Treetop Playground at Shaw Park
Located smack in the middle of over 47 acres of lush green space in Clayton’s Shaw Park, Treetop Playground blends in nicely with its surroundings. A nature-themed adventure that is accessible to children of all abilities, the playground has features that stimulate the senses: animal sounds, a tree house hideaway, musical instruments for little hands to play, and even a sprayground for the hot summer days. Though there is not a lot of shade, the surrounding green space is full of relief from the sun. Pack a picnic lunch to eat in the pavillion located just to the east of the enclosed playground. Also, check out the relaxing rain garden just to the south of the playground.
Shaw Nature Reserve
If you don’t mind the drive, head out to Shaw Nature Reserve, an affiliate of the Missouri Botanical Garden. There you will find beautiful wide open spaces for little ones to run around. Be sure to check out the Nature Explore Classroom, which includes 6 “Areas:” Nature Art, Build It, Climbing and Crawling, Music and Movement, Balance, and Messy Materials. Each station encourages children to use their senses in nature. There is a beautiful climbing structure which resembles a fallen tree but is smooth to the touch. Children will also enjoy pumping water through an old-fashioned hand pump and watching the water stream down a wooden corral.
Emerson Children’s Zoo Playground
It’s no secret that the St. Louis Zoo is one of the best zoos in the world. Within the zoo is the Emerson’s Children Zoo; follow the windy paved pathway to the playground, where kids can shovel wood chips and play in realistic play houses alongside free-ranging chickens! Children love the hippo climbing structure, where they can explore the inside of a hippo’s mouth or hide inside the belly. But the best part of this playground is the see-through slide which tunnels down under water where river otters swim and play. The Children’s Zoo is also free during the first hour of the zoo opening (fall and winter hours are a bit later than summer hours), so get there early!
Forest Park Visitor Center Playground
If you are a jogger, one of the most running-accessible playgrounds is the Forest Park Visitor Center Playground, located just west of the Visitor Center in Forest Park. Run the trails with your jogging stroller, then head over to the playground for a break and a chance to play on many interconnected play structures, including a rock wall and some very steep slides! Not into heights? Try out the quadrouple-seater see-saw, which is sturdy enough for an adult to sit on.
Although it is a bit of a hike out to St. Louis County, Queeny Park is one unique St. Louis playground that you must visit at least once! Surrounded by hiking trails and picnic areas, Queeny Park Playground is an expansive area reminiscent of the playground equipment of your own childhood. With concrete climbing structures and metal slides, there is a grit to this play area! A sure favorite is the concrete tunnel system, where kids can explore, climb ladders, and pretend they are truly underground. A note: do not wear flip flops, as the ground surface is made up entirely of small stones that will surely end up in your shoes. No matter, the kids never seem to notice!