Best Kids' Thrill

Stingrays at Caribbean Cove

The only thing more thrilling than the final note of Stingray Cove's ubiquitous television commercials and their ear-wrenching version of "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" is actually visiting the exhibit itself. Yes, their venom-coated barbs have been trimmed, and they're pretty docile creatures to begin with, but the experience of petting a ray is still, well, thrilling. More than 30 stingrays call the Saint Louis Zoo's 17,000-gallon pool home. Most are cownose rays; a few are a larger species, the southern stingray, which can grow to a "wing"span of four feet across. The petting pool's concrete barrier is about knee-high and decorated with shell and sand-dollar imprints. Lean your body over the edge, dip your hand into the warm salt water and wait. Inevitably, a ray will glide over to your palm. Their skin feels like a slick wetsuit; sometimes their wings take on the nefarious look of a shark's fin and they'll slap at the water's surface — a little gesture that'll even make some adults take a startled jump back. Admission is $1.50 to $3, and free for the first hour the zoo's open.

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