It’s amazing just how much wildlife you can see in the Metro area, from elk and bison to eagles and wolves. Many of these wild animals are housed in lush natural landscapes, so come prepared to enjoy a hike and perhaps a picnic. All of these options make terrific excursions for homeschoolers, families, scout troupes, senior groups, dating couples, and nature lovers of all ages.
Lone Elk Park
1 Lone Elk Park Road
Valley Park, MO 63088
(314) 615-5000
www.stlouisco.com

Lone Elk Park is one of St. Louis’s greatest treasures. Who would expect to find a natural wooded landscape where elk and bison are roaming free tucked away just outside Kirkwood off I-44? The elk area has a lovely lake, where you’ll see lots of ducks and turtles. (Hint: find the wooden deck and look over the edge to see masses of turtles.) You can walk around this area, but when you encounter the elk, don’t try to get too close. Enjoy some hiking, climb the observation tower, nosh in the picnic area, and walk through the visitor’s center. Then get into your car and drive through the bison area, where the great beasts often stand or lie down right by the side of the road.

Endangered Wolf Center
6750 Tyson Valley Road
Eureka, MO 63025
(636) 938-5900
www.endangeredwolfcenter.org

The Endangered Wolf Center’s mission is to serve the endangered animals and, hopefully, reintroduce them to the wild.  The Center arranges group visits, tours, and events — including evening Wolf Howls — to help with fundraising, and the tours are educational and inspiring. This is not an entertainment center for humans or a zoo, so come with realistic expectations. You will learn about the wolves and the work being done at the center, but your contact with the animals will be limited to viewing them from a distance. Wear comfortable shoes, long sleeves, long pants, and a hat to protect yourself from ticks. You will be outdoors in tall grasses and wooded areas.

World Bird Sanctuary
125 Bald Eagle Ridge Road
Valley Park, MO 63088
(636) 225-4390
www.worldbirdsanctuary.org

The World Bird Sanctuary neighbors Lone Elk Park, so combining the two destinations into a Saturday afternoon makes perfect sense. Admission is free, although donations are appreciated. You’ll see bald eagles, falcons, hawks, parrots, owls, condors, turkeys, and other birds.  Most of the birds are tethered to their perches for their safety. If you visit on the first Saturday afternoon of the month, you can have a guided tour of the hospital where injured and sick birds are treated. Nature trails and picnic pavilions are available at the site as well.

Related:  Top Hiking Trails in St. Louis

Grant’s Farm
10501 Gravois Road
St. Louis, MO 63123
(314) 843-1700
www.grantsfarm.com

Every child who grows up in St. Louis has fond memories of visiting Grant’s Farm. Parents love it too because it is free and offers a whole day of wholesome, educational entertainment. Kids love feeding and petting the baby goats and riding the tram around the grounds. Adults like the Bauernhof bier garden and the historic car collection. And every St. Louisan’s heart swells with pride when they see the famous Clydesdales.

Suson Park
6073 Wells Road
St. Louis, MO 63128
(314) 615-8822
www.stlouisco.com

Suson Park is a sweet little gem in South County, with a lake, grassy play areas, and walking trails. But the highlight of the park is its animal farm, where kids can encounter farm animals in a friendly, intimate environment and even interact with them. Pigs, goats, ducks, chickens, and cows are on hand to say hello to your kids. For small children who’ve grown up in the city, walking through a barn full of live farm animals is like seeing a storybook come to life. They love it.

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Lauren Haas was the founder and publisher of The St. Louis Area Family Gazette magazine. Now, Lauren is a full-time freelance writer who travels the world, using St. Louis as her base. Visit her blog at http://www.thesoulofajourney.com.
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