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The second largest city in the state of Missouri, St. Louis is home to the iconic 630ft Gateway Arch, built during the 1960s and now stands proud on the city's skyline.
With vibrant museums, beautiful gardens and parks and some of the best BBQ you'll take, it's no wonder St. Louis is a great place to visit with the family, which is why we're excited to share with you our St. Louis City Guide featuring our "Top 9 Family Attractions" , which are just the beginning when it comes to what you can do in this exciting city!
So make sure check out our entire St. Louis City Guide we've carefully put together especially for you, so you know can plan your perfect family day out in this beautiful Missouri city!
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Image Credit: Kawshar Ahmed on Unsplash
In this St. Louis City Guide, we're excited to share with you our top 9 things to do with kids in the city, plus we also include some fun experiences to bring out the child in all!
We know that budgets are often a consideration when you are traveling as a family, so also in this St. Louis City Guide we share some great FREE things to do with the family and kids that won't break that budget!
Getting around St. Louis without a car is really simple, so we also offer up tips on how to navigate the city easily, plus we share some really fun facts about St. Louis that you can impress your friends with!
If you'd like to explore further out of the city, our St. Louis City Guide shares one of our favorite day trips, plus can you guess what famous faces were born right in the city?
So whether this is your first trip saying "Yes, take me to St. Louis"! or maybe you have lived in the city your whole life but never explored and you wonder "What is there is to do near me in St. Louis?", then keep reading because we have the top 9 things to do in St. Louis with kids...and so much more!
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Named after king Louis IX of France by French fur traders who founded the city in 1764, the history of St. Louis is vast and rich. Prior to the first recorded European exploration in 1673, the area was once the center of Native American Mississippian culture which saw the creation of a number of temples as well as residential earthwork mounds either side of the Mighty Mississippi.
These mounds, long ago destroyed as the city was developed, earned the city the nickname "Mound City".
In 1678, the city was claimed for France as part of Louisiana, with European settlements following a few years later.
In 1764 following the French defeat in the Seven Years War, the seeds of a city were founded however no local government recognized the city. In 1803, the city was sold by the French to the USA as part of the Louisiana Purchase, and famously marked the starting point of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
In 1817 the first steamboats arrived in the city, and in 1822 St. Louis as a city was incorporated. German and Irish immigrants began to arrive in the 1840s, and over a 10 year period the population more than tripled.
1904 saw the city host the famous World's Fair, and also made history as the first non-European city to host the Olympics. Industrialization saw a boom in the city's economy, and today St. Louis is a thriving, exciting multicultural city perfect for a family day out!
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St. Louis is a city with so much to offer - history, nature, iconic landmarks and museums, all proudly on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River. Where will you even start your day!?
How about a visit to the unmissable Gateway Arch, standing proudly from the skyline?
It might be nature that your family loves, and in that case you should head to places such as Citygarden or the Missouri Botanical Garden which are are teeming with natural wonders!
Love wildlife? St. Louis Zoo has you covered, or venture out to more unique wildlife destinations such as the Endangered Wolf Center.
For those who can't get enough of museums, St. Louis is STILL the place for you! From the classic Jefferson Barracks Telephone Museum to the impressive City Museum, and of course the Field House Museum, you certainly will be spoilt for choice.
With so many fun things to do in St. Louis with the family, you'll soon have that family itinerary filling up! So kids, which attraction will you visit first?
Image Credit: Kirk Thornton on Unsplash
If you won't have a car dring your time in St. Louis, don't worry! There are options for you.
Recently celebrating 60 years in service, Metro Transit has been called the backbone of St. Louis and you'll realise why when you experience MetroLink, considered one of the best light rail transit systems in the entire country. MetroLink allows you to travel between a number of St. Louis area attractions including Busch Stadium, Forest Park, Union Station, and even the Gateway Arch.
MetroLink operates from 4am to 1am during the week as well as on weekends, so they have you covered!
In addition to MetroLink, you'll also find over 70 routes with MetroBus, offering even more transport options for your family!
As with any big city, grabbing rides with Uber or Lyft and the like are also super easy and readily available.
The Gateway Arch is an icon of the St. Louis skyline, standing proud at 630ft tall. It happens to not only be Missouri's tallest accessible building, but also the world's tallest arch! The Gateway Arch was built as a monument celebrating the expansion to the west of the United States, leading to its very fitting nickname "The Gateway to the West"
Designed by a Finnish-American architect in 1947, it is located on the west bank of the Mississippi River, and on the very spot the city of St. Louis was founded back in 1764. Today, you can actually visit inside the arch, with an observation deck offering impressive views of the whole city! You can also find a visitor center and museum too, and even enjoy a river cruise to take in a whole new perspective from the Mighty Mississippi!
Image Credit: Photo by Intricate Explorer on Unsplash
Our Top 9 Fun Things To Do With The Kids In St. Louis
1Missouri Botanical Garden
Also known as Shaw's Garden, the Missouri Botanical Garden is a wonderful way to spend the day in nature. In fact, the herbarium alone is home to over 6.6 million specimens, making it the second largest in North Amercia (only behind the New York Botanical Garden!)
Founded back in 1859, today the Missouri Botanical Garden offers 79 stunning acres of displays, including an amazing 14-acre Japanese strolling garden, as well as beautiful historic architecture, plus one of the world's largest collections of rare and endangered flora!
Image Credit: Missouri Botanical Garden
St. Louis is a fascinating city, and at the City Museum you can learn all abouit it's rich history! Housed in the former International Shoe building, the museum is filled with exhibits that make it an all-ages architectural playground!
It's a fun place for kids as it's an ever-evolving, always-thrilling, artist-built playground with installations kids can climb up, spin around, slide down, and crawl under! They also have events across the year which are always great fun to participate in, so head on over on your next family day out and don't miss that Ferris Wheel!
Image Credit: City Museum
Located within the stunning 426-acre Jefferson Barracks Historic District (which fun fact was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972), the Jefferson Barracks Telephone Museum is a fascinating place for the family to visit!
This self-guided, accessible for all history museum has a number of hands-on, educational and fun displays which are great for the family to explore in your own time. As well as its extensive collection of telephones which were manufactured from the late 1800s through 2012, the Jefferson Barracks Telephone Museum also contains actual operator switchboards from the 1920s and 1960s, Military telephones from WWI through the Gulf War, novelty phones and so much more! A great history lesson for all.
Image Credit: JBTelMuseum
Walk through history at the Field House Museum! A designated a National Historic Landmark back in 2007, the museum itself was actually opened in 1936 as the first historic house museum in St. Louis! How cool is that!? The Museum is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has also been named a City of St. Louis Landmark. But what is the Field House Museum?
This house was Eugene Field’s boyhood home, and during his time at the home his father Roswell M. Field actually served as the Attorney who took Dred Scott’s freedom suit into the Federal Courts. This led to the infamous Supreme Court decision in Scott v. Sandford. This exhibits depict life during the 19th century, and they also host fun events throughout the year you might not want to miss!
Image Credit: Field House Museum
Since it's opening back in 1979, the Magic House St Louis Children's Museum has engaged children in fun, hands-on learning experiences that encourage experimentation, along with creativity plus the development of problem-solving skills, all within a place of beauty, wonder, joy and magic! Yes, it's true!
It's a museum that is MADE for kids, allowing them to spark their imaginations and well, just be kids! The museum features hundreds of interactive exhibits designed to pique curiosity, and foster a lifelong love of learning, as well as promote important 21st-century skills such as creativity, critical thinking and collaboration.
Image Credit: The Magic House
Blues music lives at the National Blues Museum in downtown St. Louis! Thsi iconic museum explores the history and impact of Blues music, and celebrates the genre as the foundation of all modern American music!
The museum is a great way for the whole family to learn about the legacy of Blues, all in an entertaining environment that features high-impact technology-driven experiences, plus a state-of-the-art theater, as well as artifact-driven exhibits, AND robust public programming! You can even enjoy live music in the museum! An inspiring and fascinating day out for the family!
Image Credit: National Blues Museum
Get ready for a SPLASH-tastic great time at the fun St. Louis Aquarium, where the whole family can enjoy 120,000 sq feet of aquarium fun - 365 days a year!
Your journey through the very family friendly St. Louis Aquarium allows you to explore freshwater river, as well as the shallow waters of a salt marsh, before moving into the deep, dark abyss of the open ocean. It's a beautiful destination where children can uncover all the wonderful creatures of the oceans and waters - without getting wet!
Image Credit: St Louis Aquarium
Six Flags St. Louis was originally known as Six Flags Over Mid-America, and is an incredibly iconic amusement park for all ages, that features characters and rides from many Warner Bros. films and tv shows such as, Looney Tunes, DC Comics, and formerly Scooby-Doo!
From thrill rides for the very brave in the family, to kiddie sized rides for the youngest in the family, THEN family rides that you can all enjoy together AND water rides to make a SPLASH, Six Flags St. Louis has it all! Don't forget to explore the fun events they host across the year - you won't want to miss out!
Image Credit: Six Flags
The Endangered Wolf Center is an amazing place to visit with the family, as this non-profit organization is dedicated to saving beautiful canid species from extinction such as American Red Wolves, Arctic Foxes, and African Painted Dogs, by educating all who visit about their importance in the ecosystem.
The a visit to this amazing center supports the animals survival and their reintroduction into their native habitats, which the center work towards through a combination of managed breeding, research and education. Don't miss the amazing tours you can take to make your day even more special, or the fun events they host! Reservations for your visit are required.
Image Credit: Endangered Wolf Center
Famous Folk From St. Louis!
Maya Angelou was an American Civil Rights activist, writer and poet. With a career spanning over 50 years, Angelou published seven autobiographies, plus numerous poetry books and essays.
In addition to multiple awards, she also received over 50 honorary degrees.
Image Credit: Public Domain
Chuck Berry was an American singer, songwriter, renowned guitarist and musical iconc considered the "Father of Rock 'n' Roll".
Bringing the worlds of black and white music together, his hits including Roll Over Beethoven and Johnny B Goode.
Image Credit: Public Domain
5 Fun St. Louis Facts
Impress your friends with your amazing St. Louis knowledge!
- St. Louis is one of the first cities in the world to have a skyscraper! The Wainwight Building was only 10-stories high when it was built in 1897 by a man named Louis Sullivan.
- Pork Steaks were invented in St. Louis! They are so unique, people outside of the state of Missouri have rarely heard what a pork steak is!
- Love a PBJ sandwich? Thank St. Louis and a man named George Carver, who invented it in St. Louis!
- You can enjoy more free major visitor attractions in St. Louis than you can in any other city in the USA outside of Washington DC!
- It was at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair where the ice-cream cone was invented! An ice-cream vendor ran out of cups, and asked a neighboring waffle vendor to help out and roll a waffle to hold the scoops - and the rest is history!
Top 5 FREE Things To Do With Kids In St. Louis
Saint Louis Zoo
Saint Louis Zoo is an incredible day out for the family as it's a zoo that offers FREE admission! Kids can come face to face with some of their favorite animals from all around the world! They can see the African Lions play, see the spots on the Amur Leopard, or count the humps on the Bactrian camel. St. Louis Zoo isn't just mammals though! They also have some amazing amphibians, fish, and reptiles too!
There are some special activities with a fee such as the 4D theatre, the carousel, the railroad and the Sea Lion show to name a few, but they offer a special Adventure Pass for this.
Image Credit: Saint Louis Zoo
Saint Louis Science Center
The Saint Louis Science Center makes science FUN for kids, and whilst some of the special programs do have a fee, the science center itself along with its exhibits are free of charge so every child can explore the magic of science!
The interactive and fun exhibits allow kids to learn all about science and the natural world through discovery, interaction and curiosity! They can learn and understand the world around them, and families can enjoy spending time together in a nurturing child-friendly environment.
Image Credit: Saint Louis Science Center
Did you know that Grants Farm has been a fun St. Louis tradition for over 50 years? That's right! Since 1954 families have been enjoying a really fun time at this popular day out destination, and now its your turn!
Kids can enjoy a number of exciting animal encounters at Grant's Farm, all set on 281-acres. Like any great farm, there are animals galore and in fact, Grant's Farm is home to over 900 animals, all representing more than 100 different species! How amazing is that? Grant's Farm also offer paddle boat rides, as well as carousel rides, plus pony and camel rides too!
Image Credit: Grants Farm
World Chess Hall of Fame
The whole family can learn and celebrate one of the oldest and best-loved games in the world at the World Chess Hall of Fame! Through vibrant, engaging exhibitions and creative programming, kids can explore the history and legacy of such a classic pasttime - and they might just be inspired to take it up, if they haven't already!
Along with plenty of kids fun to be had, at the World Chess Hall of Fame you of course have the Hall of Fame itself, honoring each World and U.S. inductee with a plaque that lists their contributions to the game!
Image Credit: WCHOF
Citygarden has been funded by the Gateway Foundation, and is a wonderful (and free!) place to spend some time with the family in the vibrant city of Saint Louis. Here you can explore three acres in the heart of downtown which has been transformed into an urban oasis.
With reflecting pools to explore, a cafe to relax in, and even a playful spray plaza for the little ones. Free from walls, fences and of even "do not touch" signs, Citygarden offers a nature filled respite for all ages! Keep an eye out for some fun events they host across the year too!
Image Credit: Citygarden
LEGENDARY St. Louis BBQ RIBS! FOOD TOUR of St. Louis Missouri
Around 65 miles from the bright lights of St. Louis you'll find a place that is perfect for adventure loving families who LOVE the great outdoors. Yes, we are talking about Meramec Caverns!
Located in the town of Stanton, Meramec Caverns is not just a place where you can marvel at the natural wonders of the state, but also enjoy a history lesson or two. Keep reading to find out why!
Image Credit: Meramec Caverns
Meramec Caverns really are Missouri's buried treasure. Below the stunning hills of the Meramec Valley you'll find a formations of minerals in all colors, some rare and many unique, and all beautirul!
These amazing feats of nature actually began forming thousands of years ago, and lying hidden in the caverns these formations have been preserved and now YOU can visit!
The whole family can enjoy a guided tour through the well-lit cavern walkways, along with a trained ranger who will tell you all the stories of how the caverns were formed, and their role in history. Kids can learn how an ancient limestone "Wine Table" were formed, as well as an entire 7-story mansion... all underground!
Also during your tour of Meramec Caverns, you'll get to encounter both the rarest and largest cave formations in the entire world! We also mentioned a fascinating history - well, what if we told you the caverns were also once the hideout of infamous outlaw Jesse James? Yes that's right! And you can follow in his footsteps! Don't miss visiting the nearby Jesse James Wax Museum too.
A great day out from St. Louis with so much to offer!
Here’s our top 4 Meramec Caverns things to do:
- Cavern Tour
- Pan for Gold
- Climbing Wall
We hope you found this content useful! Please share with your friends, and if you have any comments, or want to let us know what we can do to further help you find fun days out with the family, then just email our team at [email protected]!
Let's get the family adventure started!
Lisa has been a content writer for Family Days Out for nearly 10 years, and a keen travel writer for nearly 20. She loves experiencing the best of a city, discovering the many things to do and immersing herself in the culture, and sharing these experiences with others through her writing.
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