Ideas for Family-Fun in St. Louis, Missouri

The charming city of St. Louis rests just west of the mighty Mississippi River. The region played a significant role in US expansion and St. Louis is rich with history and scenery. Every year many visitors flock to St. Louis to see the city that has become known as the “Gateway to the West”.

While St. Louis may not be one of the more prominent locations in mind when people think “family vacation”, there are a lot of fabulous sites in this famed city which are interesting for both adults and children.

If you are planning a trip with the family, St. Louis is a great option to consider as a family vacation destination as the city is full of child-friendly activities. If you know the right places to look, you’ll quickly realize there won’t be a dull moment.

5 Ideas for Family-Fun in St. Louis, Missouri

1. Arch and Museum

The biggest attraction in St. Louis is the famed “Gateway to the West”-  the Arch. At any time of year the Arch is really a must see, inside and out. Inside the Arch there is a theatre and a museum (which is currently in the midst of build). The former museum, the Museum of Westward Expansion, was closed in early 2015 and a newly themed museum will open in spring 2017.

view of St. Louis Arch from park

View of St. Louis Arch from park. Image credit: Leigh Goessl

If your family is adventurous you might want to consider purchasing tickets to ride the elevators to the top of the Arch. The elevators are cramped but could be likened to a ride on a Ferris wheel at a carnival. Once you get to the top the view is incredible because you can see across the Mississippi River into Illinois on one side and the other overlooks the city of St. Louis. Each season offers an incredible view overseeing the city and is definitely worth a ride to the top.

2. Riverboat Ride on the Mississippi River

If you head down to the waterfront right near the Arch you’ll find an opportunity to take the kids on an hour long cruise in an old-fashioned river boat. The trip is long enough to have a good time, but short enough where the kids won’t get restless and bored. On the boat ride you’ll hear running commentary offered which explains a little about the region’s history and describes the sites you’ll be seeing on each side of the Mississippi River. If you have older kids they’ll enjoy hearing descriptions of what they’re looking at and younger kids are likely to be ecstatic to feel the breeze as they watch the water roll by the sides of the boat while they peer over the railing to see what’s on the other side.

Mississippi River cruise

Image credit: Leigh Goessl

3. St. Louis Zoo

The St. Louis Zoo is a great place to spend a couple of hours or an entire day. Built in the early part of the 20th century, the St. Louis Zoo continues to grow by leaps and bounds. There are lots of indoor and outdoor exhibits the kids will adore. There are hundreds of different species housed at the St. Louis Zoo and chances are no matter what your children’s favorite animal is, they’ll see it, or at least a closely related family member. The zoo is open year round, except New Year’s Day and Christmas. You will have to pay for parking and some of the attractions inside the zoo charge a nominal fee, but the admission itself is free, as are many of the attractions.

St Louis Zoo - Elephant

Elephant at the St. Louis Zoo. Image credit: Leigh Goessl

4. St. Louis Science Center

If you are in St. Louis, or even near the city, this museum is a fantastic place to put on your trip’s itinerary. There are plenty of exhibits to explore and what is great about the Center is many of the exhibits contain terrific hands on activities for the kids to indulge in. Some exhibits to check out are the Discovery Room and the Space Room. In one of the exhibits you and your children can even learn how to build your own Arch; once you start building with those blocks you’ll quickly see it is not as easy as it seems!

Building an arch at the St. Louis Science Center

Image credit: Leigh Goessl

5. Union Station

Union Station was once an active train station until the trains stopped running in 1978. Since the halt of the train station being operational, the station has since transformed into a terrific mall-like environment. Walking through the converted train station is a treat in itself, the design is enthralling and is a great location to stop and have a bite to eat or buy a few souvenirs. There are many great shops to poke around in and several great eateries to sit and have a nice lunch or dinner and the food is pretty kid-friendly. Even the pickiest of eaters are bound to like something offered in Union Station. The shops contain great items to peruse, and if you stop in Union Station make sure you take the kids by the Fudgery. If they’ve never seen this shop they’ll be enchanted to watch fresh fudge being made. What’s unique about this shop is the employees serenade you as you watch them make delicious fudge!

St. Louis is a very family-friendly city and these are a few of the more popular sites, but if you explore further there are several other locations such as The Magic House, Busch Stadium and Purina Farms. In addition, there are often seasonal festivals frequently going on in St. Louis and the surrounding towns.

Family fun and St. Louis go hand-in-hand, once you’ve visited the city you’ll see why.  You and your kids can bring home many wonderful memories.

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