Updated: March 28, 2019
I have always been spoiled living in St. Louis, where I was born, raised, and enjoyed some of the nation’s best attractions – all for free! “Forever free” is actually part of the mission of a group of my hometown’s world-class attractions including one of the nation’s top ranked zoos, our just expanded art museum, the No. 5 science center in the nation, and our history museum. Of course St. Louis, Missouri is also home to many other attractions which charge admission, plus plenty of family friendly dining and countless high-quality lodging.
Although I have not taken a “staycation” in St. Louis I do regularly visit many of our attractions on a regular basis with the family. Here are a few of the highlights, perfect for a weekend family getaway to The Gateway City:
What I’d do
The Saint Louis Zoo, the most visited zoo in the world, is not only free, ranked in the top 3 zoos in the nation (Parent’s Magazine), but its also our best family attraction. A full day could be happily spent here enjoying the children’s zoo, Zooline Railroad, and plethora of new exhibits. Open 9-5 daily; FREE.
The Missouri Botanical Garden, one of the world’s finest botanical research centers, is also home to an incredible children’s garden. My family typically visits every weekend enjoying the children’s play areas, the Climatron, feeding fish in the largest Japanese garden outside of Japan, and simply taking in the gorgeous gardens. Admission is $14 for anyone over 12 and FREE for children under 12. Children’s garden is $5 for kids ages 3-12. Open 9 to 5 daily; children’s garden April – early November only.
Related post: Guide To Missouri Botanical Garden For Families
City Museum is probably our most unique attraction for kids. Difficult to describe other than to say its part children’s museum, part science center, part aquarium all built with an eccentric twist. Admission is $15 for ages 3 and older; open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Related post: 5 Tips To Make The Most Of Your Time At The City Museum
Of course no visit to STL would be complete with taking the journey to the top of the Gateway Arch!
Where I’d eat
A great option for breakfast is the Benton Park Cafe, located across from Gus’ Pretzels (order freshly made pretzels) and next to the AB Brewery offering free family-friendly tours including the popular Clydesdales.
Lunch is a step back in time at Jennifer’s Pharmacy and Soda Shoppe in Clayton where diners sit on stools and order hand-made burgers, soups, pies and cookies from the friendliest staff in town all set within an ole fashioned gift shop. And you can’t go wrong with the famous Crown Candy Kitchen known for its BLT (containing 1 lb of bacon) and shake challenge.
The Fountain on Locust offers a fun, unique, and quality dinner experience. This nostalgic eatery is known for its locally-sourced ingredients, incredible shakes, hand-painted ceiling, and even won a national award for the country’s best bathroom!
Where I’d stay
Blessed with an abundance of hotels, St. Louis lodging is affordable and varied among its offerings. I’d recommend staying either downtown (note you will pay to park) or better yet in the county where parking will be free (a car is required to explore St. Louis). Drury Hotels are plentiful (20 locations in STL) and popular, as “all the extras are free” including breakfast and a light dinner (including hotdogs for kids), plus most are suites, offering more space for families.
Related post: Spoiling Kids At Four Seasons St. Louis
Your turn: Where do you recommend we go while in St. Louis? What’s your favorite kid-friendly attraction?