Family Road Trip: St. Louis, Missouri
When I was young our family always planned family road trips. It was a great way to experience and see new things. One of my goals for our children is to take them to as many states as we can. Planning a trip to St. Louis is a great way to cross Missouri off the list. St. Louis is located about 5 hours from Des Moines, Iowa. It is the perfect distance for a long weekend or an entire week’s vacation for the entire family. I have gathered all of the best places to eat, play and stay when you take a St. Louis family vacation.
Hannibal, Missouri is about 3 hours from Des Moines, and depending on where you are heading in St. Louis it is about 1 hour and 45 minutes to St. Louis. This was a perfect place for us to stop, grab lunch and stretch our legs a bit.
Hannibal is the boyhood home of Mark Twain and is known as the setting for the classic novels including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Even though my kids are not familiar with these classics, it was still a fun stop to explore. Hannibal is also located on the bank of the Mississippi River with beautiful views.
We spent a couple of hours eating lunch at Mark Twain Brewing (currently under construction), walking across the train tracks to see the Mississippi River, and driving to the top of Lover’s Leap. Afterward, we hopped in the car to finish our trip to St. Louis. The kids napped the rest of the way!
St. Louis Union Station
There are many options when staying in St. Louis. One of our favorite places to stay is at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel in downtown St. Louis. It is easy to park your vehicle and not have to pull it out again during your whole stay. You can walk to many places or use public transportation in downtown St. Louis. Of course, you can pull your car out if you want! There are many places to see within the St. Louis Union Station including the St. Louis Aquarium, St. Louis Wheel, a miniature golf course, a light show, and more.
Forest Park is the heart of the city. It is a giant park filled with streams, lakes, museums, and more. Fun fact, this urban park is 1,300 acres which is almost double then Central Park located in New York City! Central Park comes in at 842 acres. The park consists of many things that offer free admission including:
- St. Louis Zoo
- Saint Louis Art Museum
- Saint Louis Science Center
- The Muny
- Missouri History Musem – A great place to learn about the history of St. Louis
Saint Louis Zoo
A free zoo!? I cannot say enough great things about the St. Louis Zoo. The zoo is located within Forest Park which is full of free things to do. The St. Louis Zoo is perfect for little kids and they have many different animals to see and fun activities. There are a few things you will pay additional money for including:
- Parking: $15 per vehicle
- Adventure Pass: $15.95 per person online but if you have a Blank Park Zoo or any other zoo membership you can receive 50% off.
- The Adventure Pass gets you into the Children’s Zoo, Zooline Railroad, Carousel, 4D Theater, Sea Lion Show and to pet the stingrays. Definitely worth the money.
- Drinks & Snacks: Of course, if you want to purchase any food and drink that is additional. We did bring in water bottles and snacks with no issues. We also chose to eat lunch in the zoo.
The day we visited the zoo, it was pretty hot. We spent about 4 hours exploring. The zoo is bigger than the Blank Park Zoo, but not as big as the Omaha Zoo. It is also fairly shady and they provide several mist fans throughout the park to cool off.
Tower Park Grove
Tower Park Grove is a large park located in St. Louis. This great spot consists of playgrounds and wading pools, farmer’s markets, walking trails, fields for recreation activities, and much more including events. The weekend we were visiting the Sauce Magazine Food Truck Fridays was going on. We decided to enjoy dinner in the park and check out some local food trucks.
Grant’s Farm has been around since 1954 and is a 281-acre ancestral home of the Busch family, named after Ulysses S. Grant who used to work on the land.
The farm is full of animals and fun things to do. It is also free! Some additional costs include:
- Parking: $12 per car
- Fun Pass: $5 per pass includes; 1 carousel ride, 1 snow cone, and 2 goat feeding bottles. Definitely worth it.
The highlights of Grant Farm included riding the camel, feeding the adorable baby goats bottles, and attending the elephant show. We spent a morning exploring, but you could definitely spend more time. The Budweiser Clydesdales are kept in the corner of the parking lot. Before we left, we made sure to wander over and visit them.
The Gateway Arch
The Gateway Arch National Park is a must when you make a trip to St. Louis, Missouri. Besides a tram ride to the top of the arch, there is an entire museum full of interactive exhibits, a visitor center, a chance to see a movie on the process of building the arch, beautiful green space to run on, and more. Interested in catching a different view of the Arch? Take a ride on the St. Louis Riverfront Cruise. There is so much to know about this destination that it has its very own guide right here.
This place is incredible and while it is geared towards adults, they do let young children in before certain times. The building that hosts this gigantic playground for adults is located in a 260,000-square-foot building that was built in 1938 for the 138th Infantry of the Missouri National Guard. It is now one of the largest indoor entertainment destinations in the Midwest. The space is nearly 6 acres of flexible indoor space to eat, play, drink, and more. There is a two-story slide, yard games, 6 bars, lots of TV screens, food, drinks and so much more.
If your family loves sports, St. Louis has you covered. Take a look at the calendar and purchase tickets to cheer on one of these fun teams. Perfect for younger kids and older kids.
- Cheer on the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium which is always a lot of fun.
- Soccer fan? You will be in awe over the new CITYPARK which is home of the St. Louis City SC, the city’s Major League Soccer franchise.
- Don’t miss a chance to see the Blues, St. Louis’ professional hockey team. They play their home games at the 18,096-seat Enterprise Center in downtown St. Louis.
There are a lot of great options to eat in St. Louis. We didn’t eat out a lot to save money, but some places we did check out were:
- City Foundry– Foodies rejoice! This place is a large food hall with 17 local-only culinary concepts to choose from. This venue is still being developed and is one of the first of its kind in the Midwest.
- 4 Hands Brewing Co
- Schlafly Tap Room
- Vincent Van Doughnut
- Imo’s Pizza
- Fountains on Locust
- The Pitch – The perfect place to grab a bite to eat before you head to CITYPARK to cheer on the St. Louis City SC
Other Places to Visit while on a St. Louis Family Vacation
- Missouri Botanical Garden
- Griot Museum
- Scott Joplin House
- Magic House – A favorite children’s museum
- Laumeier Sculpture Park
- Puttshack – Located in the City Foundry this establishment serves food, and drinks, and is a fun place to play putt putt. It is Top Golf but in putt-putt form. Tons of fun for all the family members!