I’ve been taking my kids for years to The Muny. This summer wrapped up our fifth year visiting the outdoor theater, and I’ve learned a few things through those years. If you’re considering taking your kids to see a musical at The Muny, here are some things to consider:
What is The Muny?
The Muny is a large amphitheater in St. Louis that puts on a series of Broadway-quality shows every summer. It bills itself as America’s oldest and largest outdoor theater, and it recently marked its 101st season with a newly rebuilt stage. And it’s certainly large, with seating for around 11,000 people. They produce about seven shows each summer, with half a dozen performances, give or take, of each show. Kid-friendly shows in the past five years have included The Little Mermaid, The Wizard of Oz, Beauty and the Beast, Annie, Cinderella, and Matilda. Each show starts at 8:15 p.m.
What are my ticket options?
For the 2019 season, tickets started at $15. Seats also were available in the $33, $48, $63, $80, and $105 ranges. You can buy tickets online or at the theater the night of the show. Season ticket options also are available.
What about free seats?
The Muny also has 1,500 free seats at the back of the theater, which is what my family has done for the past four years. Lines for free seats begin forming near the upper parking lot a couple of hours before a show starts (curtain time is 8:15 p.m.). My family prefers to arrive a couple of hours early to get good parking (the lots fill up quickly and parking spills out into the surrounding streets of Forest Park) and seats in the area we prefer, but in my experience, rarely do the free seats fill up completely, so you often can arrive fairly close to show time and still have a good chance of getting free seats. In my four years in the free seats, the only shows where I saw the seats filled up were Newsies and Footloose, but there were still open seats for shows such as Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and Annie.
Where can I eat?
You have several choices:
- Bring your own dinner and / or snacks. The Muny allows you to bring your own food into the theater. They do not allow glass, aluminum cans, or hard-sided coolers, and no alcohol can be brought in from outside the theater. Many patrons enjoy bringing a picnic dinner and eating on the grounds before entering the seating area. It’s a nice way to enjoy the outdoors and people watch. Because my family sits in the free seats, we eat our picnic dinner while sitting in the line, as do many other free seat attendees.
- Concession stands. Located in several places around the theater grounds, stands sell standard fare such as hot dogs, bratwurst, nachos, hot pretzels, popcorn, ice cream, candy, soda, bottled water, and wine and beer. Prices are higher, similar to what you’d pay at a ball park or amusement park.
- Cafe One. This casual dining option offers pizza, gourmet sandwiches, fruit and cheese plates, salads, chips, slaw, potato salad, popcorn, hot pretzels, ice cream, soda, water, and alcohol.
- The Culver Pavilion. If you want to splurge, you can make reservations at The Culver Pavilion, which offers a gourmet buffet with items such as chilled peach and yogurt soup, Cajun-rubbed roast turkey breast, spiced brown sugar salmon filet, and citrus marinated pork loin cap (those were all on the menu during Cinderella in 2019). The buffet includes coffee, iced tea, and baked goods, and a full bar is available. Prices for the 2019 season were $25 for adults and $12 for children 10 and younger. Children have the option of eating from the regular buffet menu or choosing a children’s menu. Seating is limited, and reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance and sometimes earlier if you’re reserving for a Sunday or Monday show.
Other tips for families:
- Consider whether your child is old enough to sit through a show at The Muny. I love the idea of getting kids hooked on live theater from a young age, but shows at The Muny start late, at 8:15 p.m., and they routinely end between 10:30 and 11 p.m. These hours are not typically when a toddler or preschooler is at his or her best, and shows at The Muny require a longer attention span than many young children are capable of. I’ve seen parents who tolerate their kids whining and talking through shows at The Muny, along with parents who allow their children to roam, run, and climb around the seating area during the show. It’s bad theater etiquette, so don’t do it. That doesn’t mean you can’t take your young child to see live theater. In the St. Louis area, I’m a fan of the St. Louis Family Theatre Series at the Florissant Civic Center Theater, which offers professional shows that are just an hour long and based on popular children’s characters and books, and they’re only $8 a ticket for the 2019-2020 season. There will be plenty of time in the years to come to go to The Muny with your (older) children.
- You can bring your own backless booster seat from your vehicle into the theater if your child is on the shorter side. I did this for my daughters during their earlier years at The Muny, and it gave them a slight boost without making it difficult for people sitting behind us to see.
- The Muny offers show guidelines so parents can make sure a show is age appropriate. It’s usually clear which shows are the kiddie shows at The Muny. If you’ve got older elementary or middle school kids and you aren’t sure if some of the other not-blatantly-kiddie shows would be a good fit, The Muny’s website lists each show for the summer season, and you can click on a show to view more information about its content, including any language, sexual innuendo, drug and alcohol use, violence, and mature content.
- If you want a souvenir, consider buying a cup. Food at The Muny is pricey, but we like to pick a favorite show each year and purchase a souvenir cup, which cost $12 in 2019. They sell special cups for each show. They’re clear plastic with a hollow bottom filled with trinkets related to the specific show, such as a dog, ruby slippers, and fake emeralds for The Wizard of Oz. They’re a big hit with kids, and you get unlimited free soda refills on the night you purchase the cup.
- Come early for the pre-show entertainment. There’s a lot going on at The Muny from about 7 to 8 p.m. before each show, ranging from singing and dancing by local performers and schools to Build-a-Bear giveaways to kid-friendly coloring and craft activities and more. It’s a treat if you come on a night when The Muny Kids or The Muny Teens are performing during the pre-show festivities. The Muny’s website lists the whole summer’s pre-show festival schedule and locations.
- Silence your phones and keep them put away during the show. The Muny posts signs stating they encourage the use of phones and cameras before the show, but you cannot record or photograph the show in progress. Also, out of respect for the performers and your fellow audience members, please refrain from checking social media during the performance, and, for goodness sake, if your child has trouble sitting through the show, don’t hand them a phone with a game or cartoon to keep them quiet. I’ve seen parents do this at The Muny, and it’s just bad. Don’t be a bad parent at The Muny.
What are your tips for taking kids to The Muny? Share them in the comments.