St Louis, sitting on the banks of the muddy Mississippi may not be the prettiest city in the USA, what it lacks in looks makes up for in character. Scratch beneath the surface and discover plenty of things to see and do for families visiting St Louis with kids.
There’s allot of love for St Louis, Missouri, having lived in the “Show Me State” for three years here are the very best things to do in St Louis with kids:
1. Explore Forest Park in St Louis with kids
When we first arrived in St Louis, our relocation agent took us straight to Forest Park, indicated that it was a highlight of living in St Louis. She painted pictures of our little family sledding down Art Hill during the winter and going for bike rides around the huge park in the summer. We decided to live within walking distance to Forest Park in an area called Clayton and we spent our time doing just that.
I put this on the number one thing to do when in St Louis with kids as Forest Park not only offers wide open spaces and picturesque picnic spots, it is also home to St Louis Zoo, The St Louis Science Center, Missouri History Museum, and St Louis Art Museum (all free), The MUNY, an outdoor amphitheater, a great little play ground near the visitor center, and the Boathouse where you can stop in for a drink, a meal, feed the ducks or hire a paddle boat.
Forest park plays host to a lot of events each year such as The Great Forest Park Balloon Race. The night before the race is the Balloon Glow, where all the balloon handlers gather together and light up their hot air balloons for a couple of hours just after sunset, an awesome sigh where kids and kids at heart love it equally as much. If in St Louis with kids duirng the Balloon Glow, add it to your must-see.
It gets cold and it is dark in the park at the time of the glow, though there is funnel cakes, hot dogs, coffee and hot chocolate stands to warm up with.
2. Check out the free Zoo in St Louis with kids
A great zoo tailored for kiddies, and it’s free! That means you can drop in for a morning play and not have to worry about covering the whole zoo to get your money’s worth. They have some great exhibits including; he River’s Edge section. set up like a safari walk to catch African animals like elephants and lions. The indoor Monsanto Insectarium is a great for little kiddies when it gets chilly and wet and there are plenty of interactive displays, lots of bugs to see, and a butterfly house.
Our favorite was the Penguin and Puffin Coast, though you’ll want to pack something warm in order to view the Penguins very close up. The recent addition of Sea Lion Sound, provides immersive opportunities up close with the friendly sea lions and just for Aussies home sick for Kangaroos and Wallabies, they have them, too and quite a site to see them in the frost parts of winter.
Another highlight is the Zooline Railroad. It does cost $5 per person but kids under 2 are free. The train circles the zoo, making four stops along the way. Allow a half-hour for a full trip. If you have a stroller, you can park it near one of the stations.
A trip to St Louis with kids is not complete without a ride about the zoo’s majestic carousel, with intricately detailed hand crafted animals . For the first hour of opening, the carousel is free to ride. Otherwise it’s $3 per ride but kids 2 years old and under are free, affordable family fun in St Louis with kids.
The Children’s Zoo costs an extra $4 per person, though kids under 2 are free to enter. However, during the first hour of opening, it’s free also. It’s such a great area where you can play with goats, pet rabbits, and watch meerkats and otters play. There’s a great indoor and outdoor play area. Sometimes zoo staff will bring out animals like owls and eagles to educate the kiddies. Though I have noted the additional extra’s of the zoo, you’ll love the fact that there is plenty to do without having to pay a cent.
Throughout the year, the zoo hosts some fun events such as Boo at the Zoo for Halloween where the zoo opens at night and is transformed into a spooky wonderland, and Christmas activities complete with Santa during December.
3. Have hands on fun at The Magic House
Awonderful privately owned Children’s Museum catering to young kiddies inside a sprawling colonial style building with a variety of different interactive play areas.
Our favorite part was the Children’s Village, where you can serve pizza in restaurant, shop in the supermarket, deposit a check at a bank, go fishing in a pond or practice fixing cars with loads of areas, most memorable ones include the bubble room and the art studio, where you can create lovely art together. My son was also very keen on the music play area.
We became members of The Magic House and they offered exclusive events for members including an Easter Egg Hunt, Halloween trick-or-treating, and Santa workshops. Membership is worth spending the extra money supporting a great museum and handy as it offers entry and deals with the Association of Children’s Museums. This entitled us to free or discounted entry to other reciprocal museums in the USA such as Chicago Children’s Museum and Children’s Museum of Manhattan in New York City.
4. Get a sweet treat at Crown Candy Kitchen
Step back in time at Crown Candy Kitchen, an old fashioned soda fountain located in North St Louis. It’s famous for its delicious and very generous malts, ice cream sundaes, shakes and even its BLT sandwiches. There are often long lines waiting to get in during lunch times. However, it’s well worth the wait once you’re seated in an old timey booth complete with table top juke box.
If you’ve ever seen the show “Man Vs Food”, this is where the St Louis challenge took place, with the host being encouraged to drink 5 malts in 30 minutes. Needless to say, he failed. One is more than enough. Crown Candy also makes and sell its own confectionary.
This place is a little kid’s dream. The down side of this place is that it is located in a sketchy neighborhood; however, we felt perfectly safe wandering around within a few blocks of where Crown Candy is located.
5. Play at City Museum in St Louis with kids
Address: 750 N 16th St, St. Louis, MO 63103. Open: Mon – Fri 9am – 5pm. Sat 9am – midnight. Sun 11am – 5pm. Website: St Louis City Museum.
There are all sorts of weird and wonderful at St Louis City Museum across this expansive multi-level building including heaps of slides ranging from a cute dolphin slide to a 10-story spiral slide.
There are Alice in Wonderland-type tunnels, crazy caves, an awesome play area for little ones that includes a great ball pit and a mechanical riding cheetah, a series of skateboard ramps to run and slide down, a train (incidentally, run by a little person) that goes through a grungy tunnel and a quirky piano situated in a large open space free for kids to tickle its keys and spectators to gather.
*Some photos are courtesy of Joanna Abrams
The City Museum offers an art studio where kids can create a masterpiece out of recycled products. There’s also a circus with daily shows, and for the braver kids an outdoor jungle gym perched high on the rooftop, complete with a plane. Just a few of the curious and adventurous things for for kids to enjoy.
Located in downtown St Louis, City Museum is an urban wonderland; very cool and extraordinarily unique.
Essentially designed for adults to play and booze at night, during the day there are great kids programs for the youngest of kiddies to teens.
For families with younger children, I highly recommend visiting this place on a weekday. On a weekend, it is crazy busy with lots of older kids and teenagers out of school, the little ones may feel a bit overwhelmed. On a week day you can capture moments where you get the entire museum to yourself.
6. Get onboard at the Museum of Transportation
Although this is a transportation museum, with some great old war planes at the front and a indoor area filled with beautifully restored cars, the Museum of Transportation stands out with it’s huge collection of historic railway trains and carriage. Kids can climb aboard and explore many of the trains on display.
It always amazes me how a simple thing like ringing a train’s bell can cause so much joy in a child. Train enthusiasts volunteer their time to both restore trains and offer guided tours of some of the restored carriages. I would highly recommend coordinating your visit around a tour as it’s almost like stepping back in time.
Another great thing to do with young kids when visiting this museum is Creation Station. These are 1-hour sessions that run at set times each morning. Please check their site for session times before going. This is an indoor free play area with some great pretend play areas, train tables and toys. It also has a small craft section. I missed out on going at times as spaces are limited and guests are admitted on a first in, first served basis. Pan ahead and get there at least 15-20 minutes before opening time to secure a spot. It costs an extra $2 per person for ages 1 and older but is well worth it.
Entry costs are $8 per adult and $5 per child ages 3-12.
7. See dogs leap at Purina Farms
Purina Farm is a 45-minute drive from downtown St Louis but well worth the trip. It’s so much fun and completely free! A way of St Louis ‘s very own pet food supplier Purina gives back to the community and a worthy trip out when in St Louis with kids.
As families enter there are a ew exhibits and interactive displays describing the history of Purina as well as a theatre which is not all that exciting. However, the rest makes up for it. The Animal Barn is pristine and showcases a variety of very happy barn animals.
In the barn, kids can pet fat bunnies, cute piglets and baby chicks with a adorable kids play area. There’s also regular cow-milking demonstrations where guests can volunteer to milk a cow. As you exit the barn there are lawns and manicured gardens areas to run around as well as ponds with large koi and viewing pastures with ducks and geese. The highlight, however, is the dog arena, where you can watch trained rescue dogs perform all sorts of crazy tricks. Take a seat in the shaded grandstand to watch dogs leaping off ramps to effortless catch flying frisbees ending with a big splash in the beautiful pool.
Next to the dog arena is the Pet Center, home to playful rescue dogs and cats and where you can catch the stars of the show acrobatic show. Also offered is a tractor pulled wagon ride through the expansive property, where you can see glimpse other trainers practicing with their dogs in the paddocks and lawns.
The only down side is that you can’t bring your own food in to have a picnic. However, there is an affordable snack bar on site.
Reservations to Purina Farms
Reservations are recommended when visiting Purina Farms in St Louis with kids, allowing the Visitor Center to stagger the arrival times for a more enjoyable experience, phone 314-982-3232 or 888-688-PETS (7387), any time, Monday-Friday from 9:30AM – 3:30PM CST to make a booking.
Purina Farms Admission and Open Hours
Purina farm is open from Mid-March to Mid-November.
Tues – Sun 9:30 am – 3:30pm in the Spring and Fall. Wed – Sun 9:30am – 3:30pm during the summer from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
8. Chase butterflies at the Butterfly House
Located approximately 25 minutes away from downtown St Louis in Chesterfield, The Butterfly House in Faust Park was a favorite place to play with our little friends. Cost is $6 per adult, $4 for kids 3-12 and free for children 2. MOBOT members are free.
*Butterfly and Carousel photos are courtesy of Sara Wilson Photography
It’s a great little glass house with winding tracks through jungle vegetation, idea for young kids to explore, and there are so many beautiful butterfly species flying all around. If you are lucky, one may land on you! It gets warm so during the cooler months, dress in layers, otherwise you will boil.
Faust Park itself is a wonderful place to play, with nice areas for toddlers. After chasing butterflies, we would head to a very beautiful indoor carousel where a ride costs $1 each and kids under 12 months were free. For more information on time and opening house please check the Butterfly House website here.
9. Walk The Loop for Blueberry Hill & Fitz’s
Located in University City, the Loop on Delmar Boulevard is a cool little neighborhood, home to vintage clothing stores, an old timey Theatre (Tivoli Theatre), restaurants, cafes, record stores and the iconic Blueberry Hill, and Fitz’s.
Fitz’s is a fun, family-friendly place to hang out for some American fare like burgers and fries and their famous Root Beer float, which is offered in other yummy flavours as well. They make and bottle the soda on the premises and the servings are very generous.
For a little nostalgia, Blueberry Hill is part restaurant and part music club, with St Louis’s rock n roll icon, Chuck Berry, still playing there every third Wednesday of the month. During they day, pop into Blueberry Hill for some diner-style food in a relaxed atmosphere. There are also some arcade games to keep the little ones entertained.
10. Tour Annehuser Busch Brewery (Budweiser Brewery)
Beer and kids don’t often go hand-in-hand, however, St Louis breweries are very family-friendly. The free guided Annehuser Busch Brewery tour is a great thing to do with kids in tow. As far as breweries go, this one is historic and beautiful to explore.
The brewery is home to a few resident Clydesdale horses and a dalmatian, which in the old days, was used to look out for beer thieves on the backs of delivery wagons. The stables themselves are very pretty with big brass chandeliers and a pristine wagon, providing a perfect photo op.
The walking tour steps you through the entire bottling process and involves being indoors and outdoors. I could easily navigate the tour with a pram. The part where you view the mashing room requires some stair climbing and the pram to be parked to the side. However, the guide usually pulls you aside along with elderly guests so that you can take the lift up. Also, make sure you bring some layers for the little ones as it gets a bit chilly in the area with the enormous beer vats.
At the end of the tour, rather than walking all the way back to the entry, there are trolley cars that take you to the Hospitality Room for two free beers (or soft drink) and pretzels. It’s a little tricky lifting the pram up and squeezing down the narrow aisle so a little help is required. The guide is usually on top of this though and allows you to hop on first or last.
For those not so interested in how beer is made, after viewing the Clydesdales at the start of the tour you can opt to sit in the hospitality room until the tour finishes and get your free beers straight away.
Annehuser Busch Brewery tour details
The tour is approximately one hour long, with additional time allotted at the end for tasting two free beers in the Hospitality room.
Open tours leave frequently during the following hours:
Jun-Aug, Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 11:30am – 5pm
Sep-Feb, Mon-Sat 10am-4pm, Sun 11:30am – 4pm
For upcoming events and directions to the brewery please visit Budweiser Tours.
Annehuser Open Hours:
Open Sept – May: Mon – Sat: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm and Sun: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm. Open Jun – Aug: Mon – Thur: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Fri – Sat: 9:00 am – 7:00 pm and Sun: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm.
Closed: Public Holidays.
11. Head up the Gateway Arch
Address: 100 Washington Ave, St. Louis, MO 63102. Open: Summer Daily, 8am – 10pm. Winter Daily, 9am – 6pm.Open: Website: Gateway Arch.
Just as you can’t visit Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower, the same goes for St Louis’s icon, the Gateway Arch, a fun experience when in St Louis with kids. Around the grounds of the Arch are manicured green gardens and lawns and a couple of pretty ponds. It’s rather stunning in the spring and spectacular during the fall where the great big trees are lit up with gold and amber leaves. Along the river front, visitors can take in the fast moving Mississippi River, mind the kids as the current in strong and the barrier is not secure.
Having come this far, you might as well take a trip up the Arch. Bear in mind that it can be quite the wait to take trip up with long queue just to get into the lobby through security.
Tickets to St Louis arch either online or at The Old Courthouse
Tickets are now available online or at the Old Courthouse at 11 N. 4th Street and only permitted past security with a timed ticket. Only head to the base of the Arch when it’s your approximate time to go up as there is not allot to do now that the Museum of Westward Expansion is closed for major renovations. Instead most of the old exhibits will be rotated as galleries in the Old Court House until the new modern museum opens (date to be announced).
If you plan to take kids, you can reserve a “departure time” online. Try to go during off-peak times as queues are longer during weekends, school holidays, and lunch times. You can break the wait up with a walk around the foyer although.
A time filler and still open to the public is the Monument to the Dream” – The Making of the Gateway Arch, and the “Lewis and Clark: Great Journey West”, the movie documentary runs for 30 and 45 minutes. They are a bit of a yawn; young kids aren’t really into them and most adults also. However, for history buffs, they are a good source of background information in order to get the full effect of the Arch and it’s feats of engineering excellence, a great introduction for those like me lacking in local American history.
What to expect of the tram ride up The Arch
As you inch closer to the tram for at trip up either arcs of the arch, there are interesting exhibits and interactive displays to pass the time away, read about the history of St Louis and the Gateway Arch. Rather interesting and well put together, visitors get an insight into St Louis, once a American powerhouse it showcases St Louis as a huge sprawling city, which grew in strengths during the Industrial Revolution and how the population exploded over this time.
Once closer boarding passes are handed out to allocate a specific pod where you wait by the designated door. A short video is played overhead, which takes your mind off waiting some more. There’s not a lot of space for kids to do much and the video isn’t that entertaining for them, so pack some snacks or other entertainment to keep them occupied.
It’s a short (approximately 15 minute) ride up in a futuristic pod that seats 6. The assistants didn’t overpack the carriages and gave our group of 4 the entire pod, although for claustrophobic, even with a little space it might be worth a miss.
The tram is pulled up along the inside of the Arch, so there is no real view. If the kids haven’t had a melt down waiting to get on, it’s a quite a fun experience even without a view. Once you arrive, in the middle of the narrow archway are a small of small windows located on either side with views either back towards the city or out over the Mississippi towards Illinois. It’s this vantage point that make the entire trip worthwhile.
To get back to the bottom, there is some further waiting, though not nearly as long as the one at the bottom. Overall, a great experience and you get bragging rights every time the Arch pops up on the TV to say you’ve been in and up it.
Tips for St Louis Gateway Arch with kids
- If you purchase your tickets online here you get free parking. Gateway Arch tickets online.
- If you photograph the Arch from the right angle, you can also frame the Old Courthouse in the background, another icon of the city.
12. Cheer on ‘The Cards’ at Busch Stadium
St Louisans are crazy mad for their St Louis Cardinals. If in town during baseball season, try to make it to a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium, located right in downtown St Louis.
This picturesque stadium, with the Gateway Arch as its backdrop, is an institution for most St Louis families. Children of all ages are welcome at the baseball stadium where the atmosphere is great!
Visitors unfamiliar with baseball, the game is long and there seems to be loads of them. However, they’re not that hard to follow and easy to decipher and enjoy. Younger kids seem to soak up the noise, lights and music at the baseball game whilst older kids can break up the games between fast food snacks, music and entertainment.
Fredbird, the mascot, makes a few appearances and should the kids start getting a bit of itchy feet from sitting around, you can break this up with a run around the stadium stands where friendly have smiles forthcoming.
For more information check out St Louis Cardinals website.
13. Get geeky at St Louis Science Center
Plenty of fun things to do at the St Louis Science Center in St Louis with kids,with a well organised and varied science museum. Although there is some optional extras at a small cost, most of the areas are free and will keep the kiddies occupied all day.
Free Parking at St Louis Science Center
Park on the Planetarium side, it’s free. Alternatively around Forest Park and walk to the Science Center.
The Planetarium side is a great area to start your tour of the Science Center with some cool space and plane exhibits before walking over the Skybridge, which links the planetarium to the Science Center. The bridge is made of glass and the floors have thick and safe window areas so kids can peer down at the cars zipping through the I-64 below. Along this bridge are radar guns for kiddies to use to clock most of the speeding cars passing by.
The Science Center spreads across several floors with geeky, interactive science fun. As you enter from the walk bridge, there are displays of towers and bridges, trains and cranes to play with and, a favorite for kids, the large foam arch blocks to build your very own Gateway Arch.
Among the favorite areas were Cyberville, complete with computer games and lots of buttons to press. There’s also the dinosaurs exhibit on the lower level, with plenty of space to run around and a dinosaur book nook for kids resting time. For the bigger kids, The Life Science Lab has some great interactive displays such as microscopes for viewing flora and fauna. There’s also an area separated by glass to view an actual lab where scientists perform research with several tanks of fish and salamanders.
Other highlights include a big ball contraption, where large balls run around a metal track that winds up and down the foyer and across several levels of the building. There’s also the OmniMax theater, featuring different 3D shows, and staff members perform science talk ands experiments at certain times throughout the day. The Science Center rotates its OmniMax shows, exhibits and activities regularly.
For an extra $3.50 per person, the Discovery Room is worth the small fee. It’s great for young children, offering lots of interactive exhibits designed for small kids with small attention spans. There are magnets, all sorts of toys, water play, dress ups and musical instruments, to name a few. The 45-minute session flies by and though parents are required, the kids are off imagining, learning and exploring. Spaces are limited and always get sold out quickly, arrive early so not to miss out.
Planetarium in St Louis with kids
The Planetarium is also a worthwhile trip when in St Louis with kids, offering great shows, lasting 25 minutes, where you can grab a mat (supplied) and lie out under the stars.
On a weekday during early mornings, it’s often quiet and you can almost get the whole Planetarium to yourself. Young kids love staring up and as it’s a short show it suits their attention span. Living in the southern hemisphere, we see different constellations, so it was an extra bonus to check out the night sky, including the North Star, which we Aussies have never seen.
It does cost a little extra – adults $5 and kids are $4. However it’s free after 3pm on weekdays and 4pm on weekends.
14. Enjoy a frozen custard at Ted Drewes
Winter or summer, you can’t visit St Louis with kids without a Ted Drewes frozen custard. Unsure what the technical difference is between Frozen Custard and Ice-cream, perhaps egg? The taste is creamier and the texture is smoother.
Ted Drewes also has a range of different deserts including sundaes, milk shakes and their famous frozen concrete, which is so dense you can tip it upside down and it stays in its place.
During St Louis’s hot humid summers, there are always long lines here, all part of the vibe and lines move quickly. It’s a great experience lining up with the locals (and tourists alike), selecting from the long list of flavors and enjoying a tasty treat by the roadside.
15. Wander the gardens at MOBOT
Kids can dash through beautiful seasonal gardens at Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBOT) a quiet, serene and wonderful place to visit in St Louis with kids and you don’t have to be a green thumb to appreciate it.
Apart from showcasing different types of gardens, there is plenty on offer for kids. A stroller would come in handy to cover the distances between each section of the garden. Our favorite was the Climatron, especially during the winter months. It’s a glass dome that automatically transports you to a tropical jungle complete with waterfall, a tank full of fish, and lots of winding paths that go under cliffs and through tunnels. Another favorite was the Japanese Garden, located at the far end of the garden where kids can feed the big beautiful Koi in the large pond.
There’s also a little area good for toddlers near the William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening. It’s a nice spot for a picnic, and although not specifically a kid play area, there’s a fountain perfect for wee ones to have a splash next to some friendly raccoon statues.
MOBOT often has special events throughout the year where they take the garden to another level. They have had huge dinosaur displays throughout the garden, a spectacular Chinese lantern festival, a wonderful Christmas train display, and music festivals at dusk.
Must-see Children’s Garden in St Louis with kids
Just for kids, the Children’s Garden is great area for play. There is a small wet play area with sprinklers, lily pads that squirt water when you jump on them, and water fountains. It also has a tree house complete with ropes, obstacles, slides, bridges and a fort to climb. There’s a Midwest prairie village complete with general store, where kids can play with fruits, vegetables and the ever popular broom for sweeping up. Every so often there are staff members teaching kids about gardening and random activities like dressing up as a bumble bee or face painting.
The Children’s Garden is open from April to November and is free for kids 2 and under and $5 per child ages 3-12. Accompanying adults are free. On Saturdays it’s free to enter from 9am – 12 noon for St Louis / County residents.
Must-do MOBOT Tram in St Louis with kids
Another great thing to do at MOBOT is the tram, which offers a guided tour around the gardens. You can ask to fold up the pram so you can take it with you. By becoming a MOBOT member, you are allowed unlimited free entry for you and a friend. If you are a MOBOT member, you get a few free tickets on the tram as well. One of the things I used to do was fold up the pram. Stop at the far end of the garden to visit the Japanese Garden with the stroller, then either walk back or catch the returning tram back to the entry.
Cost of trams is $4 a ride, free for kids under the age of 3 on a parents lap.
Cost of MOBOT in St Louis with kids
A day out at MOBOT is fun and affordable. Adults are $8 or $5 for St Louis / County residents.
Kids 13 and under are free. If you plan on going throughout the year, the membership is well worth the cost. The benefits include free entry for two adults (so you can take a friend) and all kids under 13. There are also exclusive member events and discounted admission to the Children’s Garden (or free on Tuesdays) and a family ride on the tram. The lowest membership level starts at $65. MOBOT.
16. See all the animals at Grants Farm
Originally the estate of the Busch family of the Annehuser-Busch Budweiser brewing fame, this huge property is now opened to the public with a large menagerie of exotic animals. Located 12 miles from downtown St Louis (approximately 20 minute drive), Grants farm is a great day out for families and admission is free. If you choose to drive and park in the car park (which most do), it’s a small fee of $12 per car.
To see Grants Farm’s main attractions, you must first board a tram near the gift shop entry. Prams and strollers are welcome, but must be folded and an attendant stows it away, to be picked up at the end of the tram ride.
A must do when in St Louis with kids starting with the welcome tram ride, where the guided tour takes you through a large part of the property, passing a historic log cabin by a lake built by Ulysses S. Grant, a president that farmed the property back in 1856. The tram tour meanders through the Deer Park, where you can spot buffalo, bison, deer, elk, llamas and zebras, just to name a few. The tram then drops you off near the Tier Garten right by the pygmy goats, where you can purchase some bottles of milk to feed these adorable mammal.
Nearby is the Amphitheatre, where daily shows are offered, showcasing a variety of animals performing some neat tricks to a well rehearsed script. From there, take a stroll around the many animal attractions including: the well looked after Budweiser Clydesdales, which call Grants farm home; exotic birds like toucans and parrots; a great little section of rescued flightless bald eagles and camels with one hump and two, that you can feed. Grants Farm is also home to elephants where an educational show runs at select times throughout the day.
Coordinate your day so you don’t miss out on a show; a brochure is handed out as you disembark the tram, highlighting showtimes. Another activity for the kids is the carousel ride at a cost of $2 per person. Once you have seen enough of the animals, head over to the Bauernhof, where they offer you two generous samples of Budweiser beers of your choice.
The courtyard is a great area to enjoy a packed lunch or grab a bratwurst from the German- inspired eatery. Also around here are some beautiful stables and an impressive collection of carriages owned by the Busch family. The tram pick up point is also located here to exit the property.
Grants Farm opening hours
Saturday: 9:00 am – 3:30 pm
Sunday: 9:30 am – 3:30 pm
Tues – Sat: 9:00 am – 3:30 pm
Sun: 9:30 am – 3:30 pm
Friday: 9:30 am – 2:30 pm
Saturday and Sunday: 9:30 am – 3:30 pm
Memorial Day: May 30 & Fourth of July – July 4, 9:00 am – 3:30 pm.
Labor Day September 2: 9:00 am – 3:30 pm.
Halloween: October 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 23, 27, 28, 29, 30: 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Closed Mondays and on August 29, 30, 31 & September 1.
17. Splash at City Garden
A cool urban space right In the heart of downtown St Louis, the City Garden presents a great photo opportunity with the St Louis skyline and Arch in the background. It features some weird and wonderful sculptures and modern art. On a hot summer’s day, the kids can run through the spray plaza or wade in the water fountains (one is chlorinated for this specific reason). There are also some grassy areas under trees for a picnic lunch. Good free fun in St Louis with kids and something the locals love doing as much as visitors.
We used to make a day out of it and catch the train in, which was an adventure in itself for young ones. Otherwise, remember to bring coins for 2-hour meter parking, available around the streets surrounding the park. For further details on where to park, click here.
18. Carl’s Drive In
Address: 9033 Manchester Rd, Brentwood, MO 63144. Open: Tues – Sat 11am – 8pm.
Carl’s Drive In is a humble little roadside diner located on route 66, which seems as though it’s frozen in the 1960’s. It offers some tasty burgers at affordable prices. It’s a tight squeeze into the busy diner. The open kitchen is located in the middle, with a few rows of stools along the counter on each side.
I wouldn’t recommend bringing in a pram. However people are in and out quite quickly, with many standing just waiting for orders to go; so a bar stool frees up in a small amount of time. Whilst you wait you get to see staff members busily patting down and flipping burgers and making milkshakes; my son was kept occupied by all the action.
The burgers are famous for their thin crispy patty. They are therefore very thin and small, so ordering a double or even two for yourself is not as gluttonous as it sounds. Whilst you’re there, try their homemade root beer, poured into a frosty mug. It’s very delicious!
19. Chill at Art Hill in St Louis with kids
The hill in front of the St Louis Art Museum in Forest Park is known as Art Hill. A statue of King Louis IX sits atop the hill and is a picture perfect spot to look down over the lawn to the Grand Basin. It’s the place to be all year round.
In winter, as soon as the first snow falls, you can bet there will be a huge crowd sledding down Art Hill. In the spring, it’s perfect for the kiddies to play on the lovely green lawns. In the summer, bring some popcorn and a picnic rug to enjoy the free movies under the stars that are shown on the hill.
We’ve fond memories of Art Hill in the autumn, perfect weather and ideal time to goto St Louis with kids where there’s the annual St Louis Symphony Orchestra’s, a free concert on Art Hill. With friends we brought picnic rugs and plates to share and the kids sat together and listened, ate, and ran around together. Capping off a perfect evening was a show of fireworks; which some kids loved and others not so much.
There is also the St Louis Art Museum a good spot to escape the heat of the St Louis summer or the cold of the winter with impressive collections housed in a grand building where kids love to wander the wide stone corridors. Entry is free.
Sledding photo courtesy of henskechristine from Flickr
20. Go fruit farm picking Missouri style
For me, going apple picking was such a novelty where us Aussie transplants got to experience a quintessential Mid-West American childhood activity, whilst we do have fruit picking at home, there’s nothing quite like Apple and Pumpkin picking Missouri style.
Apple Picking in St Louis with kids
There’s more to going apple picking than just picking apples from tree with farms are set up with loads of good wholesome fun for kids. There are kids playgrounds, where they can ride on tractors and pretend to be a farmer, climb over hale bales and pull little wagons around the farm. Some have a farmyard petting area where you can meet all sorts of barnyard animals, some offer rides on ponies, alpacas, and camels.
With most farms, there’s often a ride on a hay wagon to the orchard and a decent amount of time in the orchards to pick a selection of different apples. There’s also that little joy of seeing your child proudly eating the apple he picked straight off the tree which is free and encouraged.
Pumpkin Picking in St Louis with kids
Pumpkin picking is just as fun and coincides with the massive Halloween celebrations around the fall. There are great pumpkin patches all over the St Louis area and locals have their own favourites. Besides picking the best pumpkin to carve the perfect Jack-o-Lantern, there’s loads of fun things to do at a pumpkin patch. The farm gets transformed into a fun spooky playground, with great big corn mazes, hay rides, huge mountains of pumpkins and elaborate pumpkin structures. There are large play areas made of hay bales such as pirate ships and forts, not to mention a farm animals, petting zoos, and animal rides. There’s also a wide variety of local farm produce on sale such as seasonal fruits and vegetables, apple butter and spiced cider.
I’m sure these types of farms are throughout the USA and the experience is not unique to St Louis, MO. Perhaps it’s not a must-do for St Louis if visiting as an out of towner. For international visitors or city slickers it’s a wonderful thing to do in St Louis with kids.
Great farms for apple and pumkin picking in St Louis with kids
Here are some of the many farms we checked out in St Louis with kids and stand out:
- Eckerts has several locations and is one of the larger operations. They have all sorts of events throughout the year from strawberry and apple picking to Halloween pumpkin patches and cut your own Christmas trees.
- Mills Apple Farm is a great little apple orchard for apple picking season.
- Thies Farm. The Pumpkin Land is amazing.
- Rombach Farms is another great pumpkin patch
There are also churches and small community pumpkin patches that are set up just for Halloween, which are lots of fun on a smaller scale.
21. Paddle-wheel boat ride down the Mississippi
If you are visiting the Arch in St Louis with kids, make a day of it downtown and go for a cruise along the Mississippi in a replica paddle boat.
Although it’s exceptionally touristy, the kids won’t know the difference and it’s a fun, enjoyable and affordable ride down the famous river. The narrated tour on Tom Sawyer or Becky Thatcher lasts for an hour, leaving from the Arch and traveling downstream and back again.
You can sit up on the top deck in the open air or there’s also an indoor seating area and plenty of space for kids to walk back and forth. The major downer is that there really isn’t much to see, although the guide points out some interesting facts along the way such as flood points along the river, the source of water and all the places the river flows through as well as pointing out landmarks along the way.
My lasting memory, on the way back, happened just past the Casino where there were two homeless people camping along the banks, giving us a wave as we rolled past. If you purchase a ticket to the top of the Arch, you can combine it with a cruise and get it discounted costing around $20 combined. Check out Gateway Arch River Cruises for more information.
22. Six Flags
St Louis has its very own Six Flags, an amusement park located 30 miles west (approx 45 minute drive) of downtown St Louis. It’s quite large with enough thrills and spills for kids to spend a busy day out, with enough to do for even the youngest of kids.
Most of the rides for younger kids are located in the Bugs Bunny National Park area. Though some rides that have height restrictions (42” and above, suitable for ages 3 plus) there are many kids rides here that have no height restrictions, requiring an accompanying adult. Our favourite was the Elmer Fudd Weather Balloons. Another option for the 2 and under crowd is the Ferris wheel, which gives a great view of the whole park.
*Photos of ridescourtesy of Six Flags St Louis
Once tired of rides, the Huricanne Harbor water park is also worth a visit on a hot humid St Louis summer’s day. For the little ones, there’s Hurricane Bay, a wave pool area and the closest thing you will get to a beach in St Louis. Kiddies can wade around the edges and the older kids can splash in the friendly waves.
There’s also Hooks Lagoon, a large wet playground filled with interactive water features, water pistols, climbing platforms and slides (with height restrictions). Perched atop is a large bucket that fills up and tumbles down after it is full. For the little ones, the best option is to splash around in the fountains and the shallow wading pool around the play structure. Another more peaceful option is a lazy river where you can drift along in a raft.
I only put this towards the end of the list as you are limited to what rides you can go on with very small children ages 0-2. However, kids under 2 are free of charge, though full price admission applies to adults and currently costs $54.99. If you have older kids and teens this is a no brainer, they’ll love it.
There are, however, discounts if you purchase them at local grocery stores such as Dierbergs or Schnucks, or you can buy a season pass for $74.99 to get more bang out of your buck.
Take note also that there aren’t many shaded areas. On a hot humid summer day all the parents with small kids in a pram ended up where I was, under the landscaped green canopy by the Thunder River ride. There’s also some air-conditioned respite in the family arcade near the 1904 Worlds Fair section. St Louis can get stifling hot!
23. Join in the fun at Missouri History Museum
Address: 5700 Lindell Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63112. Open: Mon, Wed – Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Website: Missouri History Museum.
The Missouri History Museum seems an unlikely place for young kids to play, however there are lots of exhibits that are free and interactive. For the older set there are loads of fun in the program of activities. For the very young even though they may not grasp the concepts, the museum is great for a walk and you might even pick up some interesting facts about the history of Missouri and St Louis as you follow after your little one.
There is quite a bit of information available to absorb at the museum as St Louis has a rich history, and from an Aussie with very little American history knowledge, it was a touchstone in understanding why St Louis is the way it is today. It helped me understand why there’s a neighborhood in St Louis called Layfayette Square that resembles a French village and what the big deal was about the 1905 Worlds Fair. Other nuggets of interesting facts include why St Louis remains a racially segregated city with the majority of white people living south of Delmar Boulevard, visit to find out.
The main reason why Missouri History Museum is one of the best things to do in St Louis with kids are the free organised kid events with free children’s concerts, plays and movies. They also ran special programs with storytelling and interactive crafts. During the summer, there were Twilight Tuesdays events, where people brought a picnic rug or chairs to sit by the front lawn to listen to live music and enjoy the sensational weather. For more information on kids’ events, current exhibits or activities
Open Daily 10am–4pm, the the History Clubhouse is an ongoing exhibit for kids 8 years under to explore, discover, and play in some historical St. Louis places.Kids can walk among the buildings of downtown St. Louis, steer a steamboat on the Mississippi River, prepare food in the ancient city of Cahokia, sell ice cream at the 1904 World’s Fair, and learn history along the way.
History Clubhouse tickets from the Information Desk. All visitors must get FREE tickets for a one-hour session in the History Clubhouse. Tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 10am each day.
24. Get arty at the Contemporary Art Museum
Address: 3750 Washington Blvd. St. Louis, MO 63108. Open: Wed–Sun 10am – 5pm, Thu & Fri 10am – 8pm. Website: CAM.
Apart from large open spaces for kids to explore and weird and wonderful modern art pieces, the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) hosts free kids events with storytelling and a chance to make a piece of art and take it home. Worth a drop in when in St Louis with kids with fun activities run by wonderful staff.
The free kid programs are tailored for different age groups. From stroller tours for infants, great morning programs for kids aged 2 -5 offered on the first Wednesday of the month to family day for the older kids aged 3 – 15. For more information check out Contemporary Art Museum St Louis here.
25. Have fun in the sun at Hermann
Hermann is a picture perfect town with undulating hills nestled along the banks the Missouri River and popular due to its wineries and it’s rich German heritage. The place resembles a German village along the Rhine and a great day out when in St Louis with kids.
A 90-minute drive from downtown or you can catch a train, which will take approximately 95 minutes. You could even spend a night in one of the many quaint inns and Gasthaus’s (guest houses) offering bed and breakfast.
Kids will love the wide open spaces for a stroll and the wineries are all very family-friendly, offering a place where you can buy a bottle and roll out a picnic rug for lunch. Some vineyards also have a deli on site for your cheese and crackers supplies.
There are many festivals held in Hermann throughout the year. However, the standout and the one which attracts all sorts of different groups of people is Oktoberfest, which runs for 4 weeks during October, when the weather is superb and the trees are turning colours of red and gold.
There are German brass bands playing and lots of inspired activities and events. There’s also plenty of German fair to be had, such as beer and bratwurst, pork knuckle, potatoes and sauerkraut. Oktoberfest does attract large crowds and there are lots of young kids brown bagging bottles of wine. However. if you arrive early enough there are many picturesque picnic spots.
Be sure to check back as I will be updating and editing this list. Have you found any gems in St Louis worthy of this list? Have I missed something out? Please comment below.