St. Louis, MO: Gateway to Fun
From the famous arch to the new aquarium, this city is full of family fun
By Romelia Ramos
Was I excited that we were on our way to a family vacation in St. Louis? Of course! Not only was it a much-needed adventure, but it would be me and my husband’s first time flying with all four kids. But thankfully, the flight was a breeze, and before I knew it, we were touching down in St. Louis, the Gateway to the West.
This city has so much to offer for family getaways, and I think it should be on everyone’s vacation bucket list. It’s fun, friendly, and affordable. Before I started planning this trip, I didn't realize how much the city had to offer, but even though we spent four whole days in St. Louis, we still didn't get to cross off everything on our wish list!
Where to stay & where to play
There are so many great lodging options in St. Louis that feature amazing views and awesome proximity to city attractions. Options include historic, modern, budget-friendly, and lap-of-luxury. We stayed at the downtown Drury Plaza Hotel, which for us was the perfect location. It gave us the flexibility to walk to many attractions—on average it was less than a 15-minute walk! Drury Plaza Hotel was not only super family friendly, but it provided lots of amazing complimentary amenities that busy mamas will appreciate, like hot breakfast, a 24-hour business center, free WiFi, and soda and popcorn
It even offered a “free kickback,” which was a happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. in the hotel lobby, complete with complimentary cocktails, and food! I didn’t really get a chance to enjoy it as much as I would have liked, but we were on a mission to see the city.
Our first stop? The Gateway Arch.
Gateway to Fun
With four days of fun in St. Louis, we really wanted to maximize our visit, but with four kids, we have learned to work around our schedule and give ourselves some rest in between some activities. With that being said, we still had plenty of time to see the sights and find new favorites—like the Gateway Arch!
Not only is this a national monument and a great tourist attraction, the Gateway Arch offers spectacular views and lots of hands-on learning opportunities. The four-minute tram ride to the top takes you to a platform where you can see downtown St. Louis, the Mississippi River, and Illinois. Today, the Gateway Arch celebrates the diverse people who shaped the region and the country. It was amazing to experience—before our trip, I didn’t even know that visitors could go all the way up to the top!
Next stop? It was all aboard for fun at Union Station.
The first train stopped in St. Louis Union Station on September 1, 1894. Over the next several years, it would become one of the largest and busiest passenger rail terminals in the world. While it’s no longer a functioning train station, St. Louis Union Station has become a favorite St. Louis attraction, a balance of nostalgia and renovation. There’s fun attractions everywhere you look, like the St. Louis Aquarium, a high ropes course, mirror maze, mini golf, and even a giant Ferris wheel. There are also a few dining spots to unwind and take a bite. Soda Fountain was by far our favorite, with mountains of sweets, treats, and eats. The kids were in sugar heaven—as was I!
We had been told that we shouldn’t miss the aquarium, and I’m so glad that we didn’t! The St. Louis Aquarium is brand new and houses more than 13,000 creatures. It is definitely a must-see attraction, particularly for families. There are a ton of animal encounters and interactives displays throughout the aquarium. The kids’ personal favorite was touching the stingrays and getting their hands cleaned by “doctor fish,” some friendly little fellows who eat away the dead skin from your hand. It feels very slimy and was extremely ticklish—no wonder they loved it!
Ready … set … museum!
For the rest of our St. Louis trip, we were determined to see some of the city’s famous museums. There’s a lot to choose from, and many venues are free, like the science center, zoo, and art museum. They also have a beautiful botanical garden and even a museum dedicated to blues music. But we had been told that St. Louis is home to one of the nation’s most unique and kid-friendly options out there, so it was off to City Museum we went. This museum lived up to the hype—it is like nothing I have ever seen. It's so unusual, so big, and so fun! Come prepared to spend a whole day, or at least 3 to 5 hours. There is so much to do, look at, and learn. City Museum was once a 10-story, 600,000-square-foot shoe warehouse in downtown St. Louis. Now transformed by artists, sculptors, architects, and metal workers, City Museum was created to be a "a city within a city," with massive climbing sculptures, a restaurant, a ball pit, and even a 10-story slide! Kids and adults alike can wiggle, slip, and slide their way through this ever-changing museum. I know mine did.
For our final day, we headed to another highly recommended attraction, The Magic House.
This children's museum is a treasure trove of hands-on learning experiences that spark imagination, creativity, and curiosity. With hundreds of interactive activities, we didn't know which to pick, but the kids decided they wanted to spend more time in the Curious George, Let's Get Curious exhibit. They loved getting to see their favorite monkey come to life. We then hung out in the children’s village, where the construction zone was an instant hit. It offered a ton of interaction for each of my kids—no small feat when you have such a wide age range. I loved seeing them busy at play, digging, painting, planning, and working as a team to construct a building.
Until next time
Before we knew it, our vacation was coming to an end and we were off to the airport. All four kids seemed tired but happy, even if there were some complaints of “But I don’t want to leave yet!” I knew the feeling. We had done so much, but there was still so much left to do—I guess we’ll just have to save that for our next trip to St. Louis.Find your Gateway to fun in St. Louis