St. Louis, MO often receives mixed reviews as both a city to live and a family vacation destination. St. Louis is actually a great weekend getaway. Especially for mid-westerners within driving distance of “The Lou.” There are tons of FREE and low cost activities for children of all ages.
We stayed at The Cheshire which is not only family friendly, it is also pet friendly. There is a parking garage on the lower level and parking is very easy. We were not charged for use of the garage during our stay. The Cheshire has three restaurants on the property, The Restaurant at the Cheshire, Basso Italian themed restaurant, and Starbucks. This hotel offers a convenient location near the Zoo and Forest Park Museums. They also have a small outdoor pool and there were usually other children playing in the pool.
|Pool at The Cheshire|
FREE and low cost St. Louis Family Activities:
Compared to other cities we have visited St. Louis has a tremendous amount of FREE activities for families and kids.
St. Louis ZOO – FREE! That’s right enjoying the Zoo is FREE for all ages. Parking in the Zoo Parking areas costs $10-$15, however there is plenty of free parking in Forest park. If you don’t mind a short walk you can find free roadside parking.
Art Museum – FREE! Located in Forest Park. Almost all of the exhibits here are free. On many Sundays from 1-4 pm they offer “Family Sundays” that include children’s art activities, family tours, and storytelling. Check their website for a current list of events.
|3-D Art Activity|
City Garden – FREE! This was one of our absolute favorite stops. The City Garden is located in Downtown St. Louis and offers a free splash pad and wading pools for kids. Pool monitors are on hand from 10am – 8pm. During the week there are several food trucks in the area offering a wide variety of ethnic and comfort food. The day we visited City Garden there was a small band playing jazz and blues in the park area. Adults are generally not allowed in the pool (accept to accompany infants/toddlers), but be prepared to get wet! Also, we received a parking ticket downtown so make sure you check your parking meter. Tip: in the morning it is mostly families with small kids. Older kids and summer camp programs often arrive by bus in the late afternoon. Bring your own towels and lawn chairs or picnic blanket.
|City Garden Splash Pad|
Gateway Arch – $3 Admission – Several FREE days are offered throughout the year. A trip to the top will cost $5-$10. There are several nice walking paths on the Arch grounds. As you walk up to the base of the Arch you get an idea of the massive beauty of this structure. The Museum of Western Expansion, located inside the base of the Arch, is free and includes a Lewis and Clark Exhibit. There are gift shops and a theater located in the Arch base. Tip: On the weekends the line to ride a tram to the top is long. Your best bet is to try and visit mid-week. *Updated 3/19/2015: The Arch musuem was recently remodeled and some museum entrance policies/costs have changed.
Other notable free or low cost activities in St. Louis: Missouri History Museum Museum of Transportation St. Louis Science Center City Museum Delmar Loop Planet Walk
More museums, activities, and sights available in St. Louis: Explore St. Louis
We dined at several Family Friendly Restaurants during our stay in St. Louis:
Restaurant at the Cheshire – $$$ Located on the Cheshire grounds children are welcome. It is an upscale restaurant and they did not have an official child’s menu available during our visit. We were able to find something the kids could eat and we really enjoyed our experience there. They also have a nice wine list.
Blues City Deli – $ Located in the Soulard/Benton Park area, this is a very popular Deli. Expect a fast moving line. Outdoor seating is available in the summer. The po-boys and other sandwiches are very good and they offer a selection old-fashioned soda for the kids and a nice craft beer selection for adults.
Wonton King – $ Located in a row of Chinese and Asian style restaurants on Olive Boulevard this was a fun find during our trip. They advertise “Hong Kong Style” Chinese food and are known for having the best Dim Sum (savory dumplings) in the area. The service was great and the prices are inexpensive.
Sauce on the Side – $ Located near the City Garden in downtown St. Louis featuring Calzones. They have a nice selection of salads and specialty Calzones stuffed with just about anything imaginable! They offer both standard and very unique selections at a reasonable price.
For our family St. Louis was a great getaway. We spent 4 days exploring this city and found so many activities to enjoy we will be planning a short trip again in the future! Please feel free to comment or share your favorite family activities in “The Lou.”
Blues City Deli
Sauce on the Side
St. Louis Zoo