Grand Opening Activities Each Weekend in April; Open Daily in May

(ST. LOUIS): St. Louis's newest major family attraction, the Doris I. Schnuck Children's Garden: A Missouri Adventure, opens its gates this April at the Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Blvd. Explore the 19th century Missouri frontier and life along the river throughout nearly two acres designed for hands-on fun and learning, located west of the Climatron(r) conservatory.
The children of the Donald Schnuck family provided the lead gift to build the garden, named in honor of their mother.
"For many people, the understanding of science and scientific process comes from individual experience," said Garden President Dr. Peter Raven. "Through the generosity of the Schnuck family, this garden will provide a stimulating environment for the early experience of childhood wonder at the natural world."
At the Children's Garden entrance, silhouettes of Missouri Botanical Garden founder Henry Shaw, Mark Twain, Daniel Boone, Lewis and Clark, and Sacagawea introduce the garden's four central themes of discovery, adventure, botany, and settlement. The journey begins on Adventure Plaza, where a rocky bluff and cascading waterfall meet a large map of America underfoot. Here visitors choose from four paths, each leading down a unique journey.
The Discoverer's Path crosses one of two rope bridges leading to the Osage Camp. A glance at journals left by previous explorers offers insights at life among the Osage, including how early settlers interacted with the plants and animals they needed for survival. Visitors can see native wetland plants and access the nearby pond from the Discovery Platform.
Adventurer's Path begins with a glide down Spelunker's Slide to enter a rocky limestone cave where stalactites and stalagmites grow. Fossils, artifacts and petroglyphs are found inside the cool, dimly lit cavern. Children will learn how plants and animals adapt to cave life, how caves have been used for shelter and mining, and discover stones and minerals commonly found in Missouri.
River commerce is bustling at a docked steamboat, where shipments of antique goods are unloaded at the levee. Visitors can operate a series of locks to regulate the river's flow. The effects of animals and people on the environment are evident at a beaver dam and logging camp.
Along the Botanist's Path, a rustic boardwalk climbs through the treetops of mature Osage oranges planted by Henry Shaw over 100 years ago. At the center, the Tree Trunk Pavilion offers an elevated view of the entire Children's Garden. Kids can compare tree species at the three-level log Frontier Fort and learn about the uses and importance of wood. Plant and animal specimens, toys and other hidden treasures are found in the pockets of a large fabricated tree, which allows safe ascent to a tree house. At Stump Station, moveable cylinders demonstrate a tree's life cycle. Underneath, dangling roots invite children to learn about life below the ground.
Birds, bees and butterflies are attracted to the colorful flowers that grow in the petal-shaped Pollination Garden. Children can crawl inside a giant beehive to investigate its honeycombs or follow the footprints of a "bee dance." Further down the path, a trick door hidden among the hedges gains entry to a secret Victorian garden, where one can make music on sound sculptures or imagine young Henry Shaw's childhood in Sheffield, England.
The Settler's Path meanders down a country road and across a covered bridge, past a farm wagon and challenging climbing rock to the Tot Lot, where little ones can "plant" plastic veggies in the sand. Children can operate two jumping water jets and a mushroom pump in the splash area. The path leads to a Midwestern prairie village from the 1800s where food, medicine and merchandise in the general store display common examples of the plants and people connection. Displays in the surveyor's office demonstrate settlement's alteration of the natural landscape and how plants serve as eco-indicators of soil quality. In the jailhouse, invasive plants that arrived with the settlers are "locked up" in cells and identified on "most wanted" posters. Outside, gravestones mark a few of Missouri's endangered plants, reminding visitors that extinction is forever. The Town Hall serves as a central gathering area and can be rented for children's birthday parties beginning in June.
The Children's Garden will open Saturdays and Sundays in April from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with special grand opening activities from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Visitors can meet the new frog mascot, appear on a video guestbook, listen to live music and buy souvenir photo buttons. The St. Louis County Library will offer a program and craft each Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
Beginning May 1, the Children's Garden will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through October and open weekends only in November and March (weather permitting).
Children's Garden admission is $3 for ages three to 12, free for children ages two and under. Adult admission to the Children's Garden is free; general Garden admission applies ($4- $8).
For more information, visit or call the recorded line (314) 577-9400 or toll-free (800) 642-8842.