Welcome to the Gateway to the Midwest and my hometown – St. Louis! While I currently live about 40 miles west, I grew up much closer to downtown. I absolutely love all that St. Louis has to offer for families. There are so many fun things to do and see, and there is truly something for everyone. Here are my best tips for visiting St. Louis with kids and checking out our most popular tourist attractions, including some fun things to do (or eat!) as a family near each attraction.
St. Louis Arch
St. Louis is well known for its iconic Gateway Arch, so it’s fitting to start here. Riding up in the arch and looking out from the top is definitely bucket-list worthy. On a clear day the view from the top is unbeatable. Currently, you are only allotted 10 minutes at the top and you must have a reservation to go up (check the website for updates, of course). There is a newly renovated museum at the entrance to the Arch with lots of great artifacts and things to see. I have not been since the renovation, but I absolutely loved the museum as a kid, and I have heard this one is even better.
While you are down at the riverfront you can take a Riverboat Cruise down the Mississippi River. There are a variety of cruises to choose from, so you should be able to find one that meets your family’s needs. You can also stop at the Old Courthouse. At the time of this writing, the Old Courthouse is being rehabbed, but tours should be opening soon.
Busch Stadium & Ballpark Village
If you enjoy baseball or just want to have fun, check out a ballgame in St. Louis! I know people love to hate on my St. Louis Cardinals, but I will leave it at this – we have been named the best fans in baseball and have 11 world series rings. And trust me: our stadium’s energy is unmatched!
Ballpark Village is right outside of Busch Stadium. Busch Stadium and Ballpark Village are close to the Arch and Old Courthouse, so if you plan well, you can visit all of these places in one day. If you don’t want to purchase tickets to a game, you can still go and enjoy the energy! (There are TVs everywhere and many different sporting events will be on.) There is a small field with a softball setup, and a couple of bars / restaurants to visit. As the evening gets later, Ballpark Village becomes less family-friendly and gives off more of a night scene vibe, so plan accordingly for what’s best for your family.
Union Station has been completely revamped in the past few years and my family loves it here. Two of our favorite things to do are the St. Louis Wheel and the Aquarium. The aquarium is small (we usually spend less than two hours there), but what they have there is worth a visit. There are areas to interact with animals, touch a sting ray, and talk with aquarium workers about various animals. If you chose to go to the aquarium, I recommend purchasing a multi-attraction ticket (also called a Combo Ticket). We like to combine an aquarium ticket with a ride on the St. Louis Wheel, and they also have mini golf and a carousel ride as options.
The Wheel is a fun, enclosed Ferris Wheel with great views of our city. The enclosure is temperature controlled and you will go around five times. My kids love seeing all they can see from the top of The Wheel.
While you are at Union Station I HIGHLY recommend having a meal or ice cream at Soda Fountain St. Louis. The ice cream is not only delicious, but there are many fun types! Our favorite is the “Unbirthday Shake.” There is typically a long wait and if you want to enjoy a meal here, I’d recommend making a reservation through Yelp as you go into the aquarium. We usually monitor what the wait looks like so we can spend our time doing the fun stuff, instead of waiting at the restaurant.
Forest Park & The St. Louis Zoo
There are so many different things you can do in Forest Park: biking and walking paths, paddle boats, a golf course, the Missouri Botanical Garden, Missouri History Museum, and The Muny (an outdoor theater where summer musicals are a must-see).
But our family’s favorite thing to do in Forest Park is the St. Louis Zoo. Our zoo is amazing and it’s free. We often spend a whole day here. Our new monkey attraction allows you to climb up in a tree house and crawl through tunnels to get close to the monkeys. We have an area called River’s Edge and it’s as if you are walking through various habits while getting to see the animals in each one. You can purchase an adventure pass to be able to go to our dinosaur area and ride on the train, but it’s very possible to enjoy the zoo for free without purchasing the additional attractions.
The Magic House St. Louis Children’s Museum
The Magic House St. Louis Children’s Museum is a must-do if you are in St. Louis with young kids. My kids (ages 5 and 9) love it, their imaginations get to run wild here. They have two sections that rotate their exhibits every few months, so if you have been before – you can come again and experience something new. The Children’s Village area is a make-believe town that my kids could spend all day in. There is a pond and river for fishing, an ice cream stand, grocery store, library, pizza shop, veterinarian, pediatrician’s office, car mechanic, and tree house. One one level there is a construction site that you can interact with and help dig or build. You can even sit in a room designed like the oval office (since sitting in the oval office my daughter is now planning her campaign for presidency). Another great exhibit is the Trash to Treasure art area, where you can paint, create and make whatever you want.
If you have a child who loves animals, Grant’s Farm is the place to go. It is a little bit south of St. Louis City, but worth the trip. You will want to purchase parking ahead of time to save time when you arrive, but besides parking, admission is free. After you park you car you can ride the tram to the actual farm, and while on the tram ride you’ll learn about various animals on the farm and about the different historical homes and buildings on the property as well.
Once off the tram, we like to purchase an adventure pass. It includes two different goat feeding experiences, a snow cone and a carousel ride. You will be able to bottle feed baby goats and you can also pet them or brush them. There is a separate area to feed the adult goats a cone full of dry feed. (Watch out, some of these goats are a little on feisty side!)
Grant’s Farm is owned by the Busch family, who own and brew Anheuser-Busch products. Once you get through the farm section, they have a beer garden area. You can purchase food and even get beer or seltzer samples. They are pretty generous samples and they allow two for each adult over 21. This is also the area that will take you back on the tram to the parking lot. If you love horses, I highly recommend stopping at the Clydesdales stable in the parking lot before you go. It’s easily missed but is worth the stop.
Near Grant’s Farm and The Magic House is the National Museum of Transportation. My son loves when we stop here. All of the exhibits feature something within the transportation theme, and kids can take a train ride, drive a pedal car and look at or explore different train cars. They also have a play area.
Kid-Friendly Places To Eat Around St. Louis
Whenever we are near Grant’s Farm or The Magic House, we enjoy stopping at Fitz’s SoCo. There are two Fitz’s locally, but we have found this one to be easier to get in and out of, as well as less crowded. Pro Tip #1: check the wait times and join the waitlist on Yelp if you are able. Pro Tip #2: Their floats are huge – don’t make the same mistake we did and order a float for each member of your family. My family of four could have shared one! Also, Floats make a great dessert choice, so order accordingly; otherwise they will bring them as your beverage before the meal. Drink a Fitz soda with your meal, and save the float for dessert.
Ted Drewes Frozen Custard is a favorite frozen treat for both locals and visitors. It’s within driving distance to many of the attractions previously listed. It gets super busy on summer nights and parking is limited, so be prepared. It is worth the stop for a yummy frozen treat.
Main Street St. Charles
Main Street St. Charles is technically not in St. Louis, but it’s worth visiting at least once, especially if you are traveling with someone who loves history. Main Street has historic homes with little shops in them; I always feel like I am stepping back in time and I love it! Located just off of the Missouri River on the Katy Trail, it is a beautiful area to run, walk or bike. This is also the area where Lewis and Clark started their westward journey, so those who want to dig into history can tour the Lewis and Clark Boathouse & Museum on the river and check out the statues and plaques along Main Street.
There are several restaurants worth eating at around Main Street. Lewis and Clark’s and the Bike Stop Cafe are favorites of ours. And you can’t leave the area without grabbing a chocolate chip cookie from Grandma’s Cookies on Main.
Throughout the year there are events on Main Street worth checking out. They host Oktoberfest, The Festival of the Little Hills in August (a giant outdoor craft fair with vendors and food), and an Ice Festival in the wintertime. And if you visit any time in November or December, you absolutely must go to Main Street for their Holiday Traditions. You’ll see Jack Frost, Ebenezer Scrooge, young people roasting chestnuts, carolers, and many different Santa Clauses. A favorite local thing to do is to collect the trading cards from each character. You can also get plenty of gift shopping done in the Main Street shops, too.
Streets Of St. Charles
Near Main Street St. Charles is the newer development, Streets of St. Charles, where you’ll find amazing restaurants and bars to visit. Prasino is one of the best brunch spots around! Tucanos Brazilian Grill is delicious and a whole experience (they have servers walk around and serve different options and flavors of meat). Narwhal’s Crafted is a great place to hang out and sip on different frozen crafted adult drinks.
If you have younger kids and some time to burn, Playstreet Museum is a great place to go. In the little play area they have a firehouse, veterinarian, doctor’s office, home, ice cream store, pizza shop and market – all with matching themed toys. They also have a wonderful wooden toy and puppet section and weekly themes with crafts to match. Get there right when they open as they do often reach capacity quickly!