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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 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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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