I know I'm in the minority when it comes to my beliefs and tastes regarding the City. This probably goes against the popular metropolitan region opinion, but I think St. Louis is a great place to raise a family. One of St. Louis' primary hurdles has to be retaining young families with school-age children.
I don't want to get into the school issues. I'd rather keep it on the bright side. Having 3 little ones 6 and under, we've recently discovered the following gems in the city. Here's why St. Louis kicks the suburb's and exurb's ass when it comes to kid friendly vibes:
The Tower Grove park wading pool and farmer's market: This is the place to take your kids on a Saturday morning in the summertime. Parents can shop for some tasty, locally grown produce and goods, get a smoothie, crepe or coffee from Hartford's stand. Then you can walk over to the beautiful wading pool directly adjacent to the market. There is usually live music playing at the bandstand. Many people are walking to the park from surrounding neighborhoods. Other's drive there. It gives you a really good feel for just how diverse the city is when it comes to different races, ethnicity's, economic situations, etc. It's a really nice scene with a good feel. Kind of like the Sesame Street episodes with little kids playing, shot in 1970's New York boroughs. I really love this place.
Forest Park streams near the Muny: Much like my last discovery, another place to get the kids cooled off in the summertime. There is a man-made stone based stream near the Muny. There is a surprising amount of water life (frogs, minnows, etc) and birds ranging from ducks to hawks to waders. There are plenty of trees for shade, and it is almost never crowded. The kids can take of their shoes, roll up their plant legs, and wade through the stream, crossing the shallow waters that flow over the huge, tiered stone structures. Definitely a great place to enjoy nature in a serene environment right in the middle of the city.
Christy Park Pedestrian Trail: Starting at Holly Hills Blvd and Christy in Boulevard Heights, you can travel south to Germania, then east to Morgan Ford, or west all the way to the Shrewsbury Metrolink stop. Again, almost never crowded, you can enjoy a leisurely pace with kids in tow. Also a great place let the kids practice on skateboards, scooters and bikes. There are hundreds of new trees that are starting to root and take shape. The cross walks at Loughborough and Germania benefit the ped, and stop traffic within seconds. It is well marked, lit and safe. I look forward to witnessing the extension from Morgan Ford east toward I-55.
Youth Bocce League at the Italian-American Bocce Club: This private club on the Hill opens their fabulously maintained bocce courts to the public for an 8-week children's league. This is a great way to get the kids out of the house on our grey winter Sundays. The games are only an hour, so no big commitment. They even have free shirts for the kids and throw a pizza party on the final week. These people are gracious and generous, and simply ask in return that the kids "work" a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for the bocce club. Very good scene.
I didn't even include the obvious choices and benefits of St. Louis like the Zoo, Arch, Science Center, City Museum, etc. Those are all great too, but almost don't require further mention.
Am I missing others?