Our family along with some dear friends are headed to St Louis soon for a little vacation. A sweet ABCJLM user saw a pin that I posted for ideas for our visit and shared insight that she has as a St. Louis resident.
St. Louis is known as a family-friendly city with ample amount of activities to do, many at no cost. That’s right…many of the fabulous venues are absolutely free. I asked her if I could share her ideas through a guest post. Nicole was happy to write up a post for us! A friend had some more insight to share as well. I have added Wendy’s thoughts in italics amongst Nicole’s.
I found out St. Louis was having a special visitor this year, so I quickly put together some information. It was brought to my attention that many others might benefit as well, so if you plan to visit St. Louis in 2014 I hope this helps. If not, I hope this inspires you to come!
A bit of a disclaimer, my children are 4 and 1 years, and I did not grow up here, so we are learning new things about the city as they grow older. Also, if I told you everything thing to do, you would have to move here versus visit! Therefore, these locations are not only family oriented, but most are centered in downtown and Forest Park.
When thinking of St. Louis, many immediately envision the Arch. Definitely worth seeing but know that if you plan to visit right now the roads around the Arch are under construction, so access might be more difficult than normal. Plan to come back in a few more years to see the awesome museum and park renovation they are doing! If you will be visiting on a weekend, order tickets online for the tram ride to the top. On weekdays, you can probably get them on location with little wait time.
Wendy adds: The Arch was fun…the little elevator up holds 5 people. We had a coupon for a free child admission, but I think the cost is fairly reasonable. There is also a Museum of Westward expansion under the Arch, which is free. We liked this…lots of animals, models of wagons, teepee, etc… I recommend getting there when it opens; we were done with the museum/ride by around 10:30 am and the crowds were starting to get bigger. After seeing the arch, we went to lunch downtown at a fun burger/milkshake place called Bailey’s Range. It was yummy!
Also downtown. Bring your kiddos swimsuits for a great splash pad and fountain play surrounded by beautiful sculptures!
I have never seen anything like this place! Basically lots of crazy items (airplanes, buses, assembly lines) have been salvaged and made into an adult-type playground, but also good for older kids. Young, small kids can fit through places the parents cannot! We are waiting until our kids get a little older for this one… (Read more on our experience here.)
We have enjoyed story time – these typically happen on Mondays & Fridays. This is followed by a craft and awesome family play with some history about St. Louis. Twilight Tuesdays is the outdoor summer concert.
St Louis Art Museum
Available on the website are some great family guides to print prior to visiting. Sundays are called “Family Sundays” as the activities and tours are geared toward families. Of course the museum is great to visit any day (Closed Monday, open late Friday). Random fact – I was part of the architecture team that designed and built the modern gallery expansion! My life prior to kiddos…
Magic House & Science Center
https://www.magichouse.org/ and http://www.slsc.org/
Magic House is great for multiple kids and age range, but the cost can add up fast! Wendy echoed this thought with “The Magic House–a GREAT hands-on, discovery place…perfect for your kids’ ages. We love it.” It’s a good place to explore if you have ample amount of time to spend, but if not I would recommend the Science Center as they are similar in concept and the Science Center is free except for movies and special exhibits. Dinosaurs in Motion is the current exhibit. Parking behind the building costs, but with a short walk you can park in Forest Park for free. (The building has a bridge over the highway.) Read more on our experience at Magic House here.
St. Louis Zoo
Also free admission. the St. Louis Zoo is in Forest Park. Walk a short distance or pay $15 per car to park at the zoo. During the first hour that the zoo is open there is free admission to the children’s zoo, carousel, and stingray exhibit, plus you beat the crowds! Wendy suggested avoiding the weekends due to the crowds.
Forest Park Trolley
Since I have mentioned several places to visit in Forest Park, this might be a great way to get around the park and not have to worry about the different parking fees! Check out all of these great places to visit in this one area: Missouri History Museum, Forest Park Visitors Center, Grand Basin, Norman K Probstein Golf Course, St Louis Art Museum, St Louis Zoo, World’s Fair Pavilion, Pagoda Circle, Jewel Box, Steinberg Skating Rink, Central Fields, Planetarium and St Louis Science Center. The Boat House is a great restaurant with paddle boat rentals and water connection to the grand basin.
The MUNY (Outdoor Musical Theater)
The MUNY is worth the cost of a ticket – live outdoor Broadway shows! But they also have free seats in the last 9 rows! Shows begin at 8:15 pm.
This is our famous ice cream (actually custard) place on Route 66.
Museum of Transportation
We have not been here yet, but have heard great things! There is a fee to visit the museum.
Feels like you are stepping into Europe!
Tower Grove Park
We have been enjoying the Wednesday morning children’s concerts, but arrive when the doors open at 9! Small space and popular event! Also available are evening concerts on Mondays and Food Truck Fridays (2nd Friday of the month). This is a VERY busy event! Might be hard for kids to wait in line for 30 minutes for their food…..but a unique event of it’s own.
The Botanical Gardens are free Wednesday and Saturday mornings. It’s a gorgeous place…lots of paths, gardens, fountains, etc… They have a children’s garden (I think it’s $3/kid admission). We did not do this because we spent $22 on admission to a Lego statue exhibit…in our opinion this was not something we would spend money on again. I’ve heard the Children’s Garden is worth the price.
Our favorite place, by far, is Grant’s Farm. This had free admission, but $12 parking. Get there when it opens, because the line for the team, which takes you to the gates, can get loooong. The team ride will show you Ulysses S Grant’s home, and you’ll see lots of animals–long horn cows, deer, bison…
Once inside you can pay to feed the goats, alpacas and a few others. They have lots of other animals–zebras, elephants, bald eagles, etc. I think there is a kid fun package that is $5/child and it gets you a snow cone, ride on the Merry-Go-Round, and ticket to feed the goat (with a bottle–pretty cute). There is a Biergarten lunch pavilion…along the far side are some stables with horses, really old farm wagons, stage coaches, etc…really cool. When we left, we walked to the Clydesdale horses area…you can buy a tour of the stables for $25 per person, or they have a small barn where you can meet one of the Clydesdales. Your picture is taken but you don’t have to buy it. Reallllly cool to see the horse…it’s the most beautiful horse I’ve ever seen.
And finally, remember to look for the STL250 cakes (250 of them all around town!) to celebrate St. Louis’ 250th birthday! http://www.stl250.org/cake.aspx
Enjoy our city!
Update: We finally got to make our visit to St. Louis. Read our thoughts on the Magic House, City Museum, Ted Drewer’s, and where to stay.
Thank you to Nicole and Wendy for sharing these insights. If you have been to St. Louis, what would you add?
Also read: Hotel Rooms, Vacation, and Kids: 16 Tips to Success