Guide to Visiting Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis with Kids

Did you know that St. Louis is home to one of the nation’s oldest botanical gardens in continuous operation? Founded in 1859, Missouri Botanical Garden is more than just a National Historic Landmark. It’s an oasis in the city, with 79 acres of horticultural beauty and family fun. While it’s dedicated to education, science, and the conservation of plants and their ecosystems, Missouri Botanical Garden also has an amazing Children’s Garden, hosts seasonal events for the whole family, and more. 

So slather on the sunscreen and spend the afternoon outside. Here’s everything you need to know to make the most of your day visiting Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis with your kids, with helpful tips and insights from John Dedeke, senior brand manager for the garden.

Must-See Attractions at Missouri Botanical Garden

If you’re short on time, check out the Tram Tour, a narrated ride through the garden’s grounds offered April–October. You’ll learn about the garden’s displays and buildings—and you can suss out which areas you want to explore more in depth on your own. But the following are the must-see spots you won’t want to miss.

Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden

When visiting Missouri Botanical Garden with kids, spending time in Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden should be at the top of your list. The nearly 2-acre play area, which is open April-October, introduces kids to botany and brings 19th-century history to life through various play opportunities. Kids can climb a tree house; engage in imaginary play at the General Store, on the Steamboat, at Osage Camp, and in Town Hall; excavate in the sandbox; and explore water flow with the Locks and Dams. And when the temps hit 70 degrees and above, the Splash Area is turned on so kids can cool off. While the Children’s Garden has an additional fee for ages 3–12—$5 for non-members; $3 for members—it’s free for St. Louis residents and members on Saturdays from 9 a.m.–noon, and all day on Tuesdays for members.

Japanese Garden

Dedicated in 1977, the 14-acre Japanese Garden Seiwa-en is often cited as visitors’ favorite destination, according to Dedeke. The garden is a serene expanse with a 4-acre lake as the focal point. The lake contains four islands—Tortoise, Crane, and Paradise islands are not accessible, but the fourth is. Cross one of two footbridges to get to Teahouse Island, which features a delicate, authentic teahouse that was a gift from Nagano Prefecture, Missouri’s sister state in Japan. Dedeke says families particularly enjoy feeding the giant koi fish that live in the Japanese Garden’s lake. Bring quarters to purchase fish food from dispensers at the lake, or stop by the gift shop when you arrive at the garden and buy a bag of feed for $1.50 there. 

Missouri Botanical Garden’s Climatron

When you enter the Missouri Botanical Garden, it’s hard not to notice the Climatron, the first-ever use of a geodesic dome as a greenhouse, Dedeke says. It’s climate-controlled, allowing visitors to experience a tropical rainforest environment. Inside, visitors can explore tropical, exotic, and rare plants, a small native hut, and a river aquarium with exotic fish. And since the temps inside range from 64 degrees at night to 85 degrees during the day, it’s a great spot to visit in the winter to warm up after spending time exploring the outdoor areas of the garden.

The Best Photo Ops

Missouri Botanical Garden is full of fantastic photo ops (with all the plants and flowers, you can’t go wrong!). But Dedeke says there’s one spot in particular you’ll want to snap a pic for Instagram: “Our Central Axis makes for a breathtaking backdrop for photos, with large reflecting pools throughout and the dramatic Climatron structure in the background.” The Central Axis is that area that spans from Spink Pavilion to the Climatron.

Missouri Botanical Garden’s Special Events

Missouri Botanical Garden offers a variety of events, including classes and workshops for the whole family, talks, and plant sales. But you won’t want to miss the garden’s seasonal events.

“Our ‘festival season’ runs April through October, featuring our three weekend-long cultural celebrations,” Dedeke says, and each includes activities designed specifically for families and children. Chinese Culture Days, hosted May 18 and 19, 2024, in collaboration with the Chinese Culture Education and Services Foundation, features cultural performances, music, art, history, and authentic cuisine. Japanese Festival, hosted August 31–September 2, 2024 in collaboration with several local Japanese-American organizations, offers authentic Japanese music, art, dance, food, and entertainment. The Best of Missouri Market, held October 4–6, 2024, features vendors selling a variety of handmade items, locally produced food, and more. During this fall weekend, bring the little ones to the Kids Corner featuring fall activities, a pumpkin patch with sustainable pumpkin decorating, and live animals.

Then, at the end of the year, Garden Glow, hosted November 16, 2024–January 4, 2025, celebrates the holiday season. Explore the garden when it’s illuminated with more than a million lights, plus holiday festivities, photo ops, and food and drinks.

Accessibility & Accommodations

Missouri Botanical Garden aims to make the garden accessible to all visitors. As such, it offers a variety of accommodations, including:

  • Manual wheelchair (free), motorized scooter ($30), and stroller ($3) rentals on a first-come, first-served basis
  • Large-print and Braille handouts for classes
  • A calming room for nursing parents and for visitors who need a quiet space and relief from sensory stimulation
  • Pre-visit tools (a caregiver narrative, a pre-visit guide for kids, and a visual schedule) for the Children’s Garden to help prepare children with autism spectrum disorder and other sensory disorders for their visit 

In addition, the Zimmerman Sensory Garden was designed to be an engaging sensory experience for all visitors. It features flowers and herbs with strong scents, a Shell Fountain and the Solari Bell Tree that offer peaceful sounds, and textured annuals, perennials, and herbs that visitors are encouraged to touch.

If you’re looking for less-stimulating environments during your visit, the garden suggests visiting the English Woodland Garden, Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, and Brookings Exploration Center before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m., and the Children’s Garden before 10 a.m. or after 2 p.m. most afternoons.

Missouri Botanical Garden Memberships

Missouri Botanical Garden offers a variety of annual membership options for families who plan to visit multiple times throughout year. All memberships include free general admission to the garden, Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House, and Shaw Nature Reserve; discounted admission to special events; passes for free tram tours and Children’s Garden; invites to members-only events; and more. 

For families who plan to visit a few times a year, we recommend the Garden membership ($75), which is good for two adults and any children. But if you plan to visit the garden frequently, the Friends and Family membership ($125) might be perfect for you. It includes admission for 4 adults and any children, along with unlimited entry to the Children’s Garden and free tram tours during every visit.

Tips for Visiting Missouri Botanical Garden

Dedeke offers the following tips for families who are planning to visit Missouri Botanical Garden:

Visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance online to avoid a potential wait upon arrival.

If you want to feel like you have the garden to yourself, visiting weekday afternoons, especially Mondays and Tuesdays, are the best times.

The garden offers something new to experience in every season, including winter, when snow transforms the landscapes.

Stop by the Lelia J. and David N. Farr Auditorium in the new Jack C. Taylor Visitor Center to watch a brief film about the history of the Garden and its work to discover and protect plant life from here in Missouri to as far away as Madagascar. Bonus: It’s narrated by St. Louis native Jon Hamm. 

Fast Stats

Good for: Nature lovers of all ages. But your kiddos (nature lovers or not) could probably spend hours exploring and playing in the Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden.

Admission: $16 general admission and seniors; $6 St. Louis residents (proof of residency required); free for members and children ages 12 and younger. 

Hours: The garden is open daily, 9 a.m.–5 p.m., with the last entry at 4:30 p.m.

Is there food? Yes. The Sassafras Restaurant and Cafe offer a variety of options, including sandwiches, salads, and kids meals. If you’re looking to picnic during your day at the garden, you’ll need to head over to nearby Tower Grove Park, as outside food is not allowed in the garden.

Location: 4344 Shaw


Phone: 314-577-5100

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