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On one mem­o­rable fam­i­ly vaca­tion, our kids loved a cer­tain des­ti­na­tion so much that they asked if we could move there. Was it Dis­ney­land? Eng­land? The beach? Nope. It was St. Louis, Mis­souri (They were joking…I think.).

There are so many fun things to do in St. Louis with kids and tons of free attrac­tions. So, whether you’re plan­ning a fam­i­ly week­end in St. Louis or look­ing for a whole week filled with fun, use this list of the top sights and activ­i­ties to help your fam­i­ly explore St. Louis like the sea­soned trav­el­ers you are. 

 

 

 

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The best and most fun things to do in St. Louis or Saint Louis Missouri or MO with kids. Free things to do in St. Louis. Attractions to see in St. Louis.

 

 

The Gateway Arch

 

As one of the top sites in St. Louis, the Gate­way Arch is a must-see on your trip to the city. Gate­way Arch Nation­al Park fea­tures plen­ty of green space for fam­i­lies to rest, relax, and play while they view the arch and the near­by Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er. For a fee, you can take a tram to the very top of the mon­u­ment. You can also get a dif­fer­ent view of the arch by tak­ing a river­boat cruise

 

 

Pro-Tip: There are no restrooms at the top of the arch, so par­ents of tod­dlers beware. 

 

Gate­way Arch Nation­al Park is the most icon­ic site in St. Louis and home to one of the tallest mon­u­ments in the U.S. Kids ages 5 & up can earn a Junior Ranger badge while learn­ing about the his­to­ry of the park. Pho­to by Christy Nicholson.

 

 

Saint Louis Zoo

 

The famous Saint Louis Zoo has so many ani­mal exhibits and attrac­tions that vis­it­ing feels like a full day at a theme park. The zoo is free, but I absolute­ly rec­om­mend buy­ing the Adven­ture Pass, which offers unlim­it­ed train rides and carousel rides, admis­sion to the sea lion show, a chance to pet stingrays, and a 4D the­ater experience. 

 

 

Pro-Tip: The Zooline Rail­road is a great way to rest tired feet while still see­ing animals. 

 

My kids loved the North Amer­i­can Riv­er Otter exhib­it, which fea­tures a slide that allows chil­dren to zoom past glass pan­els offer­ing an under­wa­ter view of the otters. The Griz­zly Bear exhib­it was anoth­er favorite; the bears would walk right up to the glass and inter­act with curi­ous visitors. 

 

 

The St. Louis Zoo is filled with amaz­ing exhibits and engag­ing ani­mals. And it’s free. That’s right, one of the best zoos in the coun­try is free. What’s not to love? Pho­to by Paul Nichol­son.

 

 

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Saint Louis Science Center

 

The Saint Louis Sci­ence Cen­ter was the sur­prise hit of our fam­i­ly trip. My boys loved see­ing dinosaur bones, run­ning in the giant ham­ster wheel, and solv­ing crimes in the sci­ence lab. One of my favorite parts of the muse­um was the sky­bridge that crossed over the high­way — you can even track car speeds with the radar guns mount­ed to the win­dows. There’s plen­ty to do for all ages, with dino digs and a dis­cov­ery room for young sci­en­tists along with video games and flight sim­u­la­tors for the old­er crowd. Like many muse­ums in St. Louis, the Sci­ence Cen­ter is free.

 

 

Our boys used this giant ham­ster wheel to pow­er a three-sto­ry ball machine at the Saint Louis Sci­ence Cen­ter. We could prob­a­bly save mon­ey on elec­tric­i­ty if we install one of these at home. Pho­to by Paul Nichol­son.

 

 

 

City Museum

 

The City Muse­um tops my list for where I want to go the next time our fam­i­ly vis­its St. Louis. We skipped the City Muse­um orig­i­nal­ly due to cost and mixed reviews from par­ents who strug­gled to keep track of younger chil­dren in the giant struc­ture. How­ev­er, I con­stant­ly hear rave reviews from friends who love the tun­nels, slides, and bridges that fill much of the build­ing. Mod­ern art col­lec­tions, cir­cus shows, and a rooftop view make this a unique expe­ri­ence that old­er kids and teens will love. And if you are trav­el­ing with lit­tles, there’s plen­ty to do in the muse­um’s Tod­dler Town.

 

With a 10-sto­ry slide, a rooftop school bus, and numer­ous secret pas­sages, City Muse­um offers a mix of imag­i­na­tion, sci­ence, and adven­ture for the whole fam­i­ly. Pho­to cour­tesy of City Museum.

 

 

More Fun St. Louis Attractions

 

If you’re look­ing for even more to do in St. Louis with kids, there are options for every age and inter­est. The brand-new St. Louis Aquar­i­um boasts sharks, jel­ly­fish, sea otters, and more in a 120,000-square-foot build­ing. Near the aquar­i­um, you can find a ropes course, a carousel, a Fer­ris wheel, and mini-golf. Kiener Park is near the Gate­way Arch and offers a play­ground and foun­tains. The Mag­ic House is filled with hands-on activ­i­ties for younger kids. And of course, attend­ing a St. Louis Car­di­nals base­ball game is a clas­sic choice. 

 

 

Where to Eat

 

Dur­ing our fam­i­ly trip to St. Louis, we were so focused on all the things to do that we just grabbed fast food wher­ev­er we could. I asked a local mom what fam­i­ly-friend­ly restau­rants to try on our next trip, and she had some great recommendations:

Cor­ner 17 -  Serves noo­dles, won­tons, dumplings, and bub­ble tea just a few miles from the Saint Louis Zoo.
Car­l’s Dri­ve-In  — A clas­sic Route 66 stop offer­ing burg­ers, hot dogs, and root beer floats.
Mis­sion Taco Joint - A funky taco restau­rant with home­made tor­tillas and Mex­i­can street corn.
Stacked Burg­er Bar - A build-your-own burg­er place that also offers kid-friend­ly favorites like chick­en strips and grilled cheese.

 

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Where to Stay

 

St. Louis offers some unique hotel expe­ri­ences. Base­ball fans will want to stay in the Hilton St. Louis at the Ball­park, which offers views of Car­di­nals games from select rooms. The Union Sta­tion Hotel is locat­ed in a beau­ti­ful, old train sta­tion and is just steps away from the St. Louis Aquar­i­um. The For­est Park area offers hotels near the Saint Louis Zoo and sev­er­al muse­ums, includ­ing Hamp­ton Inn and Dou­ble­tree locations. 

 

Built in an old train sta­tion, the Union Sta­tion Hotel offers a beau­ti­ful vin­tage expe­ri­ence right next door to the Saint Louis Aquar­i­um. Pho­to by Christy Nicholson.

 

You can use this inter­ac­tive guide to book AirBnBs in the area you’d like to stay or com­pare rates at hotels at the time you want to go:

 

 

 

When You Go

 

The clos­est air­port is St. Louis Lam­bert Inter­na­tion­al, and non-stop flights from L.A. are avail­able with Amer­i­can Air­lines and South­west. It takes about three and a half hours to fly there.

cheapOair is a good ser­vice to com­pare inex­pen­sive flights. Use this inter­ac­tive bar to find flights for the time you want to vis­it and get a great deal!

 

 

If you dri­ve, it’s 27 hrs if you don’t stop or about 1,825 miles via I‑40 E and I‑44 E.

 

 

We had a car dur­ing our vaca­tion, but we chose to walk or take pub­lic trans­porta­tion to each attrac­tion we vis­it­ed in St. Louis. Since we live in a city with no sub­way and very lit­tle train ser­vice, we had a blast tak­ing the MetroLink from place to place. The For­est Park trol­ley was par­tic­u­lar­ly help­ful for nav­i­gat­ing around the zoo and sci­ence cen­ter areas.

 

Dis­counts are avail­able for oth­er city attrac­tions from GoC­i­ty. Up to 55% off tick­ets avail­able here.

 

Christy Nichol­son is a writer, edi­tor, and recov­er­ing per­fec­tion­ist from Nashville, Ten­nessee. When not trav­el­ing with fam­i­ly, she enjoys cozy days at home read­ing, gar­den­ing, mak­ing music, and wran­gling two awe­some kids. Christy writes at Any-Worth.com about trav­el and sus­tain­able living. 

 

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