasting on your wine country adventure.
About a 75-minute drive
Tucked away along the edges of Hawn State Park, Pickle Springs Natural Area is a spectacular geological enclave, filled with sandstone rock formations, stunning waterfalls, and box canyons that form one-of-a-kind microclimates to support rare plants that are vestiges from the region’s Ice Age history. Naturalists will enjoy trying to spot the unusual animals who call the area home, including the four-toed salamander, the pickerel frog, and a crustacean called an amphipod known only to live in Pickle Creek. If you brave it in the winter, you’ll be treated to views of some incredible ice falls!
Elephant Rocks State Park
About a 90-minute drive
The 1.5-year-old red granite boulders from which this park takes its name, stand end to end like a train of circus elephants lined up trunk-to-tail. The Braille Trail, designed for hikers with visual and physical impairments, is the easiest way to see the rocks. If you’re more adventurous, bouldering enthusiasts love the Elephant Rocks for a fun and challenging day of climbing.
Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park
About a 95-minute drive
A little further down Hwy N from Elephant Rocks, Johnson’s Shut-Ins’ unique geology creates amazing features for rock climbers and a beautiful setting for hiking and camping. But the central feature is the Shut-Ins themselves – a series of naturally formed waterslides and swimming holes that are a perfect place to cool off in the summertime.
Mina Sauk Falls
Not quite a 2-hour drive
Start at the top of Taum Sauk Mountain, the highest point in the state of Missouri at 1,772 feet, and embark on the three-mile loop trail to the top of Mina Sauk Falls. The falls cascade 132 feet into Taum Sauk Creek making it the largest waterfall in Missouri. It flows best after some wet weather, so do your best to time your trip after a storm.