What You Need To Know About Reciprocal Membership Benefits

UPDATED: January 25, 2019

While planning a family vacation recently, I started to worry about the cost of admission to places adding up. Then I remembered reciprocal membership benefits for museums and zoos. I’d read about it elsewhere (Odyssey Through Nebraska and So Cal With Kids) but I hadn’t really took note until now.

We’re members to the Omaha Children’s Museum and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, but I hadn’t ever considered if those memberships got us benefits elsewhere.

They do. And sometimes, those memberships can get us into places for FREE.

How to get into museums, science centers and zoos for free or at a discount - Check if your membership offers reciprocal benefits! #familytravel

It’s a pretty sweet deal when planning trips with kids.

All these reciprocal programs listed below recommend you call ahead, since perks depend on the location and, simply, change.

 

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Oh yeah, there are benefits beyond Omaha. (website)

Find members of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums here.  Members of the Omaha zoo get 50% off admission to many zoos around the country.

Other participating zoos in Nebraska and Iowa

*Please note that these lists of participants may change from year to year so double check before traveling to one.

Riverside Discovery Center in Scottsbluff, Neb.

Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa

National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa

 

Omaha Children’s Museum

Omaha children's museum

Check out the museum membership perks here.

Members get discounted admission to more than 250 science and technology centers across the country thanks to the Association of Science and Technology Centers (some unfortunate exclusions include any science centers and museums located within 90 miles of the science center or museum where you are a member or withing your residence).

Other participating Museums in Nebraska and Iowa

It’s always good to call ahead to see if your membership will get you a discount. Participants on the list may change from year to year. Exclusions apply, so if your home museum or your residence is within 90 miles, you may be excluded.

Edgerton Explorit Center in Aurora, Neb.

Hastings Museum, Hastings in Neb.

University of Nebraska State Museum of Natural History in Lincoln, Neb.

Family Museum in Bettendorf, Iowa

Grout Museum District: Bluedorn Science Imaginarium in Waterloo, Iowa

Putnam Museum and Science Center in Davenport, Iowa

Science Center of Iowa and Blank IMAX Dome Theater in Des Moines, Iowa

University of Northern Iowa Museum in Cedar Falls, Iowa

Bonus! Patron Members Of Omaha Children’s Museum

Patron members at Omaha Children’s Museum also receive discounts to participating museums that belong to the Association of Children’s Museums. The discount is typically 50% off admission for up to six people.

The museums in Nebraska that are also belong to the Association of Children’s Museums include Lincoln Children’s Museum and Kearney Area Children’s Museum. The museums in Iowa that also belong to the ACM are LaunchPAD Children’s Museum in Sioux City; Felix Adler Children’s Discovery Center in Clinton; Family Museum in Bettendorf; The Iowa Children’s Museum in Coralville; and Phelps Youth Pavilion in Waterloo.

Joslyn Art Museum

Joslyn logo

I know what you’re thinking – admission is FREE there already, why get a membership? There are definitely perks to a membership (beyond the satisfaction of support a great institution). One perk is getting you FREE admission to 687 other museums if you get the Contributing Membership or Patron Membership, as well as discounts to those museums’ gift shops and concert/event tickets. See the full list at North American Reciprocal Museums’ website.

Where does your Joslyn membership get you benefits in Nebraska and Iowa?

It’s always good to call ahead to see if your membership will get you a discount. Participants on the list may change from year to year.

Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art in David City

Museum of Nebraska Art in Kearney

International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln

Sheldon Museum of Art in Lincoln

Kregel Windmill Factory Museum in Nebraska City

Norfolk Arts Center in Norfolk

African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Cedar Rapids Museum of Art in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa

Des Moines Art Center in Des Moines, Iowa

Dubuque Museum of Art in Dubuque, Iowa

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art in Iowa City, Iowa

Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, Iowa

Oskaloosa Art Center and Studios in Oskaloosa, Iowa

Sioux City Art Center in Sioux City, Iowa

Arts on Grand in Spencer, Iowa

Grout Museum District in Waterloo, Iowa

Waterloo Center for the Arts in Waterloo, Iowa

Iowa Quilt Museum in Winterset, Iowa

What else you might want to consider:

Nebraska State Historical Memberships

Gretchen over at Odyssey in Nebraska had a good tip for these memberships: “Kids actually get in free to all locations, so I bought an individual membership since I knew that I would be the main one going to visit historic locations.”

Here’s where you can get in FREE with this membership:

It’s always good to call ahead to see if your membership will get you a discount. Participants on the list may change from year to year.

Fort Robinson Museum near Crawford

Willa Cather’s Home in Red Cloud

Thomas P. Kennard House in Lincoln

John G. Neihardt House in Bancroft

Neligh Mill State Historic Site in Neligh

Senator George Norris House in McCook

American Alliance of Museums

Check the member list of the American Alliance Museums (it changes annually) before you visit a new place – it might offer reciprocal membership benefits. For instance, I found out – after the fact – that our Omaha Children’s Museum membership gets us in for FREE to University of Nebraska State Museum of Natural History (Morrill Hall) in Lincoln.

Here are the Nebraska member sites (not all offer reciprocal benefits): Knight Museum City of Alliance in Alliance, John G. Neihardt State Historic Site in Bancroft, Chimney Rock National Historic Site in Bayard, Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center Chadron State College in Chadron, Fort Robinson Museum in Crawford, Trailside Museum of Natural History in Crawford, Legacy of the Plains Museum in Gering, Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Grand Island, Hastings Museum of Natural and Cultural History in Hastings, Phelps County Museum in Holdrege, Museum of Nebraska Art in Kearney, Buffalo County Historical Society in Kearney, Dawson County Historical Society (history museum) in Lexington, Sheldon Museum of Art University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lincoln, Thomas P. Kennard House in Lincoln, University of Nebraska State Museum of Natural History (Morrill Hall) in Lincoln, International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Senator George Norris State Historic Site in McCook, Neligh Mill State Historic Site in Neligh, Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Omaha Children’s Museum in Omaha, Durham Museum in Omaha, Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park in Orchard, and Willa Cather State Historic Site in Red Cloud.

American Horticultural Society

If you’re a supporter to Nebraska Statewide Arboretum in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, you get discounts to about 300 gardens around the country that belong to the American Horticultural Society.

Two on the list that we’ve visited and I highly recommend visiting is Botanica, The Wichita Gardens in Kansas and Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis.

Have fun traveling!

Insider’s Family Guide: Cedar Rapids

Here are three things you should know about Cedar Rapids…

1. Cedar Rapids just happens to be Iowa’s second largest city.

2. Cedar Rapids is just about a four-hour drive from Omaha.

3. Cedar Rapids also happens to hold big fun for families visiting the area!

Editor’s note: This is an occasional series presenting an insider’s guide to their hometowns – what to see, where to eat and where to stay.

UPDATE: This post was updated in June 2020 to reflect closures..

If you are looking for a great family weekend trip this summer, head east on Interstate 80 for Cedar Rapids. You won’t have to fight the traffic and crowds of bigger Midwestern cities, but you can still soak up all the fun and culture of a more metropolitan area. Plus, as you’ll see, there are lots of tasty places to eat!

I can’t wait for you to visit my hometown! Here’s what my family recommends while you are in Cedar Rapids.

Cedar Rapids Amphitheatre. Photo courtesy Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
Cedar Rapids Amphitheatre. Photo courtesy Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Things to do in Cedar Rapids

A trip to Cedar Rapids wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Brucemore —a National Historic Trust Site in the middle of the city. It has been described as Downton Abbey meets Woodstock! They offer tours of the historic mansion (that your kids will truly find interesting) and the grounds play host to a wide variety of programs—everything from hot air balloon glows to children’s theatre productions — especially in warm weather months.

Be sure to take some time to explore the 26 acres and check for turtles in the pond. Open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday 12 to 3 p.m., mansion tours are $7 for adults and $3 for kids.

The Cedar Rapids Science Center is a great place for your budding scientist or engineer to explore. The gallery is filled with lots of hands-on activity centers (and a huge bin of LEGOs), plus they often offer fascinating educational programs. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and 12 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, $4.

You wouldn’t necessarily think of a library as a stop on a family vacation (or if you do I’d love to travel with you!) but here in Cedar Rapids we’ve got a brand new library that is truly one-of-a-kind.

The Cedar Rapids Public Library downtown opened about a year ago. The children’s section is not only stocked with books and movies, but there’s also a puppet theater, interactive computer games and lots of hands-on fun. Plus there’s a “living learning” green roof to explore.

For a big dose of outdoor fun, stop at Wickiup Hill Learning Center located just north of town. You can explore the marsh or hike through the prairie and woodlands. Be sure to stop inside the lodge building to check out Oliver & Ava’s River Raft Adventure Exhibit. Open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Free

Additional family adventure spots include the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (home to the world’s largest collection of works by American Gothic artist Grant Wood), the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (where you can not only get a dose of culture, but also wander around the shops in the Czech Village), and Cedar Rapids Kernels Baseball (where there’s always a “party at the park”).

The Brucemore Mansion is a National Historic Trust Site in the middle of the city. They offer tours of the historic mansion - be sure to take some time to explore the 26 acres and check for turtles in the pond. Photo courtesy Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
The Brucemore Mansion is a National Historic Trust Site in the middle of the city. They offer tours of the historic mansion – be sure to take some time to explore the 26 acres and check for turtles in the pond. Photo courtesy Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Where to eat in Cedar Rapids

If you are looking to fuel up the family before the day’s adventures, pop in to American Skillet located on the city’s northwest side. They do a great traditional breakfast (the omelets and skillet creations are great) and their “fruit and fiber pancakes” are pretty hard to pass up. If you are looking to grab something light and a cup of coffee stop by The Blue Strawberry in downtown.

The Flying Wienie makes for a great lunch stop. Just look for the big yellow airplane perched on top of a building. They serve great hot dogs, of course!

The NewBo City Market is a can’t miss destination, especially when you are hungry! There’s everything from wood fired pizza and authentic Mexican to saucy focaccia sandwiches and delectable cupcakes. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss out on the sea salt caramel ice cream in a pretzel cone at Nelson’s Ice Cream.

When looking for a spot for dinner with the kids there are tons of tasty options. The Irish Democrat is a locally notable neighborhood bar and grill with a great menu — including some of the best chicken fingers and wontons this side of Iowa.

The Flying Wienie makes for a great lunch stop in Cedar Rapids. Photo courtesy Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
The Flying Wienie makes for a great lunch stop in Cedar Rapids. Photo courtesy Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Where to stay in Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids is more spread out then you would guess. If you are looking to stay downtown close to a lot of attractions, check into the DoubleTree by Hilton Cedar Rapids.

It’s a renovated hotel with great accommodations—and cool artwork throughout the building. The kids will also love the panoramic views from 350 First — the hotel restaurant — on the top floor. Plus they give out delicious chocolate chip cookies when you check-in!

If you don’t mind driving around town to your destinations, a stay at the Cedar Rapids Marriott would be ideal. It has a lovely atrium and an indoor pool to keep your little fish happy. Plus it’s right across the street from Noelridge Park and one of the prettiest flower gardens in the city.

– Katie Mills Giorgio is a freelance writer and aspiring children’s book author living, writing and raising kids in her hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. You can find her online at http://katiemillsgiorgio.wordpress.com/.

Exploring Platte River State Park In The Off-Season

On a recent cool, gray spring day, I took the kids to Platte River State Park in search of a waterfall.

Platte collageWM

I needed some fresh air and a change of scenery, and the kids needed some place to run and explore.

Farley poking around a fallen tree trunk.
Farley poking around a fallen tree trunk.

I can’t recall the last time I’d been to this park, if I ever had. I know now, we’ll be back.

We parked in the first lot by the park entrance, the sign “waterfall” in view. Off we went, following an easy, flat trail of dirt and bridges.

The start of the easy hike to the waterfall at Platte River State Park. I see my daughter has my patient look.
The start of the easy hike to the waterfall at Platte River State Park. I see my daughter has my patient look.

The hike to the little waterfall was not long and can be walked by the smallest of kids. Or ran as is usually the case.

Spring’s not quite here in Nebraska, but even with the gray surroundings, the park’s setting is remarkable this time of year.

Regardless of the season, I have a feeling this park is pretty year-round. It's pretty peaceful, at least.
Regardless of the season, I have a feeling this park is pretty year-round. It’s pretty peaceful, at least.

It’s peaceful and you feel very much like you have the park to yourself.  My kids and I enjoyed being silly on the trail.

You can hear the waterfall before you see it. The anticipation of exactly how big it will be grows.

Found the waterfall!
Found the waterfall!

OK, I’ll admit it’s no Smith Falls. The kids wanted to keep walking so we didn’t spend much time by it.

If you keep on the trail heading toward the river, you’ll encounter a steep climb. I let the kids lead and, naturally, they headed for the hill. It’s manageable for most abilities.

Going up, up, up on our loop hike at the Platte River State Park.
Going up, up, up on our loop hike at the Platte River State Park.

Once at the top, there’s a clearing with some campsites and picnic tables. You can complete a loop back to the trail to your parked car in under an hour easily.

I think we’ll be back once things are greener and warmer. The park has paddleboats I’d like to take the kids on, and certainly more trails to explore.

Platte River State Park meets the kids' approval.
Platte River State Park meets the kids’ approval.

Your turn: Have you been to Platte River State Park? Where do you recommend us exploring next?

Union Pacific Railroad Museum + Nearby Fun in Council Bluffs

Just south of the lovely Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs, you’ll find the Union Pacific Railroad Museum. If you’ve got a kid who loves all things Thomas, this place is for you. If you don’t have a kid who loves trains, you just love history, this is especially for you.

Surprisingly, I’ve never been to this FREE museum (donation is encouraged), even though I have two train obsessed kids. I even worked two blocks from this museum for many years. Shame on me.

Anyway. Enough shaming. I made up for it recently by bringing Mr. Wonderful, the kiddos and two aunts along for the ride.

Farley and Mooch hanging out with their aunts at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum.
Farley and Mooch hanging out with their aunts at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum.

What to expect

The museum is housed in the old public library, a gorgeous and historic building in itself. The second and third floor have exhibits; the first floor – where you enter the building – is the little gift shop and helpful reception desk. Pick up a free audio tour if you’re there without hyper-active kids.

One fo the exhibits that did encourage kids to touch and climb on.
One fo the exhibits that did encourage kids to touch and climb on.

The museum received an update in the last few years and it is very engaging and eye-catching with colorful displays. A lot of the museum is artifacts, which my kids (ages 2 and 4) breeze right by…or try to climb on (shhhh). Omaha and Council Bluffs are steeped in train history and you’ll learn a lot here.

What kids like

Mooch enjoyed the similuated explosion a little too much.
Mooch enjoyed the similuated explosion a little too much.

There is a lot of effort to be interactive, some succeeding more than others. My kids love pushing buttons, and there is a bounty to push in this museum. There are displays that encourage touching, sitting on and making loud noises and those were a hit. There’s a part to pretend like you’re lighting off dynamite – fun for the kiddos.

The video and photo interactive booths were neat but didn’t work very well.

You can get a picture taken with these two fellas, but the photo emailed to you is grainy and blurry. So never mind.
You can get a picture taken with these two fellas, but the photo emailed to you is grainy and blurry. So never mind.

What’s nearby

If it’s a bit of a drive for you to get C.B., plan on doing a bit more while you’re there. Pack a picnic and enjoy Bayliss Park. If it’s really hot, there’s a small splash pad there for kids to run through.

My kids playing at Bayliss Park last year. They've grown so much!
My kids playing at Bayliss Park last year. They’ve grown so much!

Across the street from the park (east side), there is a nice ice cream shop… so, about a block from the museum.

If you’re going for a train or transportation-themed day, there’s the RailsWest Museum not too far from there. Or, you could do like us and dine at the regional chain Quaker Steak & Lube near the Mid-America Center.

Quaker Steak & Lube, near the MId-America Center, has themed dining rooms - cars, trucks, motorcycles - that sort of thing.
Quaker Steak & Lube, near the MId-America Center, has themed dining rooms – cars, trucks, motorcycles – that sort of thing.

There’s a lot to look at there for kids – real race cars, motorcycles, trucks and memorabilia.

Just across the river, back in Omaha, you can see a neat train documentary at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium right now at the IMAX there. If you’re a member, it’s free to see.

See a lot more train ideas here.

Your turn: Have you been to the Union Pacific Railroad Museum? What did you think of it?

My Nebraska Bucket List

Good ol’ Nebraska. It’s my home state, I’m pretty protective of it. Fly over it if you must, but you’re missing out. There’s a lot to do Nebraska. I’ve gathered all the things I still need to explore in the state to create this ultimate Nebraska Bucket List.

UPDATED: This post was first published in 2014 and has been updated in November 2019. To help keep this post current, please let me know if anything needs additional updates! This post may contain affiliate links.

Nebraska Bucket List - The most iconic things to see and do in Nebraska

1. See Nebraska’s Ultimate Landmark. Chimney Rock is Nebraska’ ultimate icon, our claim-to-fame in pioneer history. It’s probably time I see it in real life.

Chimney Rock, one of Nebraska's most recognizable landmarks. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Related post: 101 Things To Do In Nebraska

2. Go Western. I’d like to do the whole Fort Robinson experience thing.

A trail ride near Fort Robinson State Park in Nebraska
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Ride the Fort Robinson Express stagecoach, maybe go on a horseback trail ride, see the buffalo and longhorn cattle herds and take part in a campfire singalong.

UPDATE: We visited! Here’s my review of the state park including one thing I didn’t know about: Off-road jeep tours!

The Fort Robinson Express. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

3. Stay at a ranch, maybe do some ranch things. I’m not sure what that would be – probably ride a horse and herd cattle. I should watch “City Slickers” again to refresh my memory.

Here are a few guest ranches that I could see myself channeling my inner cowgirl: Ponderosa Ranch and Rowse’s 1 Plus 1 Ranch. And by channel, I mean, I do about 10 minutes of hard work and then relax the rest of my stay.

4. See a Native American pow wow. Long ago, I was an exchange student in Spain and my host family thought it was all pow wows in Nebraska. Not so much. But, I feel like I owe it to my host sister and her obsession with Native Americans and go to one of these finally.

Fort Robinson holds the Inter Tribal Pow Wow every year. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Fort Robinson is known for a big one, the Intertribal Gathering and Pow Wow, in June. There’s one in north Omaha held each September, the Fort Omaha Intertribal Powow, on the same grounds here Ponca Chief Standing Bear was once imprisoned.

5. Walk along strange land. Ever since I saw a picture of Toadstool Geologic Park (the Oglala National Grassland), I’ve been fascinated by the strange rock formations.

People say they look like toadstool mushrooms or the lunar surface.

Toadstool rock formations in western Nebraska should be on everybody's Nebraska bucket list.
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

UPDATE: We did it! You can see a picture of our visit in this Western Nebraska/South Dakota road trip recap post.

6. Watch paleontologists at work at Ashfalls Fossil Bed State Historical Park.

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Ashfalls is a working dig site in Nebraska.

Things to do in Nebraska - Visit Ashfalls Fossil Beds in Nebraska. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

7. See Nebraska’s archaeological hidden gem. Toadstool isn’t too far from the Hudson-Meng Research and Education Center where there’s an excavation of a 10,000-year-old bison bone bed going on.

8. Take an airboat tour. I’ve seen airboats glide along the Platte River and it just looks fun.

I’ve seen that river countless time from a car and the lookout tower at Mahoney State Park, so I want to see it from a different view now.

Sunset on the Platte River. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

9. See the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island. I haven’t been to the state fair since I was child – back when it was in Lincoln. I don’t even remember it. It’s probably time I go back.

And I suppose I ought to bring the kids.

The Nebraska State Fair in 2011. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

10. See the Scottsbluffs National Monument. This part of Nebraska is iconic, but not exactly easy to get to from Omaha, so I’ve never made the trip.

Scotts Bluffs National Monument. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

The Nebraska Tourism Commision released a list of 10 of the state’s top attractions and events and this was one of two I haven’t been to (see #1 on this list for the other). So I must go there. I’m a completist.

11. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo, Omaha style. South Omaha has a large celebration every year, and every year I think I ought to check it out (former exchange student sense of duty).

Cinco de Mayo festivities in South Omaha. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

12. Enjoy a dinner paired with the right wine at the Boiler Room in Omaha’s Old Market. While this isn’t the new darling on the Omaha dining scene anymore, it’s one of those restaurants that I’ve been meaning to check out and never do. I’ve heard the wine list is divine.

13. See one of the College World Series championship games in its new home, TD Ameritrade Park. I’ve been to many CWS games at Rosenblatt Stadium, never one of the championship ones, though.

The College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

For more ideas on where to go in Nebraska, consider a quirky book like Nebraska Off the Beaten Path®: A Guide To Unique Places or Nebraska Curiosities: Quirkly Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff .

Your turn: What’s on your Nebraska bucket list? And what’s missing from this list?

Plan a trip to Nebraska using the ultimate Nebraska bucket list! From outdoor adventures like horseback rides in Western Nebraska to airboat river tours, this post suggests a lot of things to make a Nebraska vacation memorable. #Nebraska #USA #Guide #Midwest #Outdoors

More things to do in Nebraska

So now you know the bucket list of things I want to do and see in my home state, Nebraska. I’ve already seen and done a lot in the state, so here are some of my top picks for you to consider for your own Nebraska Bucket List:

10 Unique Places To Stay In Nebraska

25+ Nebraska Festivals & Events Worth The Road Trip

10 Unforgettable Things To Do In Nebraska This Summer

Guide To Nebraska State Park Cabins

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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.