Winter Activities in St. Louis, MO
Sledding at Art Hill in Forest Park is a bit legendary in St. Louis. Every snowfall brings droves of sledders toting their sled of choice—and it’s not just limited to sleds and snowboards. Trash can lids, cardboard boxes, cafeteria trays, and other devices of choice can be seen gliding down the slope on any given snowy day (or night.) Art Hill has been the premier sledding hill in St. Louis for over a century: photographs at the Missouri History Museum depict sledders coasting down the hill during the 1904 World’s Fair. The Hill is inevitably very crowded, so be ready for the chaos. Familys and kids with snow days (or kids playing hooky) prevail during the day; midnight snow runs attract a more adult audience. The local news loves to cover the Hill, so wear your best scarf.
Hidden Valley is known as the only place to ski in the St. Louis area. The next closest place would probably be 6-8 hours north, in Wisconsin. The resort is classified as 30% beginner, 60% intermediate, 10% advanced, with 14 trails and 7 ski lifts over 30 acres. The snow is artificial, and that’s a big part of the fun. It makes for a more icy experience, but the upside is that the temperatures are often much warmer than you would find on top of a real mountain. People have been known to come snowboard in T-shirts. Hidden Valley offers food, but it’s at typical resort prices, so you might want to consider eating before or after. Parking is free. It’s a popular destination for field trips; many St. Louisans had their first ski run down the Hidden Valley bunny slope. Ski rental, classes and lessons are available.
Our Lady of the Snows is a shrine situated on one hundred acres of farmland on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River Valley. It seemed an ideal location for the proposed National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. A stunning exhibit of modern architecture and landscape, the Shrine transforms itself every holiday season with the Way of Lights. The mile-and-a-half drive traverses the park, which is glowing with more than 1.7 million lights, as well as electro art displays and Biblical statues to help tell the story of the Journey to Bethlehem and the birth of Christ. Many St. Louis families make the Way of Lights an annual Christmas tradition. The attraction is free, though donations are appreciated. The best time to go is during a weeknight, as the Shrine become very crowded on weekends, especially as Christmas nears. If you choose to go on Friday or Saturday, be prepared to wait in traffic. A carafe of hot chocolate and some snacks in the car
Every winter, more than 2,000 bald eagles migrate to the Middle Mississippi River Valley, making it the nation’s second largest population of overwintering eagles (second only to the Oregon/California region.) The Brussels Ferry area is one of the region’s premier eagle-watching spots. “Do I need to get on a ferry to see the bald eagles?” you may wonder. The answer is no, of course not. You can see them around the area from the shore. But conservationists say that ferries churn up the water, breaking the ice and bringing fish to the river’s surface, which attracts hungry eagles looking for easy prey. Plus, riding the ferry is an experience in and of itself. The Brussels Ferry is one of seven free ferries in the Valley offering travelers free river crossing (not to mention breathtaking scenic views.) The ferry runs every day, weather permitting. Two ferries run on weekends to help cut down on wait times.
Why go to the mall to see Santa when his entire Magical Kingdom is judt a short shot down 1-44 from downtown St. Louis? Situated on top of a hill, this popular destination boasts millions of lights reaching four stories high, making it a twinkling spectacle that can be seen from miles around. It’s a fantastic light show complete with animated characters, soaring reindeer, bustling elves and the most over-the-top decorations imaginable. It’s quite the memorable experience for everyone to share, from small children to eye-rolling teenagers (and adults). You can either drive through, or choose to take the Santa Express train or an old-fashioned wagon ride. Don't worry about a crowded schedule: Santa and his elves are hard at work every night during the season, including all holidays.