10 places to interact with animals near St. Louis – St. Louis Magazine

Families can find exotic animals, farm animals, sea creatures, fascinating insects, and eye-catching birds within a short drive.
February 28, 2022
6:00 AM
Photography courtesy The Gentle Barn
If your kids love animals, then you’re in luck. The St. Louis region boasts several animal attractions that are fun for the whole family. Whether you’re looking for exotic animals, farm animals, sea creatures, fascinating insects, or eye-catching birds, you’ll find them within a short drive. Consider one of these destinations when planning your next animal adventure.
The Audubon Center at Riverlands
For more than a decade, the Audobon Center at Riverlands as worked to inspire conservation of the region’s birds and wildlife, among other natural resources. Riverlands boasts 8.5 miles of trails covering 3,700 acres of floodplain habitat, making it a great place to go birding. Upon arriving at the Audobon Center, guests can pick up bird checklists and trail maps before venturing out to view some of the region’s most eye-catching avians, including eagles, gulls, swans, and many more. During the spring, you’ll find waterbirds, terns, bitterns, rails and songbirds to fill up your checklist. Free. 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Tues–Sat. 301 Riverlands.
Photography courtesy Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary
Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary
Take a 45-minute guided walking tour of the sanctuary to learn about the tigers, their homes, and their personalities. Afterwards, stop by the on-site education center to touch tiger artifacts, including teeth, claws, and a tiger pelt, among other items. The featured tigers include Gracie, a female bengal hybrid who is up to 95 percent blind in both eyes, Thor, a female bengal hybrid, and Izzy, a male Siberian hybrid. Tours start at $10 per person. Free for kids under age 4. Tours at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. Thurs–Sun. 19620 Crown Ridge, Ste. Genevieve. 573-883-9909.
Big Joel’s Safari
Celebrating its 10-year anniversary this summer, Big Joel’s Safari is a family-operated petting zoo that allows visitors to familiarize themselves with an array of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and fish. Recent arrivals to the collection include black capped capuchin monkeys, brown lemurs, addax antelope, and capybara, among others. Guests can use their hands, provided spoons, or special tubes to help feed just about any animal on the premises. The 2022 season opens April 9. $12 visitors 13 and older, $10 kids 2–12, free for kids under 2. Check website for times. 13187 State Highway M. 636-745-3031.
Longmeadow Rescue Ranch
This 165-acre sanctuary near Union serves as a rehabilitation and care center for neglected and abused animals. Horses, cows, goats, pigs, ducks, and other farm animals roam the ranch, allowing for an up-close and hands-on educational experience for guests of all ages. Free. 12 p.m.–3 p.m. Fri, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Sat. 480 Joseph’s. 636-583-8759.
Photography by Kevin A. Roberts
The Primate Canopy at the St. Louis Zoo
Saint Louis Zoo
The city’s renowned zoo is home to more than 14,000 animals representing nearly 500 species. It’s a family favorite that’s especially great to visit on a warm spring or summer day. If you haven’t been recently, be sure to check out the new Primate Canopy Trails, which opened in July 2021. The exhibit features an interactive climbing structure for kids to explore, while they also learn about natural habitats and the importance of healthy forests. Free. Check website for seasonal hours. 1 Government. 314-781-0900.
St. Louis Aquarium
Explore underwater worlds with help from the aquarium’s 13,000 animals representing 257 species. Visitor can get a good look at underwater animals ranging from those who live at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, to those who live deep in the oceans. There are also plenty of hands-on activities available at the touch pools, where kids can run their fingers over a cownose ray, or a bamboo shark, among other aquatic creatures. Children can also experience up-close visits with ball pythons, a Sulcata tortoise, a sugar glider, and many more interesting animals. $25 adult, $18 kids 3–12, Free 2 and under. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Sun–Thurs, 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Fri–Sat. 2011 8th. 314-923-3900.
Photography Courtesy The Butterfly House
Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House
On any given day, there are nearly 2,000 tropical butterflies representing 80 different species fluttering in free flight through the tropical conservatory. The butterflies fly at eye level, giving kids and families an up-close opportunity to watch these beautiful creatures navigate nature. A newly-opened bug science lab offers guests a glimpse into the process for cultivating the Butterfly House’s living insect collection, while also using kid-friendly diagrams and visuals to illustrate the four stages of a butterfly’s life cycle, the difference between butterflies and moths, and the journey butterflies take to arrive at the Chesterfield conservatory. $8 general admission, $5 seniors, $5 kids 3–12, free for kids under 2. 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Tues–Sun. 15050 Faust. 314-577-0888.
Suson Park
This St. Louis County park is a great place to introduce the little ones to nature. Not only is there a lake stocked with fish, including one designated for kids, there is a working animal farm that usually features horses, pigs, cows, goats, chickens, and geese, among others. Free. 8 a.m.–30 minutes past sunset. Daily. 6073 Wells.
photography courtesy the gentle barn
The Gentle Barn
Perhaps you remember the St. Louis Six, the group of cows who dashed through the city’s streets after escaping from a slaughterhouse in 2017. They now live at this barn in Dittmer, where visitors can pay a visit during open hours on Sundays. The cows may be the big attraction, but there are many other pigs, chickens, turkeys, donkeys, goats, sheep and ducks who live here, too, making The Gentle Barn a fun place for kids to meet a variety of animals. $20 adults, $10 kids 2-12, free for kids under 2. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Sun. 9171 State Road Y. 636-285-7686.
photography courtesy world bird sanctuary
World Bird Sanctuary
More than 200 animals representing 60-plus species call this Valley Park rehabilitation sanctuary home. Daily attractions include the mid-morning Parrot Party, which gives guests ages 13 years and older a chance to handle a blue-and-gold macaw named Waylon, the afternoon Emu Encounter, which allows guests of any age to meet Sprinkles the emu and learn about the species’ natural history, and the twice-per-day raptor showing, which provides teens an opportunity to learn how to handle a talon-led predator. Along with scores of owls, vultures, eagles, and other birds, the sanctuary also features hiking trails and a play area. $8 per car. 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Daily. 125 Bald Eagle Ridge. 636-225-4390.
February 28, 2022
6:00 AM
P.O. BOX 191606
St. Louis, MO 63119
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