Downtown Fun for Family
A downtown STL weekend getaway
By Vanessa Bell, De Su Mama
Tucked under an iconic American landmark sits one of Missouri’s most impressive cities. Perfect for families to explore, learn and create memories. St. Louis is a treasure trove of family friendly attractions, making it an obvious choice for family vacations in the Midwest. So whether you’re visiting for a long weekend or staying an entire week, here is the list of our family’s favorite places to explore the beauty of St. Louis culture and history.
Downtown St. Louis
Our family stayed in the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch in downtown St. Louis. With impressive views and comfortable suites for any size family, one of the best aspects of this hotel is the location. Downtown STL is extremely walkable! Staying in a central location allowed us to get to know the city and keep transportation costs low, which is always a good thing for family vacations.
Situated in downtown St. Louis, many great attractions are just outside your front door, such as: the Gateway Arch National Park, The Old Courthouse and Old Cathedral, Kiener Plaza, and Citygarden. You can even walk to Busch Stadium to catch a game or learn all about their baseball legacy at the Cardinals Museum from downtown!
Family Travel Tip: For attractions that are a bit too far for small feet to walk, St. Louis has many transportation options. Uber and Lyft are readily available, as well as various public transportation options.
The Gateway Arch
Cross three entries off your bucket list and visit a National Historic Landmark, the world’s tallest arch, and the tallest monument in the western hemisphere! An icon of exploration and westward expansion, the Gateway Arch is a 630-foot monument built in the1960s. Did you know you can travel by tram inside the arch to an observation tower high above the city? With breathtaking views of St. Louis and the Mississippi River below, kids of all ages are fascinated by the engineering marvel and inner workings of the Arch.
Once back on the ground, be sure to watch the informative 30-minute video telling the tenacious story of impossible odds that were overcome to create the stunning monument. The brand-new museum opens this summer to offer historical references and relics to illustrate the beauty of this American wonder.
Family Travel Tip: Tram tickets sell out fast! Buy yours online ahead of time to avoid missing out.
Kiener Plaza + Old Courthouse
The heart of downtown STL can be found right in Kiener Plaza, where kids can play before exploring St. Louis (and American) history at the wonderfully restored Old Courthouse.
Kiener Plaza is a 1.9 acre park with lush gardens, playgrounds and splash pads sure to entertain kids young and old. Recently redesigned with families and kids in mind, Kiener Plaza has become the hub of events and is a great place to launch your day.
Family Travel Tip: Take your lunch outdoors and enjoy a picnic in the plaza. Make sure to bring your camera and take a few quintessential STL photos!
The Old Courthouse anchors downtown STL. The rounded dome reminiscent of the US Capitol building houses exhibits of varied cultural and historical significance, but probably none more so than the origination of the Dred Scott case, which was ultimately heard by the US Supreme Court and was an event leading up to the American Civil War. The time we spent touring The Old Courthouse and further learning about these time periods in American history was very impactful for my family.
Family Travel Tip: The Old Courthouse—and all its exhibits—is free to visit! Don’t miss out on a great learning experience for the family.
Prepare to spend all day (or more!) exploring the 1,300 acres of St. Louis’s Forest Park. Approximately 6 miles from downtown STL, Forest Park is considered one of the nation’s greatest urban public parks and is a true civic treasure. Featuring nature preserves, streams and lakes, Forest Park is home to four of our favorite STL cultural institutions: Missouri History Museum, Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis Science Center and the Saint Louis Zoo.
Young kids will love the Saint Louis Zoo, older kids will be fascinated at the history and art museums, and parents will appreciate that admission is free at each of these attractions!
Family Travel Tip: When it’s time for lunch, use the Forest Park Trolley to head over to the Boathouse where you can enjoy great eats with a great view.
What once was an international shoe building now hosts ever-changing exhibits made largely of repurposed architectural and industrial objects created for the purpose of play and exploration. Don’t miss this place when traveling to St. Louis with kids!
Though one of the bit more pricey places to visit on our itinerary, City Museum was at the top of our kids’ list of best experiences. Climbing out of an airplane 20 stories above ground, sliding into underground caves and peering out of a school bus suspended off the ledge of the building are just some of the insane and amazing things you can expect when visiting the City Museum.
Family Travel Tip: Designate a family meeting spot as soon as you get checked in because getting separated from your kids is very likely. There are plenty of places for adults to relax while kids play their hearts out.
After telling our Uber driver that we were craving tacos, my family ended up in a thriving scene of art, restaurants and specialty grocers. A quick drive from downtown, Cherokee Street is known as St. Louis’s Mexican-food mecca and is the largest concentration of Latino-owned businesses in the city.
After getting our taco fix at the highly rated La Vallesana, we strolled down Cherokee Street to find discover more delicious treats and sweets, including colorful grocers with all of our favorite Mexican candies.
For dessert we came upon a family owned restaurant of an unlikely flavor combination, The Taco and Ice Cream Joint. Super trendy and modern, this colorful eatery is the perfect place for families to order a quick dinner infused with the best flavors of Latino culture followed by sweet treats to take on the road.
Family Travel Tip: The kids loved building their custom ice cream tacos, made with a taco-shaped waffle cone, while Mom and Dad enjoyed sweet and tart Mangoladas.
St. Louis family vacation
Despite a full itinerary, we can’t wait to return to St. Louis! We were never at a loss for things to do and places to go, and St. Louis offered a family focused vacation that we really needed.Explore more kid-friendly activities in St. Louis »