Heading to St. Louis with kids for a playcation? Here’s a round up of 10 affordable places (and a few bonus ideas) that will thrill your little ones. We recommend prioritizing about two per day and save some backup options if the kids still have energy for more.
- Be amazed by the St. Louis Zoo (Free)
- Watch a Major League Baseball Game at Busch Stadium
- Visit the Gateway Arch National Park (Free)
- Learn something new at the St. Louis Science Center (Free)
- See eye to eye with a Budweiser Clydesdale Horse
- Get Lost in City Museum
- Explore Union Station’s Entertainment Complex
- Cool off with a Concrete Custard at Ted Drewes or Ice Cream at Clementine’s
- Forest Park – Variety Wonderland and Turtle Playgrounds (Free)
- Urban Fort Play Café
1. St. Louis Zoo
Even though every blog recommended this zoo, when we planned our St. Louis family trip, we placed the zoo on our “if time allows” attraction list. Luckily the kids were up and ready early on our second day and we ended up with free time to explore the zoo before our Cardinals Game started. It turned out to be our favorite place in the city. We enjoyed it so much that we went two more times!
This zoo is on par with the San Diego, Smithsonian, Bronx, and Denver Zoos and it’s free to enter!
The key to enjoying this park is to come right when it opens or shortly before closing. If you have to sit in traffic for an hour waiting to park, it will put a damper on your day and potential sour the kids’ moods too. We arrived twice before 8:30am and once after 5:00pm and were able to find street parking within a 1/4 mile walk so we avoided the $15 parking fee.
In Summer 2022, they’re running the “Dinoroarus” exhibit which blew me away. The dinosaurs were all life sized and many had shockingly realistic animatronics. Some even squirt passersby with water. There’s a dinosaur themed gift shop inside the exhibit as well.
2. Watch a Professional Baseball Game at Busch Stadium
Busch Stadium was a treat to experience. The staff are friendly, Cardinal fans were courteous to us as Brewers fans, concessions galore, and there was always a nearby restroom.
Here are some tips to enjoy your time at this beautiful stadium:
- It is well worth the $20 to purchase parking in the adjacent parking lot. Book your parking in advance as it sells out by game day. There isn’t really tailgating, which was odd to us being from Milwaukee.
- If you attend a Sunday game, arrive early for the Family Fun day sponsored by Prairie Farms in the Ford Plaza (between Gates 5 and 6). There are games and free frozen treats while supplies last, starting 2 hours before the game.
- When the kids get antsy during the game, head to the Family Pavilion. They have a soft play area, t-ball batting, speed pitch, and a playground.
- The best deals on food were the Schnuck’s Markets setup within the stadium or the kids meal specials offered in the Family Pavilion.
- For Sunday games, you can grab $8 tickets that also come with soda and hot dog. Research your seats before purchasing if you want to plan seats with a view of the Arch or shade.
- If you head to the Budweiser Terrace before the first pitch, you can purchase a beer for only $5.
- Remember you cannot bring aerosol sunscreen inside, but there are numerous sunscreen stations in the ballpark.
If you don’t purchase a ticket to go inside the stadium, consider enjoying the vibe next door at the Ballpark Village entertainment district. Grab some food, drinks, and watch the game on the big screen.
3. Gateway Arch National Park
A must see if it is your first trip to St. Louis and since it is free to enter the grounds and museum, a no brainer stop to share a bit of America’s history with the kids. If you wish to ride the tram to the top, there is a $11-19 fee per person.
If you arrive early, you can find street parking behind the Hyatt and security screenings will be a breeze. Pickup Junior Ranger Activity books and explore the museum and walk up to the steel monument’s base and touch the world’s tallest arch.
Check out our full guide on visiting the National Park in St. Louis with kids.
4. St. Louis Science Center
This free museum is an ideal place to take the kids when the weather isn’t ideal. Located on the edge of the sprawling Forest Park, its very central to the other St. Louis must dos with little kids.
There are three floors of exhibits so you can easily spend 2-3 hours exploring. My 1 and 4 year old’s’ favorite exhibits were the dinosaurs, the earthquake simulator, and the building structures. You can attempt to build your own arch with blocks or foam cubes.
Explore the bridge that leads to the planetarium even if you’re not seeing a show. The bridge crosses over the highway and has plexiglass in sections on the floors so the kids can watch cars whiz by beneath their feet.
Cost: Admission to the science museum is free. There are optional add-on exhibits and planetarium and movie theater shows. $12 to park or attempt to find street parking out front. Our hometown museum membership has reciprocity with all museums in the ASTC Network, which got us free validated parking so be sure to check that out and bring along your membership ID.
5. Meet a Clydesdale Up Close
Just 20 minutes outside of St. Louis, you can see where the Budweiser Clydedale Horses are trained for their role in the spotlight!
Take a train ride through the park and spot bison, zebras, and more! You’ll feel like you’re in Germany in their old-world square.
The Farm is free to enter. However park will run you about $18 (book online to speed up the line).
You should also book in advance if you want to reserve one of their experiences like the Clydesdale tour or other Animal Encounters.
Budweiser Brewery VIP Clydesdale Tour
We chose to meet the horses at their original stable; downtown on the campus of the historic Anheuser-Busch brewery. We saw it as a rare opportunity to enjoy an informative brewery tour while the kids were also highly engaged. Not to mention, you get to drink beer throughout.
Here’s what to expect on the VIP Clydesdale Tour.
6. City Museum
As a parent of very young kids, I have mixed feelings about this place. I felt a bit on edge the whole time that I’d lose my adventurous 4-year-old when he explored the tunnels where I didn’t know where he’d exit. When we checked in, the front desk staff actually said, “write your phone number on their arm because you will lose them.”
I’m keeping it on this list though because the kids had a blast! There were some sections where I could let my almost-two-year-old free to explore ‘independently,’ but if he was the only child we were traveling with, we would’ve foregone this attraction until he was older.
There are 30 slides inside this museum, one of them being 10 stories!
To make your visit as enjoyable as possible, may we suggest…
- Buy tickets in advance to skip the line at the door
- Bring hand sanitizer
- Check the Circus Schedule upon arrival to plan out your day to make it to a captivating aerial performance
- Kneepads aren’t necessary for kids (my son wanted to take his off) but would help for adults who want to explore too
- Our flashlight came in handy so our little one wasn’t scared to navigate dark tunnels
- Give yourself plenty of time. We were there 2.5 hours and probably saw 30% of it
- It is $5 extra to add the rooftop to your ticket. We felt we had plenty to explore without this add on
- Mentally prepare yourself for crowds of people
- When you need a break from the crowed, retreat to one of the true ‘museum’ sections, like the insectarium.
7. Union Station’s Entertainment Complex
At the time it was built it was the largest Railway Station in the world serving more rail lines than any other station. Now it is converted into an entertainment district with a hotel, an aquarium, a hotel, a ropes course, mini golf ($10), Ferris wheel ($10), carousel ($5), soda fountain, a koi pond, and more.
There’s onsite paid parking, or you can pay just $2 per hour for street parking nearby.
8. Have a Sweet Treat in St. Louis with Kids
If you’re visiting during the summer months you’ll relish a frozen treat after an active day in the heat!
Two of St. Louisan’s favorite places for sweet treats are…
Ted Drewes Frozen Custard
Grab a concrete custard! They might have invented the upside down trick before DQ made it famous. Prepare for a line into the parking lot, but know that it moves quickly.
Clementine’s Homemade Ice Cream
You can try up to 5 flavors before you commit. My favorite was the Gooey Butter Cake Ice Cream.
9. Playgrounds at Forest Park
There are two notable playgrounds within the sprawling Forest Park. If we interject playgrounds into our travel days we end up with happier, more well behaved kids. So, I say, these are a must if visiting St. Louis with kids.
Variety Wonderland Playground
Right on the north edge of Forest Park, you’ll find an accessible playground and Park Café that makes for a great start to your day in St. Louis. Drive in via Lindell Boulevard and gawk at the grandiose homes that line the street opposite the park.
Variety Wonderland has play areas for little and big kids and a splash fountain as well. Parking seemed plentiful along the road.
Climb on three massive stone turtles or the play structures next to them. Our little kids seemed to enjoy this park even more than Variety Wonderland. This is an excellent spot to burn off some energy when visiting St. Louis with kids.
10. Urban Fort Play Café as an indoor option in St. Louis with Kids
In case of inclement weather, keep Urban Fort in your back pocket. It is a lovely indoor play area for kids ages 6 and under. It’s a nice break for parents too, sip coffee while the kids explore.
It is $10 per child to play during open play hours.
Where to Eat in St. Louis with Kids
City Foundry St. Louis
We hadn’t heard about this industrial food hall in advance, just happened to notice it as we were passing by on the freeway and we’re glad we stopped. They had a really diverse selection of vendors serving cuisine from around the world; including breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. There’s a bar to grab a well deserved beer, wine, or a cocktail after a day of adventure with the kids.
There is free parking in the adjacent structure and a grocery store, Fresh Thyme, just up the hill to stop up on any family essentials.
Schlafly has a taproom right downtown, near the City Museum, Schlafly Bankside, and their Bottleworks location on the south side of the city. The tap room was very accommodating for families. They made sure to bring out the kids’ food and milk quickly and found us a convenient table to park our double stroller where our 1 year old was still napping.
They have a lengthy list of beers available on tap, brewed by Schlafly. Try 5 of them in their tasting flight offering. I personally found their food to be more impressive than the beers we tried. If there’s a beer you love though, grab a six pack from their merchandise shop.
There’s free parking at their tap room behind the building.
Crown Candy Kitchen
A beloved, long standing staple in St. Louis, known especially for their home made confections.
The Fountain on Locust
This place will transport you back in time. It’s attentive staff and mouth watering menu make this a place worth seeking out. Try the adult mac and cheese.
Pieces Board Game Bar And Restaurant
Peruse a massive selection of board games for young and old and dine on high quality menu items.
What to Eat in St. Louis with Kids
Here are the top 6 foods to be sure to try while you’re in STL. You’ll spot these items on menus all throughout St. Louis.
🍕St Louis Style Pizza – Cracker Thin Crust
🎂Gooey Butter Cake – The sugary crusty edges are mouthwateringly good.
🍦Ice Cream from Clementine’s or Custard from Ted Drewes
🥚 The Slinger – Egg on Cheese on Onion on Chili on Hamburger on Hashbrown
🍴 Toasted Ravioli
More Awesome Places to Check Out if Visiting St. Louis with Kids
Do you have more time or need more inspiration? Check out these alluring attractions.
- The Magic House Children’s Museum
- The Museum of Transportation
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St. Louis sounds like a place kids can have a lot of fun! Good to know there are even free things to do with kids in St. Louis. Learned a lot reading your article, but I have to ask: what is concrete custard? Can’t quite picture it 🙂
Plenty to do for kids in St Louis! It is always great to find things for kids to do, especially if there are a couple of adult activities that can be incorporated with theirs. Great ideas.
That’s so cool there’s a Union Station in St. Louis, just like Kansas City! I think all the activities at the Union Station’s Entertainment Complex sound like so much fun. It looks like St. Louis would be a great spot for a family vacation. Thanks for sharing!
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