Planning a St. Louis family trip? Yes, do it! The hardest part will be figuring out what you want to do on your vacation – the Gateway City offers so much family fun! So much that it may be a bit overwhelming.But no worries, I’m here to make your life a little easier. Read on to find out what you should do including a few hidden gems.
Disclosure: A huge thank you to Explore St. Louis and their partners for providing complimentary tickets and hotel stay for my family. Read full disclosure policy here.
St. Louis Family Trip: Things to Do
St. Louis Aquarium
The St. Louis Aquarium is a wonderful spot for the families. Your under-the-sea adventures allows you to navigate through the 120,000 foot aquarium with over 13,000 animals and 250 species. Since the aquarium isn’t so large, families are able to take their time exploring the areas – especially the hands on experiences. Dip your fingers in the water and watch as Doctor Fish gently nibble on your hands. Watch how Archer fish spit water to catch their food. Touch stingray and anemones. So much fun!
St. Louis Union Station
If you’re already at the St. Louis Aquarium, make sure to take a few hours to enjoy all the Union Station activities. The Wheel is a must at St. Louis Union Station with its 200 feet views. Take a spin at carousel, challenge each other to a game of mini golf on the 18-hole course, get lost in a mirror maze, or conquer the ropes course. Here’s a family fun guide to Union Station including activities and dining found here.
St. Louis Zoo
The highly rated zoo is one not to be missed. Animals such as cheetahs, rhinos, elephants, and giraffes call the St. Louis Zoo home. Some of the animals were napping, but we adored this particular camel hanging out on the rock. If you have younger kids, they can rest their tired feet by hopping on the train. It was a fun ride going through tunnels and even seeing elephants hang out in their home. When hunger strikes (which it will) you can grab food at the cafe or the many stands. And yes, the food is pretty darn good! Want to know the best part of visiting the zoo? It’s free, just pay for parking.
Saint Louis Science Center
Another free gem located in Forest Park, the Saint Louis Science Center is wonderful for curious minds. The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in is the smell of popcorn. So yes, make sure to grab some and enjoy in the designated areas. Besides the smell, the sounds of the T-Rex roaring will welcome you. After exploring all the dino fun on the lower level there are many other hands-on exhibits that kids will love.
Play time is fun with the gaming area on the main level. Cross over the highway via tunnel to the space area. Make sure to watch out for the special exhibits. On our visit, we saw Mummies of the World Exhibition, an interesting look at REAL mummies, the largest collection of real mummies and artifacts! If the weather is in your favor, head outside for a chance to see the gardens, milk a “cow,” or climb inside a combine.
Tip: If parents need a “time out,” the on-site cafe sells adult beverages that can be consumed in certain areas.
The Magic House
If you have younger kids your St. Louis family trip must include The Magic House. It is truly a magical place for kids. In fact, kids are able to explore 60,000 square feet of magic! When I saw that it 3-4 hours were recommended to enjoy the museum, I didn’t believe it. But you know what? We could have stayed longer! There’s so much to do here! Don’t miss their special exhibits either. Right now until September 6, they have Dinosaur Train: The Traveling Exhibit. Plenty of interactive elements including designing your own train conductor hat, making your own fossil, and so much more.
Kids will want to climb to the very top of the Beanstalk climber. Kids are in charge at the Children’s Village, an adorable pretend town. Aspire to be the next President or Vice President in the Oval Office at Star-Spangled Center. My kids gravitated towards the lower level STEAM area where they created art (including many pieces that they got to keep!)
Tip: The kids will NOT want to leave, so make sure to take a break at the Picnic Basket Cafe where it can be enjoyed outside on the picnic tables surrounded by magnolia trees. It was so lovely! Everything we had was so good! The French Dip was a big hit with my son and I loved my salad.
Laumeier Sculpture Park
Love art and nature? This free sculpture park is a great spot to have a picnic, go on a hike, view art, or all of the above! If you love quirky art, The Eye is a must see. Read all about our visit here.
World Bird Sanctuary
What an amazing organization! This free attraction (donations requested) showcases over 215 birds, many of which have been rescued. The Sanctuary’s mission is to preserve, protect, and inspire, and after our private tour, I can honestly say they are excelling in what they do. They truly care for each and every bird!
Our tour was such an eye opening experience. Did you know that ravens can talk like parrots? Or that peregrine falcons are the fastest animal around? Not only did we learn about each bird out but found out that each bird does have a personality. Watch out for special events where you can meet many of their residents.
Tip: Bring your hiking shoes too! They have trails here that look amazing. Bird watching at its best!
Lone Elk Park
Literally located seconds away from Wild Bird Sanctuary, Lone Elk Park is an absolute must! Have you ever seen wild bison walking around? I felt like we were back at Yellowstone! We also spotted some elk and deer. Seriously, so much fun if you love animals. Plus, it’s totally free (donations appreciated).
Missouri Botanical Garden
Prepare to be amazed. Although we visited early in the season and didn’t see too many flowers, the cherry blossoms were in peak bloom. Absolutely gorgeous! We were also treated to the beautiful dogwood and magnolia. Plan to spend time perusing the Japanese Garden. Kids will love feeding the gigantic koi fish here. Make sure to buy fish food at the gift shop for $1.50. Read all about our visit here.
Tip: Make sure to get fish food for the koi fish at the gift shop before you start. Best $1.50 spent!
St. Louis Family Trip: Where to Eat
The Train Shed
Since we were staying at Union Station, we wanted to grab something close and The Train Shed was perfect. We ordered a Margherita pizza, Trio pizza with sausage, pepperoni, and bacon, and a delicious Caesar Salad. Our favorite no doubt was the Margherita – wish we ordered two! After we picked up our food we saw there were plenty of seating indoors as well as some outside.
Salt + Smoke
Located in Delmar Loop, Salt + Smoke fulfilled our BBQ cravings. The BBQ was delicious and the sides were amazing. We loved the Mac n Cheese and the smoked wings! Everything goes even better with an whiskey flight and a cream ale.
Located just a few doors down from Salt + Smoke was Fitz’s Rootbeer. How could we pass up a chance to grab a few sodas? What’s even cooler is that they bottle their own sodas and you could see the entire process.
Tip: Head around to the side to take a pic with the cool art.
We heard rave reviews about Gourmet Soul’s soul food so we wanted to try it out! Fried chicken, chicken wings, collard greens, the whole nine yeards. We placed our order for carryout and when we picked up, they said they ran out of sides. No biggie, right? Well, they were SUPER apologetic and even threw in a bunch of extras – lemonade, cake, extra fries. Whaa?!?! I mean good food always speaks for itself, but it’s the people that will bring us back. The food? So good! When we’re back in St. Louis we’ll definitely be back. Give Gourmet Soul a try!
Tip: Gourmet Soul is located close to the City Museum, so make sure to grab some food before or after your visit.
Concretes are the name of the game at Ted Drewes. For over 90 years, they’ve been dishing out these rich and creamy treats. So many flavors, so many choices. You can’t go wrong with any of them! A huge plus? It’s also on Route 66!
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Where to Stay
St. Louis Union Station Hotel
We had an amazing stay at the historic St. Louis Union Station Hotel. The history, the architecture, a 3D Light Show and the fact that it was steps away from all the fun Union Station activities like the St. Louis Aquarium and The Wheel made our stay even better. Read all about our stay here.
Looking for more St. Louis family fun ideas? Read what we did on our other family trips here.