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August 14, 2017

Spoiling Kids At Four Seasons St. Louis

I have a hotel recommendation to make your next St. Louis visit extra? Stay at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis. Your kids aren’t going to forget this hotel.

We stayed at Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis on the first leg of the #OhMyEpicRoadTrip adventure this summer. I’d spent a long time daydreaming about St. Louis—what I’d do if time and money were no matter. One thing on my list: A view of the Gateway Arch. I found that and more at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis, which hosted my family’s stay.

Four Seasons Hotel in St. Louis - This place is surprisingly kid-friendly while  remaining a splurge-worthy hotel in St. Louis #familytravel

Spoil the kids

From the moment you arrive, your kids get special treatment at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis. At check in, they wheel out a wagon full of toys for kids to select a present.

They had my two kids hooked at that moment.

Then, it’s up to the room. I’d requested a room with a view, and they delivered. I could spend all day looking out from this window.

View of The Arch from the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis
Night or day, this view from our room at Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis never got old.

If you can get them to step away from the view, there is a surprise waiting for your kids in the room. The hotel asks for your kids’ names ahead of time to personalize things. Our kids’ welcome treat were huge chocolate dipped marshmallows, jellybeans, and our favorite, a chocolate arch. Nice touch!

Not that my kids need help relaxing, but there are even kid-sized robes and slippers in the room (as well as full-size ones for us). Even more thoughtful, organic, kid-friendly toiletries and rubber ducks wait in the bathroom.

Kid's toiletries provided at Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis
Organic, kid-friendly products (and rubber duckies) were waiting for my kids.

About the rooftop pool

I’ve never found a hotel pool with this kind of view in the middle of a city’s busy downtown area. The kids had fun splashing in the pool, wading pool, and hot tub, no doubt. We forgot goggles, but the pool attendants found extra for us.

Four Seasons Hotel rooftop pool in in St. Louis
Cabanas are available for rent at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis rooftop pool.

The pool area had cabanas for rent, as well as lounge chairs for guests. Attendants prep the chair for you, and bring you towels…and drinks. It’s an adults’ happy place. There were definitely more childless adults relaxing by the pool than families, though, so I felt compelled to keep reminding my kids that cannonballs were frowned upon.

Feeding the kids

Don’t skip the Four Seasons’ complimentary gelato or pizza-making experience offered to kids younger than 12. Held in the kitchen of the hotel’s restaurant, Cielo, kids get one-on-one time with an executive chef and ends with a tasty treat.

Making sundaes in the kitchen with the chef at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis chef
Chef Saul with my kiddos after they made gelato sundaes together in the kitchen of Cielo. This experience is free for hotel guests under the age of 12!

My kids made gelato sundaes with the executive pastry chef, Chef Saul, who showed them how the restaurant makes its own gelato, and had a prepped food area for them to choose the toppings for their sundaes. I might have nudged my daughter in the direction of adding some chocolate-covered strawberries to her sundae so I could sample. It lasted about 20 minutes and ended with a happy sugar high for all of us.

Build-your-own-sundae at Four Seasons Hotel in St. Louis
When you let a 5-year-old build her own sundae with a chef’s help, you get this creation.

Cielo faces the pool area, and if the weather is right, offers great al fresco dining for families. Kids younger than 5 eat for free, and there is a kids menu there.

We had breakfast outdoors, facing the Gateway Arch. If you want some recommendations, definitely order the chicken and waffles and fresh juice. I haven’t had fresh orange juice. I had french toast, which was as good as it looks, but I admit to stealing more off my husband’s chicken and waffles plate than is probably socially acceptable.

What’s near Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis

When you leave the hotel, you’ll find a lot of family-friendly attractions nearby. Here are the distances to a few of notable attractions:

  • Gateway Arch – Less than half a mile, you could walk this!
  • City Museum – 1 mile
  • Busch Stadium (home to the Cardinals) – 1 mile
  • Union Station – Slightly more than 1 mile
  • The Dome at America’s Center (home to the Rams) – 1.5 miles
  • Forest Park (St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis Science Center) – Less than 6 miles
  • Missouri Botanical Garden – Less than 6 miles

And, not family-friendly at all, but it’s worth noting that the Four Seasons St. Louis is right next to (pretty much connected to) a casino.

If you go

Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis

Where: 999 N. Second St., St. Louis, Mo.

Cost: $$$$ (parking and valet parking is an additional fee)


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Plan your St. Louis family adventure! Start with some inspiration with this St. Louis Bucket List and a 24-hour St. Louis Itinerary for Families. Then read more into our favorite stops:

5 Tips To Make The Most of Your Time at City Museum

Missouri Botanical Garden For Families

Need more ideas? Check out my St. Louis With Kids board on Pinterest:

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August 7, 2017

24-Hour Guide To St. Louis With Kids

St. Louis is a city that begs for more than 24 hours to explore it, but you can see a lot if that’s all you have.

My family visited this summer for a quick 24-hour adventure while on our epic road trip (check it out #ohmyepicroadtrip). It wasn’t our first visit – we’d been there in the winter and enjoyed some indoor activities and a cool day at the zoo.

This time, our mission was to see the outdoor things that aren’t ideal (or open) in the winter. To plan it, I started with a bucket list of fun things to do in St. Louis. Explore St. Louis and Four Seasons St. Louis hosted us on our visit.

Got only a day in St. Louis? Here's a guide of fun things to do with kids in the city! #familytravel #stlouis #STL #Missouri

Here’s the resulting 24-hours of fun in St. Louis:

Fun Stop 1: Missouri Botanical Garden

We arrived early in the morning to Missouri Botanical Garden. If visiting in the summer, you pretty much have to do this; by midmorning, it gets hot and humid in St. Louis.

A bridge in the Japanese Garden at the Missouri Botanical Gardens
One small area of the Japanese Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden. There is a koi pond nearby where, for a quarter, kids can get some fish food to feed the koi.

Highlights for our children included the 14-acre Japanese Garden and koi pond and children’s garden.  The Japanese Garden is one of the largest in North America, and it tired us out.

If you visit before Aug. 21, you can also see a cool glass sculpture exhibit called Garden of Glass inside the Climatron. It’s pretty in the day and kids definitely will like the water features. If you can time it, though, I suggest visiting in the evening to see it lit up. FYI: This exhibit is an additional charge to the gardens.

We spent a good two hours at Missouri Botanical Gardens and didn’t get to see it all. It’s large! Read what we thought the kid-friendly highlights were here.

Lunch: Blueberry Hill

Iconic St. Louis restaurant called Blueberry Hill, located in The Loop
The landmark restaurant, Blueberry Hill, opened in the Delmar Loop neighborhood in St. Louis in 1972. The restaurant helped launch the revitalization of the neighborhood.

We headed to The Loop to dine at an iconic restaurant called Blueberry Hill on Delmar Avenue. It’s not the closest thing to the gardens, but I wanted to see this cool neighborhood and I love Chuck Berry.

FYI: Chuck Berry fans can look for his star on the sidewalk in front and find a statue of him across the street.

The restaurant is full of memorabilia and will help pass the time while you wait for your burgers to be cooked. They’re known for their hamburgers, so order one to find out why.

If you have time, you can ride one of the trolleys that pass by Blueberry Hill.

Fun Stop 2: Sundae experience at Four Seasons St. Louis

Behind-the-scenes sundae making at Four Seasons in St. Louis
Chef Saul with my kiddos after they made gelato sundaes together in the kitchen of Cielo. This experience is free for hotel guests under the age of 12!

We spent our afternoon at our hotel, the Four Seasons St. Louis. First, the kids got to go into the kitchen of the hotel restaurant, Cielo, and make gelato sundaes with the executive pastry chef. The hotel offers two types of food experiences for the kids: pizza making or gelato, and well, we’re all sugar fiends, so it was an easy choice for us. They are FREE for children under the age of 12, and I recommend trying to schedule it before you arrive.

Once the kids had enough of their sundaes, we hit the rooftop pool to wind down.

Rooftop pool and hot tub at the Four Seasons in St. Louis, Missouri
The hot tub and pool, in the background, on the rooftop of Four Seasons St. Louis.

Dinner: Pappy’s Smokehouse

For top notch Memphis-style barbecue in St. Louis, we headed to Pappy’s Smokehouse. Word was that food can run out at Pappy’s so, we got there early. It was a short wait for our meal, and well worth it.

Chalkboard menu board at Pappy's Smokehouse in St. Louis
Once Pappy’s Smokehouse runs out of an item on the menu, they’ll cross it off the chalkboard. We arrived early enough to have a full selection.

Our evening ended right after dinner because the inevitable happened: One kiddo started feeling sick. We had factored in enough time for an evening trip to the Gateway Arch, and it would’ve timed out perfect. Tours of the Arch can be booked ahead of time, and I’m told early evening is a great time to do it. If you’re planning a 24-hour whirlwind tour like ours, aim for 8 or 8:30 p.m. to go to the Arch.

Breakfast: Cielo at Four Seasons St. Louis

Nothing beats a meal with a view, so the next morning, our breakfast was at the rooftop restaurant, Cielo, at the Four Seasons. This place has a nice view of the Gateway Arch. I recommend the fresh squeezed orange juice and chicken and waffles.

Fun Stop 3: City Museum

Playing on the rooftop of the City Museum in St. Louis
Everything at the City Museum is magnificent to see but always on the verge of danger (in this case, wet danger)…which is why everyone in my family loves it. This is a water feature on the rooftop.

We’re no strangers to City Museum – it’s quite possibly my favorite museum in the entire world. However, this was our first time visiting when the rooftop was open. For an additional charge, you can play up top in the summer season (which includes a school bus hanging over the edge of the building, a ferris wheel, and a number of crawly spaces).

It’s hard to describe the City Museum, so just trust me when I say you need to visit with or without children. It’s an architectural marvel/playground/tunnel labyrinth. It’s beautiful and overwhelming, and taking just three hours to explore (like we did) is not enough. Plus, there’s a circus there.

But, wouldn’t you know it, the other child started feeling sick and since we were due at our next stop in a few hours, we had to cut our visit short.

Want a St. Louis adventure for your family?

Read more about our trip! Here are some more posts about St. Louis with young families in mind:

Spoil Your Kids at Four Seasons St. Louis

– 5 Tips To Make The Most of Your Time at City Museum

Missouri Botanical Garden For Families

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June 16, 2017

My St. Louis Bucket List

We’re planning a trip to St. Louis during a great time of year: Summer. There’s so much to see there with the kids, I’ve decided to make a bucket list of it all. The last time we were there, it was winter and we couldn’t do a lot of great things.

A St. Louis Bucket List - A list of things to see, do and eat in St. Louis, Missouri #USA #STL #Missouri

Here’s what we’d see and do in St. Louis if time and money didn’t matter. Our upcoming visit is hosted by Explore St. Louis and Four Seasons St. Louis

Planning a road trip through Missouri? Don’t miss this post full of off-the-beaten path attractions and things to do like diving in a mine and walking among Elephant Rocks – My Missouri Bucket List!

Play outdoors

Waterfall at Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis
Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis is continually ranked among the best (and biggest) botanical gardens in the U.S. Photo by Burt Remis, courtesy St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission

I’d love to further explore Forest Park, home to the St. Louis Zoo and called the No. 1 city park by USA Today. It’s a huge space, with a lake and somewhere in there, the 75-foot Flegel Falls. While we’re in the area, I hope we can time a stop to Missouri Botanical Gardens. The Travel Channel called it one of the best botanical gardens in the U.S. Ever since St. Louis local, Adam from Fly Over Country, included it in on a St. Louis Insider’s Guide on my blog, I’ve wanted to see it.

Since we’ll spend a lot of time downtown, I’d also like to stroll through Citygarden. It’s a cool-looking sculpture park and fountain garden.

See a show at The Muny

Outdoor show at night at The Muny in St. Louis
The Muny in St. Louis is the nation’s oldest and largest outdoor theatre. Photo by Debbie Franke, courtesy St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission

Located in Forest Park, The Muny is the country’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theatre. Broadway revivals are presented in the summer, and I peeked at the season – so good! There are even ones that my kids would love.

Go up the Gateway Arch

This is for my kids, since I’ve already done this tour. They’re dying to get to the 630-foot ride to the top and see the view.

Stay somewhere with a view

A view of The Arch from a room at the Four Seasons Hotel in St. Louis
A view of the Gateway Arch from a room at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis. Photo courtesy Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis

Being such an iconic part of the city, how cool would it be to have your first view and final view of the day be out a window facing The Arch? Four Seasons in St. Louis has that view, and I’m hoping we get a room with this sort of view! There’s a reason it’s the No. 15 hotel in the entire country, according to the New York Post.

Eat all the food

Fountain on Locust, a soda fountain/ice cream shop in downtown St. Louis
Dining at the Fountain on Locust, home of the Ice Cream Martini, is on my St. Louis Bucket List, for sure. Photo by Katherine Bish, courtesy St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission

It wouldn’t be an Oh My! Omaha bucket list if there wasn’t a list of restaurants on it. I’ve got to try some St. Louis barbecue, and two names that keep getting mentioned are Bogart’s and Pappy’s. Pappy’s has been on Food Network and Travel Channel shows, including one “Man Vs. Food” episode about its “Big Ben” meal – a full slab of ribs, 2 sandwiches, a quarter-chicken, and 4 side dishes. Bogart’s was on The Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods America,” for what doesn’t seem like too strange of a menu (I suppose apricot-bruleed ribs is a little different).

I also want to take the kids to somewhere fun, like Blueberry Hill in The Loop (Chuck Berry used to play there).

For dessert, where else should we go in St. Louis than Ted Drewes for a concrete? I also have my eye on The Fountain. Every sundae (and they have some adult ones) sounds amazing, and the place just looks cool to be in. Or, we might head to Gooey Louie’s. I read the gooey butter cake is a speciality in St. Louis and Gooey Louie’s is the place to go for it.

See more St. Louis museums

Exterior photo of The City Museum in St. Louis, with a view of the Ferris wheel on the roof
The City Museum is a playground and museum for children and adults. The rooftop is an area I have yet to explore. Photo by McElroy Fine Art Photography, courtesy St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission

I love St. Louis museums (many are free). We want to go back to City Museum, even though we’ve been to this fantastic place before. Why is it on my bucket list? This time, with nice weather, we’ll be able to explore the amazing rooftop area. 

Related post: 5 Tips For Making The Most Of Your Visit To The City Museum

We also still need to visit The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum, and my son, particularly is loving art museums, so a trip to St. Louis Art Museum is in order. There are family guides to for areas like the armor and mummies.

Have some thrills

Batman The Ride at Six Flags in St. Louis
Six Flags St. Louis is home to the thrilling Batman the Ride. Photo courtesy St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission

My kids are starting to become little theme park junkies. We should totally check out Six Flags St. Louis. I wonder if my oldest is tall enough for Batman the Ride yet.

See the Budweiser Clydesdales

One of the Budweiser Clydesdales at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery
You can see the world famous Clydales in St. Louis. Photo courtesy St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission.

There’s a free tour of the historic Anheuser-Busch Brewery, visit the Budweiser Clydesdales and sample some brew (me, not the kids). On a related note, we should visit Grant’s Farm, the 281-acre ancestral home of the Busch family.

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I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, Kim, it’s St. Louis, go to the zoo and a Cardinals’ game. I know. I’ve done them both and checked them off my list. We’ve also been to the Science Center (it’s FREE, you should go). I wrote about our first visit to St. Louis years ago (OMG, look how young Mooch and Farley are!).

What else am I missing? Please leave a comment with what should be added to this list!

Headed to Saint Louis? Here's a dream list of things to do and see in the city! #STL #Missouri #bucketlist

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I got a lot of ideas from an Insider’s Family Guide to St. Louis. You ought to check it out!

Want even more ideas? Check out the site Explore St. Louis or view all the stuff pinned to St. Louis Fun With Kids:

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January 27, 2014

St. Louis With Kids

We took the kidlets to St. Louis this winter for a wedding and to visit family. While there, we checked out some recommended spots for families – and it was a lot of fun!

St Louis 4

I’ve waited an embarrassingly long time to write about it. Which makes it sound like it wasn’t that fun…nope, I’m just a procrastinator.

St. Louis hot spots for families

Our first stop was food. Naturally. This is me we’re talking about. Adam over at Visit Flyover Country recommended a few greats spots to eat in St. Louis and my mom picked the old-fashioned soda fountain, Jennifer’s Pharmacy and Soda Shoppe in Clayton. Darling place. And super friendly ladies behind the counter. My kids’ favorite part of the lunch was the flying monkey sundae. Order it and enjoy the literal flying monkey.


Mooch was a big fan of Jennifer's, partly because it was inside a pharmacy with a lot of candy that her Grammy let her buy. The other part is that flying monkey. Mooch loves "oo oo ah ahs."

Mooch was a big fan of Jennifer’s, partly because it was inside a pharmacy with a lot of candy that her Grammy let her buy. The other part is that flying monkey. Mooch loves “oo oo ah ahs.”

The ladies at Jennifer’s sent us to the Frisco Train Store.

Farley showing off hIs haul from the Frisco Train Store.

Farley showing off hIs haul from the Frisco Train Store.

It was nowhere near where we were so if you’re planning a trip, don’t plan to do it like we did (nor try to get to it during rush hour). But it is a fun store to check out if you have the time. The kids LOVED the train tables, as I imagine that’s the main draw for anyone who brings their kids there.

Frisco is the store for the train fanatic in your life. Four train tables, kids, four.

Frisco is the store for the train fanatic in your life. Four train tables, kids, four.

Basically, there are benches set up around the shop and parents can sit while their kids go nuts over the big track. You’ll be tempted to browse. And shop. Which we were. And that’s the whole point of the set up.

Like most kids, mine have an abundance of energy. Like insane amounts. So, we figured that we needed to take them somewhere to unload some of that energy before a wedding we were attending.

Adam made some excellent recommendations, especially for my kids’ ages. Check them out here. We had a hard time choosing given our limited time in the city.

So, we went to the City Museum. Go there! With or without kids.

The City Museum in St. Louis is hard to define. It's a colorful, non-plastic dream world for kids and adults ( they have a bar there!).

The City Museum in St. Louis is hard to define. It’s a colorful, non-plastic dream world for kids and adults ( they have a bar there!).

It’s a bit of an enigma when it comes to explaining it.

No brightly colored, protective plastic here.

No brightly colored, protective plastic here. If that makes you nervous, this is not the place for you and your kids.

Great for kids (multi-stories long slides, tunnels, circus, crafts, I could go on), great for adults (there’s a bar inside) – it’s just incredible.

The area for preschoolers and younger. A little more plastic there - toy trucks, building blocks, that sort of thing.

The area for preschoolers and younger. A little more plastic there – toy trucks, building blocks, that sort of thing.

It’s like the creative folks at Hot Shops got a hold of your childhood drawings of a magical fort and bam!

What is this room for in the City Museum? Doesn't matter. The kids loved running around it.

What is this room for in the City Museum? Doesn’t matter. The kids loved running around it.

There it is with a skate ramp, ball pit and train added in.

Mooch could've stayed in the ball pit for two hours. I had to ignore the germ-phobe screaming in my head.

Mooch could’ve stayed in the ball pit for two hours. I had to ignore the germ-phobe screaming in my head.

Our favorite spot was for the preschool and younger crowd. It’s much much easier to keep an eye on the kids in a room with only one exit.

Farley on one of the slides in the younger kids area at the City Museum. Such a cool design of a place!

Farley on one of the slides in the younger kids area at the City Museum. Such a cool design of a place!

I do it no justice, so just trust me, it’s worth a visit. There are food options there (pricey).

Our other kid-friendly stop was before we were heading out of town, trying to burn off that incredible energy again before an 8-hour road trip. NO, it doesn’t usually take that long to get to St. Louis, but traveling with my kids, it takes longer.

We checked out the FREE Science Center in St. Louis.

Mooch meets a dinosaur at the St. Louis Science Center.

Mooch meets a dinosaur at the St. Louis Science Center.

This one would definitely be better for gradeschoolers on up, but my kids had a lot of fun. There were activities that suited my 4-and-under crowd just right. Take your kids over the interstate bridge, for sure. There is a food court there with some healthy options.

Can't go wrong with building blocks.

Can’t go wrong with building blocks.

This was a busy place, but my kids managed to play with lots of the exhibits.

And you can’t beat free.

November 11, 2013

Insider’s Family Guide: St. Louis

Updated: March 28, 2019

Insider’s Family Guide is a new series that will run occasionally on Oh My! Omaha. When my family has a trip on the horizon, I’m going to seek out tips on where to go, where to eat and where to stay. This is the first in the series and I could not have found a better source than Adam Sommer over at Visit Flyover Country. This dad knows all about traveling with kids and he shares my appreciation of a good breakfast. In this family guide to St. Louis, he shares his suggestions on what to do, where to eat, and where to stay if you visit his city.
Planning a trip with kids to St. Louis? Read this local dad's guide to the city! He shares the best places to go with kids in St. Louis, including restaurants, museums and where to stay. #tips #STL #familytravel #localguide
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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:

Inline image 1

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

Additional awesome family attractions include The Magic House, Museum of Transportation, Grant’s Farm (FREE), St. Louis Science Center (FREE), and because its St. Louis, a Cardinals baseball game.

Of course no visit to STL would be complete with taking the journey to the top of the Gateway Arch!

Inline image 2

Where I’d eat

For a healthy start to the day, I’d recommend breakfast at Local Harvest Cafe, home to mostly locally grown & organic ingredients. Ideally located next to Tower Grove Park, home to our best farmer’s market (on Saturdays) and near the Missouri Botanical Garden. Another great option 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.

Inline image 3

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

– Adam Sommer regularly blogs about family travel in the Midwest at Visit Flyover Country.

Your turn: Where do you recommend we go while in St. Louis? What’s your favorite kid-friendly attraction?

January 28, 2019

My Missouri Bucket List

Missouri is a state I feel like I’ve only just started to explore – though I’ve spent a great deal of time in Kansas City and St. Louis. I’ve started thinking about a road trip through the state – where I’d stop if I had no time limit, no money limit, and let’s be real, no day job. That’s how I’ve come up with this Missouri bucket list. You may think I’ve left off some key things, and that’s cool. Let me know what shouldn’t be overlooked!

You won’t find much St. Louis and KC items on this bucket list, because, well, I’ve made those lists already. Same with Excelsior Springs (if it’s not on your Missouri bucket list, add The Elms right this minute).

Missouri Bucket List - All the things I want to do, see, eat and explore in #Missouri #USA. Includes caves, ruins, wild horses, and some throwed rolls. #familytravel #bucketlist

Dive through a mine

For this bucket list item, I’m going to have to learn to dive first! The Bonne Terre Mines look like a surreal experience – you’re pretty much scuba diving through an old mine. National Geographic Adventure named the diving experience one of the top 10 adventures in America. If I never learn to dive, there’s always an option of a boat tour.

Feed big cats

The National Tiger Sanctuary, just north of Branson, is home to rescued large cats. There are different types of tours to help the public learn more about the animals, but the one that sounds like a bucket list item is the chance to feed one of the cats. There’s also a behind-the-scenes tour that I could see my daughter loving.

Go into a cave (or 5,000)

Inside Meramec Caverns, Missouri's largest commercial cave.
Meramec Caverns is the largest commercial cave in the state of Missouri. It’s located in the heart of the Ozarks. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

Missouri has more than 5,000 caves, with the most “show caves” in the country. Some that I think merit a visit: Onondaga Cave (claims to have the largest cave living room in the world); Fantastic Caverns in Springfield (home to the only ride-through cave in the U.S.); Marvel Cave (located inside Silver Dollar City and is said to have been discovered by Osage Indians in the 1500s); and two caves in Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Robber’s Cave and the Counterfeiter’s Cave (rumored to have been hideouts for outlaws). The largest of the commercial caves is Meramec Caverns.

Step back into time

My son is fascinated by historic sites, so a trip through Missouri wouldn’t be complete without stopping at a few historic homes. In Diamond, we can set George Washington Carver’s birthplace and see where nature first inspired him as a boy. Independence might be another stop for us in order to visit the Truman Home, a small home of Bess and Harry S. Truman. I’m on the fence about that one since you can only see it by guided tour, and my kids have a 50-50 track record of dealing well with guided tours.

Chase some waterfalls

I’m obsessed with waterfalls (probably because we have so few in Nebraska). Some of the Missouri waterfalls I’d love to see include Rocky Falls near Eminence, Mo., and Crooked Creek Falls in the Ouachita National Forest. Both of these are in the Ozarks. Missouri Life has some of the most picturesque waterfalls here.

Try a natural waterslide

And while I’m on the topic of waterfalls, let’s talk about a natural waterslide. Water flows over smooth boulders at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, making it a perfect place to cool off. Because of it, it’s one of the most popular state parks in the Ozarks.

Canoe the Current

Two kayakers floating down the Current River, part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverway
The Current River is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

My husband planted the idea in my mind that we should canoe the Current River long ago, and I still think about it. Its crystal clear water and gorgeous scenery sound great. The Current River is just one of a couple rivers that are part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The other rivers are the Eleven Point and the Jacks Fork (so I guess I have some options). Together they are Missouri’s largest national park. There’s a hidden swimming hole that I’d love to see called Bluff Hole, located where the Jacks Fork River widens.

Go to the drive-in

They’re a dying breed, aren’t they? 66 Drive-In Theatre in Carthage is seasonal and said to be the last on this famous highway. This isn’t the only drive-in in Missouri, FYI. I could go to Sunset Drive-In Theater in Springfield and feel like I’ve stepped back in time to the 1950s. 

See some ruins

An overhead drone photo of the castle ruins at Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Missouri
The castle-like ruins at Ha Ha Tonka State Park are the remains of a mansion that was destroyed by fire in the 1940s. Photo courtesy Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau

Near the Current River, there are for-real ruins. Apparently, there isn’t a good address for Welch Spring Hospital Ruins, so I found this post that gives some good directions (just scroll down midway through the post). Ha Ha Tonka State Park, near the Lake of the Ozarks, is home to castle-like ruins, too. Ha Ha Tonka sounds totally amazing. According to “Missouri Off The Beaten Path,” “The complex of caves, underground streams, large springs, sinkholes, and natural bridges at Ha Ha Tonka State Park makes it one of the country’s most important geological sites.”

Stay in a treehouse

The River Of Life Farm is a resort in the Ozarks with treehouse-like cabins. Beauty of the place is it in the heart of Mark Twain National Forest. I personally want to go to hike or canoe, but they are known for having excellent fly fishing.

Catch a throwed roll

I confess to already doing this, but it’s on this list since I feel my kids should experience having a hot roll chucked at their heads, too. Lambert’s Cafe is in two towns in Missouri (the original is in Sikeston, the other is in Ozark). Expect huge portions along with a wait if you go.

Bike the Katy Trail

A biker on the KATY Trail in Missouri
The KATY Trail is a 237-mile trail that runs through Missouri. This photo was taken near
Cooper’s Landing Campground and Marina. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

One of these days, I’m going to plan a weekend trip along the KATY Trail with my husband, stopping for a winery or brewery along the way. It’s flat, it’s scenic, and at 237 miles long, it’s the nation’s longest “rails-to-trail” project. So, um, maybe we’ll just bike part of it. This post in Southern Living has inspired me, though, especially about the B&Bs along the route. One that sounds great is the H.S. Clay House (it even has a pool and hot tub). And we’ll need to eat while we’re doing all this biking. Apparently, bikers in-the-know know to stop for some grub at Cooky’s in Golden City.

Find Charley’s Buffet

Hidden somewhere in a Mennonite community in Lake of the Ozarks is Charley’s Buffet, home to Mennonite-cooked and -served food that has people lining up every Friday and Saturday night.

Explore Route 66

Route 66 passes through Missouri including through the entire Ozarks. I read about a few places to visit just off the historic highway. There’s the scenic Devil’s Elbow, with nearby barbecue joint Elbow Inn and 40-foot-high wooden railroad trestle bridge. Then, there’s Lebanon, where the Route 66 Museum and Research Center is located.

Wine & dine in Missouri’s Wine Country

People having a picnic at Stone Hill Winery in Hermann, Mo.
Stone Hill Winery was built in 1847 in Hermann, Mo. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

Missouri has a lot going on, in terms of wine, in the southeastern part of the state. This includes towns of Defiance, Marthasville, New Haven, and Hermann. Hermann has 10 wineries in the area as well as a couple microbreweries and distilleries. The town has several popular festivals like and Wurstfest and Maifest in the spring and Octoberfest in the fall. It is home to Stone Hills Winery which was built in 1847 and, up until prohibition, it was the second largest winery in the U.S. My friends in St. Louis tell me Hermann is the place to go but I wonder if the smaller down they might have overlooked are with visiting too.

Stay in a caboose

Staying in a caboose is going to keep popping up on my bucket lists for states until I stay at one. I’ve come across a couple in Missouri. Cozy Caboose is located at the St. Louis West KOA campground on Route 66. And this one isn’t your ordinary caboose. It’s decked out with a kitchen, queen bed and bunk bed, and more importantly heating and Wi-Fi. There’s also a place off the KATY Trail called Cruces’ Cabooses B&B with two cabooses for lodging. They come fully-equipped and are nestled in the woods.

Randy’s Roadkill BBQ and Grill

Randy’s Roadkill BBQ and Grill in Rolla intrigues me. Even though I’ve heard there is no actual roadkill on the menu at the restaurant, I feel like I have to go and see for myself. And then by the T-shirt.

See mastodon skeletons

Mastodon State Historic Site has a pretty interesting story behind it: The first evidence of mastodons were discovered there. And it almost didn’t become a public park – it took a group of persistent housewives to stop the archeological site from being sold to developers. According to the book “Missouri Off-The-Beaten-Path, ” four women fundraised and pestered state officials until it became a state park. 

Walk on a swinging bridge (or two)

Southwest Missouri is home to two swinging bridges that are just about 1,000 feet apart from each other. Grand Auglaize Swinging Bridge and Mill Creek Swinging Bridge are near Brummell. There are two near Osage Beach as well, though I read they were rather rickety. Like my fascination with caves, I’ve got an inexplicable interest for swinging bridges.

Have a phosphate at the soda fountain where Truman used to work

Clinton’s, located in Independence Missouri, is a legit old-timey soda fountain complete with the marble counter the uniformed soda jerks. This is where Harry S Truman got his first job. I think I’ll order a malt when we’re there.

Have a 19th-century meal by candlelight

Fort Osage National Historic Landmark is known for historical re-enactments. I could see visiting the fort during the day with the kids and then at night, return for an authentic 19th century dinner and entertainment hearthside in the factory’s dining room.

See the wild horses

Wild horses at Echo Bluff State Park in Missouri
Missouri is home to herds of wild horses who roam Shannon County. These horses were at Echo Bluff State Park. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

I’d heard about wild horses of North Carolina, but I’m surprised to know that there are herds in the Midwest, too. Missouri is home to herds of wild horses in Shannon County. They been roaming for more than 100 years and include the Broadfoot herd, Grassy herds , and Shawnee Creek herd.

Experience Ozarks circa mid-1800s

The Ozarks are is home to several festivals throughout the year, including the Hillbilly Fair in Laurie. The one that intrigues me the most is the Osage River Rendezvous and Mountain Man Festival held the third weekend in September. Here people dressed in period clothes re-create what it was like when fur traders and other early pioneers would gather to socialize, barter, trade and, perhaps, throw a knife or two. 

Buy the monks’ fruitcake

There is a group of Trappist monks in an abbey deep in the Ozarks near Ava. The Assumption Abbey has a bakery where they make more than 30,000 fruitcakes annually. I’m not a fruitcake fan but I hear they’re delicious (and also 2 pounds each). 

Hike by the Elephant Rocks

Hikers pass by the large boulders at Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri.
The granite boulders at Elephant Rocks State Park were formed more than a billion years ago. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

Just look at that picture of the boulders at Elephant Rocks State Park in Belleview! Don’t you also want to see them in real life? These huge granite boulders that were formed more than a billion years ago. The largest rock in the park is 25 feet high.

Be a cowgirl

One of these days I’m going to stay at a dude ranch. Blame it on “City Slickers.” Missouri has an option – Bucks and Spurs Guest Ranch. Families to stay here and do hands-on work at the horse and cattle ranch.

See Dogwood

I’ve read about Dogwood Canyon Nature Park near Lampe. This nature preserve in the Ozarks is the work of the founder of Bass Pro Shops. I’ve seen pictures and it’s quite picturesque. I’d love to take a bike tour around it, though there are also options of taking a guided horseback or tram tour.

Huge list of things to do in Missouri including obscure festivals, adventures and outdoor pursuits to add to any bucket list. #bucketlist #Missouri #USA

Get more Missouri Bucket List Inspiration

I’ve been pinning ideas I’ve found for months, more than could fit on this list. Check out my Missouri Road Trip Board for additional travel inspiration for the Show Me State: