Filled with millions of dazzling lights, the 35-acre drive-through fantasyland at Santa's Magical Kingdom brings the North Pole to children, along with a chance to whisper wishes into Father Christmas's ear as cameras flash. The 4-story-tall doors to Santa's kingdom sweep open to admit slow-moving cars or turtle-drawn racing chariots into the holiday fantasyland. Eyes widen in wonder while taking in a 300-foot waterfall flowing from the clouds, Santa's reindeer soaring overhead, the fancy footwork of the bulbs in the Tunnel of Dancing Lights, and the giant gingerbread bulldozers of Candyland. Kids are welcome to drop off letters to Santa in his North Pole mailbox before stepping out of cars and into Kringle's General Store.
Youthful believers outfitted in bright smiles climb onto Santa's lap as photographers snap vivid, waterproof memories that are copyright-free and ready to be reproduced for holiday-card mailings or magazine-cover submissions. Before and after pictures, little ones and adults can let imaginations run wild through shelves brimming with unique holiday toys, gifts, and décor. Every evening, Santa's elves bake fresh chocolate chip cookies and their special recipe hot chocolate along with other goodies available at the snack bar, made from a secret recipe that's as coveted as the gold medal in the reindeer-games Olympics. Santa's Magical Kingdom opens every night at 5:30 p.m., from November 15, 2013, to January 5, 2014.
Since 1965, bowling buffs have decimated the pins at West County Lanes. Slip into a pair of piebald loafers ($2.75 for a rental) and practice perfect follow-throughs as you hurl sporty spheroids down any of the 24 lanes ($3.25 per person each game, $3.75 weekends and holidays; $15 per lane each hour, $18 weekends and holidays). Powered by a savvy system, hanging monitors display scores as well as embarrassing childhood photos of any player who rolls a gutter ball. On Fridays from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. and Saturdays after 10 p.m., the futuristic lights and glow-in-the-dark lanes of cosmic bowling ($19 per lane each hour) comfort homesick time-travelers trapped in the ancient present.
Bowling is the great social equalizer—a common ground where grizzled undercover clowns, blue-collar English lords, LARPer librarians, big and tall lingerie models, hordes of hive-minded hipsters, and the other two social demographics that comprise America can unite in common cause and topple a gaggle of stuck-up, inanimate wooden pins. Brunswick has been a household name in this egalitarian pastime almost since the beginning, with a company history that dates back to the 19th century, providing classic American good times to all manner of patrons across the country. And with today's Groupon tying the room together, you'll get to play two games (up to a $7.98 value) in its hallowed halls wearing a pair of freshly disinfected bowling shoes (up to a $3.69 value).
Bowling lanes, 80 arcade games, and the tubes, tunnels, and slides of a soft playground all nestle within the 12,000-square-foot Swing-A-Round Fun Town facility in Fenton. Outside, waterfalls and fountains surround three professionally designed outdoor mini golf courses, and a mammoth pond accommodates 15 colliding bumper boats. The fun continues at the kiddie kart track for youngsters 3–8 years old or the more than 1,100-foot adult track, where kids can join a parent in a double-seat go-kart whose second steering wheel allows tykes to pretend drive and practice ignoring hitchhikers. Elsewhere, nine batting cages test players' homerun hitting skills with softball slow and fast pitches or baseballs flung at 35–80 mph. Swing-A-Round Fun Town's St. Charles location hosts nine batting cages as well, plus two 18-hole miniature golf courses and an arcade.
Each expert equestrian at Pemberley schools riders ages 6 and up on the essentials of good horsemanship and welcomes them to pick his or her brain of its abounding horse knowledge. The first horseback-riding lesson will be a one-hour evaluation that surveys guests on their previous riding experiences to be paired with the appropriate horse and trainer ($60). The next two lessons are 30-minute, horse-handling sessions ($55 each), in which riders will learn how to entice graceful gallops out of their faithful steeds, properly tack their four-legged partners, and sleep standing up.
The Museum of Transportation sprawls across 129 acres, presenting its vast collection of automobiles, boats, planes, and trains dating from the mid-1800s to the present day. More than 70 massive locomotives reside in the museum, including the largest successful steam locomotive, the Union Pacific Big Boy—though later examinations revealed that the train is actually female. Explore rare autos—including a motor carriage dating back to 1901 and rides owned by Dean Martin and W.C. Fields—and a fleet of military aircraft that constantly snubs visitors by pointing their nose cones skyward. A miniature locomotive leads a following of bright-red cars around the museum grounds, and the hands-on Creation Station gives tots aged 5 and under the opportunity to familiarize themselves with modes of transportation outside of diesel-powered strollers.
Set in Purina's spacious Visitor Center and surrounding premises, the five-day event lets fall-fanatic families usher in seasonal scares and crunchy leaves with autumnal activities such as tractor-drawn hayrides, storytelling, meet-and-greets with friendly witches, and magic shows by performers from the International Brotherhood of Magicians. In keeping with Purina's roots as a purveyor of kinship between people and pets, youngsters can feast their primary head orbs on live farmyard animals, duck herding demonstrations, cow-milking displays, and costumed canines competing in a series of flying disc, agility, and diving contests. Bring the entire family or the gaggle of mischievous, otherworldly imps living in your basement for refreshing fall fun.