Heading to MO and wondering how you can have some St. Louis family fun? Luckily, we visited the Gateway City two summers ago and found multiple hot spots that are not only family-friendly, but totally worth the trip and experience.
Because baseball dominated our entire summer, we decided to stay within our own country this year (maybe we’ll see you again next year, Jamaica), and travel someplace not too far from home, but somewhere we could still have an amazing family vacation. St. Louis: you won the coin toss in 2019, baby.
We had an amazing time, and as a result we’re already trying to figure out when we can go back. Whether you’re wanting to travel solo, with your partner, or as a family, these places and attractions are sure to be a hit and are the best places to visit in St. Louis!
Best Places to Visit in St. Louis
The St. Louis Arch
It wouldn’t be a trip to St. Louis without visiting the Arch, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. While history isn’t exactly a favorite subject of mine (sorry but it’s true, and I’m also not a fan of heights), I have to admit that seeing the St. Louis Arch is definitely something you should at least do once (after that, I’m probably good).
Of all the things we did in St. Louis, going up in the Arch was our son’s favorite thing. He talked about it for days, and still mentions it to people when we see them.
Things you should know when visiting the St. Louis Arch:
- The cart you’ll sit in to ride to the top is very cramped, so if you get nervous in confined spaces, be prepared. Your knees will touch your neighbor, and if you’re tall, you’ll have to crouch down while sitting (note: I’m not sure what changes they’ve implemented since the pandemic so it wouldn’t shock me if the carts are limited to only your party or limited amount of people at a time).
- The ride takes about 4 minutes to get up to the top, and about 3 minutes on the way down. Yes, I timed it.
- The St. Louis Arch height is 630 feet. I feel that’s important to mention. Especially if you’re unsure about heights.
- The windows once you get to the top are very small, and the space is very cramped. Be prepared to wait, a lot.
- The St. Louis Arch Museum is a pretty neat space that talks about the history of St. Louis and explains why it’s called the Gateway City.
The St. Louis Zoo
Also for not being much of a zoo person, the St. Louis Zoo was pretty fun. (Sorry, but I could totally become an animal rights activist and zoos just make me sad – plus I had a traumatic experience at a zoo when I was four, but that’s a post for another day).
What amazed me the most was how big the zoo was, how gorgeous the grounds were, and here’s the real clincher: St. Louis Zoo prices are completely free. For admission, that is. It doesn’t cost you one dime to visit the St. Louis Zoo. Now, when you take into consideration the amount of gift shops and food stands that are located throughout the zoo, it’s easy to still walk away with empty pockets.
But if you’re looking for a fun, free way to spend the day, the St. Louis Zoo is a pretty amazing option. Located within Forest Park in St. Louis, MO, the zoo spans out over 89 gorgeous acres, and is home to about 17,000 exotic animals and 500 different species. Of course I had to bring up the argument that are the St. Louis Zoo animals better off behind bars, no matter how fun it is for spectators to gawk at them, or should they be released into the wild? We’ll save that debate for another day.
Regardless where you stand on the topic of zoos, the St. Louis Zoo was clean, family-oriented, and we had a blast exploring the different exhibits. Although I did feel dangerously close to the hyenas. I’d probably reconsider that exhibit, especially after watching The Lion King remake.
Things you should know when visiting the St. Louis Zoo:
- Admission is free to the public.
- Camels do indeed spit, so approach with caution.
- St. Louis Zoo parking can be a bit difficult, so come early and be prepared to walk. A very long distance.
- Penguins, although cute, smell really bad up close and personal. Like.. really bad.
Cardinal’s Hall of Fame, Ballpark Way, and Busch Stadium
Even for the most loyal Chicago Cubs fans, visiting Ballpark Way, the Cardinal’s Hall of Fame, and taking in a St. Louis Cardinal’s baseball game while you’re in town is definitely a must. We were fortunate enough to see two Cubs vs. Cardinals games while we were in town, with one win and one loss.
Our kiddo was a little nervous that we would get heckled since we weren’t on our own turf, but what we found was that the rivalry was even friendlier than we realized, and that he can make friends with anyone and everyone, no matter where we go or who we cheer for.
Baseball really does bring people together.
The Cardinal’s Hall of Fame is a must for any baseball fan; complete with vintage uniforms, mini stadiums that show the transition of the architecture throughout the years, and championship rings and bats to boot. Our kiddo had an absolute blast trying on the rings and adding his voiceover to epic plays within the studio.
Busch Stadium was absolutely amazing, even coming from a Wrigley girl. It was clean, huge, and the staff were all so friendly. It was an amazing ballpark and we are hoping to get back, soon!
Things you should know about Ballpark Way:
- Check the Busch Stadium Prohibited Items list before going to a game. Backpacks are absolutely NOT allowed, and they DO check the size of your bag, ladies, to make sure it fits in the “allowed” category. Trust me, I learned this the hard way after a very stressful 30 minutes.
If you want to visit the most wacked out place you’ll ever see, visit City Museum. It kind of reminded me of the darker version of Alice in Wonderland where she’s hopped up on shrooms and goes falling down the swirling hole into Neverland. Or something like that. But it’s family fun and totally innocent, I promise. Kids freaking love it.
Words will probably not do the St. Louis City Museum justice. It’s that intricate and weird you just have to see it for yourself, and truthfully, I should probably make City Museum a blog post of its own I have so many dang photos.
We were there for two hours and only had time to explore the rooftop park; which left multiple floors, an outdoor area, a (fake) whale (seriously, that part can go), caves, and more that we just didn’t even get close to seeing.
From ten story slides, to cages on the wall that allow you to climb upside down on the ceiling, to tunnel slides and school buses hanging off the side of the roof, this was an incredible experience that our son didn’t want to leave. We literally had to pry his thick little fingers from the slide to get him out of there. Well, once I got un-lost from the caves.
Not sure what I’m talking about and worried that I had too many of Alice’s shrooms? Just peek our photo gallery and hopefully you’ll see what I mean.
Things to know about City Museum:
- Make this an all day excursion; there’s plenty to see and do to keep you busy and if you want to see it all, you’ll need more than an hour or two.
- It may be a good idea to bring knee pads. And elbow pads. And full body padding. The slides. Just trust me.
- If you’re planning on going down the bigger slides, don’t wear your wedding or engagement ring. They’ll make you take it off and you can’t carry a bag down the slide. This is hearsay, remember – I didn’t slide down them. But I felt like that’s info that women need to know so we can all make an informed decision, right?
- If you’re scared of heights, you should be the designated picture taker.
- Take someone with you, and possibly a headlamp, when exploring the cave area. Yes they are fake caves. But no, they’re not as easy to navigate as one would think. Trust me.
Best Restaurants in St. Louis
Salt + Smoke
One of the gentlemen at our hotel recommended Salt + Smoke for “the best barbecue in St. Louis, Missouri.” So we went.
We immediately walked in and I was filled with resentment. It smelled ahhhmazing, which could only mean that there would be nothing that I could eat (aka nothing gluten-free or dairy-free).
We sat down at our table and I took one look at the menu and noticed the key right away; every item that was dairy free or vegan, and every item that was gluten free was listed in plain sight. What’s more, you had the option of turning just about everything into dairy or gluten-free.
I exclaimed this to my husband, which our waitress happened to hear as she was walking by, and she stopped to say, “Excuse me, did you say you can’t have dairy or gluten?” I told her she heard correctly and she followed up with letting me know about all the sauces and which ones I could have vs. the only one that wouldn’t be compliant with my diet. Yeah.
She was THAT friendly and helpful. I was in BBQ heaven.
Aside from having plenty of options (which is a rarity in itself), the food was absolutely delicious. I had a bbq pulled pork sandwich on gluten-free bread with french fries fried in beef fat. Which, probably sounds crazy but was absolutely amazing. Paleo-ish and I’ll take it.
Another amazing place we visited was Bailey’s Range in downtown St. Louis. Specializing in burgers (plus another great place with gluten-free/dairy-free options), I had a delicious veggie burger with vegan mayo, fries (duh) and my only regret is that I didn’t leave enough room to try their in-house made ice cream (or vegan ice cream in my case).
Where to Stay in St. Louis
Hotel St. Louis Autograph Collection
Open for just under a year, the Hotel St. Louis will not disappoint. The vibe is high class boutique style hotel, with amazing food, and even better service. The staff treats you like family, and our son actually did try to adopt one of the doormen, Pila, to become a third grandpa for him. They met multiple times each day to talk about sports, work ethic, baseball, and just about everything else in between.
We had planned on getting a photo of the two of them together but we messed up our schedule and didn’t realize Pila was off work the day we were heading home. Our son was literally in tears for the first hour of our drive back home because he didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, which further adds to the fact that we need to go back soon (although we did exchange numbers so we can still check in and let him know how baseball season is going). (Updated to add that we have talked to Pila since the pandemic and he is doing well!)