We found the cool, quirky things offered by parks in the St. Louis area: remote-control tracks and ruins, centuries-old quarries and cabins, farm animals and archaeological finds.
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We know. It might be getting harder to drag ourselves out of the house these days, even if the pandemic dictates that we stay close.
So how about a park?
Stay with us here. We’re not going to promote hikes, picnics or anything remotely sporty. This will be our only mention of playgrounds, many of which are closed anyway. Instead, we found the cool, quirky things offered by parks in the St. Louis area: remote-control tracks and ruins, centuries-old quarries and cabins, farm animals and archaeological finds.
And if your jaunt to see the cool stuff turns into a hike or a picnic or a game of catch, that's fine, too. You’re out of the house, and hopefully, you’re having fun.
Since the 1960s, kids and families have visited Suson Park and its working farm to admire chickens, giggle at goats, and marvel at horses and cows. On the park's 99 acres are three lakes, one managed specifically for children’s fishing. Longview Farm Park in Town and Country has a barn and pasture, home to horses owned by Equine Assisted Therapy. Eberwein Park in Chesterfield, once farmed by the Eberwein family, maintains a “farmlike theme,” and a large, red barn, which was built in the early 1900s, has been preserved and stands as a backdrop to a community garden. And while you may not see elk or bison on a typical farm, a drive through Lone Elk Park will yield lots of wildlife sightings.
📍Suson Park, 6073 Wells Road
📍Longview Farm Park, 13525 Clayton Road, Town and Country
📍EberweinPark, 1627 Old Baxter Road
📍LoneElk Park, 1 Lone Elk Park Road, Valley Park
Fun for your wheels
We all know about bike trails, but Penrose Park in St. Louis boasts a velodrome, one of only 27 in the country, and it was refurbished last year. The velodrome isn’t hosting events, but it is open from dawn to dusk for cyclists to ride laps. For remote-control cars, head to the special track at Greentree Park in Kirkwood. (Buder Park near Fenton has a remote-control airplane field.) This summer, Eureka opened its Mountain Bike Park, and St. Charles County opened the largest BMX pump track in the country at its Youth Activity Park. For another wheeled experience, rent a quadricycle at the boathouse at Creve Coeur Park. For a map of mountain biking trails, visit gorctrails.com.
You can also go old-school and dust off your roller skates or blades. They aren’t open now, but Mount Pleasant Park, Fairground Park, Tandy Park, Lindenwood Park and Tilles Park, all in St. Louis, include skating rinks.
📍PenrosePark, 4200 North Kingshighway
📍Greentree Park, 2202 Marshall Road, Kirkwood
📍Eureka Mountain Bike Park, 1 Coffey Park Lane, Eureka
📍Youth Activity Park, 7801 Highway N, O'Fallon, Missouri
A rock beer garden where Judy Garland once crooned, or a stairwell where Eleanor Roosevelt once smiled for an orchestra? Ruins in a park add ambiance and mystery, as well as legit history. Ruins of the beer garden remain at Sylvan Springs Park in south St. Louis County, and a stone staircase where the WPA orchestra performed leads down to the Missouri River Shores in Fort Belle Fontaine Park near Spanish Lake. Tower Grove Park’s centerpiece includes the castle “ruins” around the central lake, made from stones and blocks from the burned Lindell Hotel. An old stone staircase and building foundations tell the story of Castlewood State Park’s resort past. An old springhouse tucked alongside a wooden trail at Laumeier Sculpture Park has been repurposed as a Mark Dion sculpture, "Grotto of the Sleeping Bear." A short walk away, artist Mary Miss used concrete ruins of a 1929 swimming pool for her deck-like sculpture "Pool Complex: Orchard Valley."
📍Sylvan Springs Park, 300 Halsey Street
📍Fort Belle Fontaine Park, 13002 Bellefontaine Road
📍Tower Grove Park, 4257 Northeast Drive
📍Castlewood State Park, 1401 Kiefer Creek Road, Ballwin
📍Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott Road
Imagine trucks and trains carting away loads of sand and gravel from quarries transformed into parkland. Klondike Park in St. Charles County is named for the Klondike Quarry, which mined limestone and sand to use for glass production. In Crestwood, trails in Whitecliff Park lead around an abandoned quarry. Trails wind around large, abandoned stones left over from the century-old Meramec Highlands Quarry at Dee Koestering Park in Kirkwood, where an overlook tells the history of the site. The Flint Quarry Trail at West Tyson Park is named for the shallow flint quarries where, for thousands of years, native Americans found flint for tools and points on weapons. Depressions along the ridge, only a few feet deep, mark where they once dug. Large holes in the bedrock and stones along trails at Rockwoods Reservation remain from quarries there. In the early 20th century, workers carved out a hillside for a stone quarry at Carondelet Park in St. Louis, creating a dangerous ledge. Workers then built a stone ledge at the dropoff, and people started calling the ledge “the bear pits,” though there’s no solid evidence bears ever lived there.
📍Klondike Park, 4600 South Highway 94, Augusta
📍Whitecliff Park, 9245 Whitecliff Lane
📍Dee Koestering Park, 1703 Marshall Road, Kirkwood
📍West Tyson Park, 131 North Outer Road East, Eureka
If the pandemic left you kneading sourdough bread or planting a vegetable garden, you can round out that frontier living experience with a visit to a cabin or historic village.
A log cabin from the 1850s that once belonged to the Cougot family has been moved to Tower Court Park in Florissant, as well as an old narrow gauge railroad station that tells a later town history. A stone chimney was all that remained of Jacob Zumwalt’s fort, but the log fort was rebuilt and opened a few years ago in Fort Zumwalt Park in O’Fallon, Missouri. Drace Park in Town and Country is home to three log cabins: One is original to the site, built around 1855 by settler Jacob Kropp. Conway Park in Creve Coeur has two log cabins, moved there to tell the stories of the Clester and Hackmann families. For the full village experience, visit Faust Park in Chesterfield or the Historic Daniel Boone Home and village in Defiance. Haskell Park in Alton includes the Victorian-style Haskell Playhouse, built for Lucy Haskell for her fifth birthday in 1885.
📍Tower Court Park, New Florissant Road and Washington Street, Florissant
📍Fort Zumwalt Park, 1000 Jessup Drive, O’Fallon, Missouri
📍Drace Park, 2310 Cedar Valley Road, Town and Country
📍Conway Park, 12301 Conway Road, Creve Coeur
📍Faust Park, 15185 Olive Boulevard, Chesterfield
📍Historic Daniel Boone Home and village, 1868 Highway F, Defiance
📍Haskell Park, 1211 Henry Street, Alton
Student archaeologists in the 1950s unearthed a stone foundation that once supported a summer kitchen at the Laborers' House at Jefferson Barracks Park, built in 1851 to house builders of the nearby military ordnance. Concrete foundations dating to World War II-era buildings dot the park. Near a picnic site and ballfields at Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park, shards of pottery found in the 1930s led to more excavations that told a story of a Hopewell Indian settlement from about 1,200 years ago. At Mastodon State Historic Site, archaeologists found a projectile point embedded in a mastodon’s rib bone, proving that humans and mastodons lived at the same time. Archaeologists tell the story of a sophisticated prehistoric civilization at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. A dig at Spanish Land Grant Park in 2006 unearthed more than 10,000 items from an 18th-century church and rectory. Excavations at Fort Zumwalt Park revealed fragments of English china, seashells, and pieces of slate and pencils. When workers dug at Gateway Arch National Park to expand the underground museum a few years ago, they found fragments from an early St. Louis, including a cistern full of plates, cups, bottles and other items dating from before the great St. Louis fire of 1849. The trove is now part of a museum display.
📍Jefferson Barracks Park, 345 North Road
📍Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park, 13725 Marine Avenue
📍Mastodon State Historic Site, 1050 Charles J. Becker Drive, Imperial
📍Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, 30 Ramey Street, Collinsville
📍Spanish Land Grant Park, St. Ferdinand Park Drive, Florissant
📍Fort Zumwalt Park, 1000 Jessup Drive, O’Fallon, Missouri
📍Gateway Arch National Park, 11 North Fourth Street
From Greekfest to the Botanical Garden, many of our favorite Labor Day traditions have a slightly different flavor this year. Here are dozens of options for getting out of the house for a socially-distanced weekend.