I have many fond memories of a St. Louis road trip as a kid, but I never thought of it as a must visit destination once I had a family of my own. But thanks to the abundant resources available to parents today, I discovered that there is so much more for children and families to experience in St. Louis than I’d ever known. These days, a St. Louis road trip is always my favorite choice and top recommendation for a weekend road trip from Kansas City. Allow me to help you plan!
Day 1: Check-in
Get off of work and go! There is so much more to do in St. Louis than you’ll ever have time for, so put the kids in their pajamas and get on the road. Four hours isn’t that long, and if you’re lucky, they’ll sleep through most of it. With no reason for the hassle and expense of a downtown hotel, we chose to stay at the Courtyard by Marriott – Westport Plaza, which was convenient for all of our chosen attractions.
Day 2: Grant’s Farm + Magic House
Wake up, grab donuts (We chose Ray’s in Creve Couer!) and head to Grant’s Farm. Having read that it’s best to arrive as soon as the farm opens, we made sure to be there at 9:00 AM sharp. The parking lot was already filling up fast. From the parking lot, head to the tram station, which will take you on a bit of a historic tour on the way to the farm. The property, once owned by Ulysses S. Grant, is now owned by the Busch family (yes, that one). That means beer samples throughout the farm in addition to each guest 21+ receiving two FREE adult beverages at the Biergarten. But first, roam the farm and enjoy up-close experiences with hundreds of exotic animals. We were able to feed camels and llamas and pet zebras! One of my kids rode a camel and the others chose the carousel. Before leaving, we had lunch and collected our free beer from the Biergarten. For the kids, there are also several food stands offering pizza, hot dogs, and ice cream. Before leaving, be sure to check out the famous Budweiser Clydesdales, located just beside the parking lot.
To cool off on a hot summer day, stop by Ted Drewe’s for some frozen custard. Ted Drewe’s is a St. Louis institution, having opened their first shop in St. Louis in 1930, and it’s easy to see (taste?) why. We never leave St. Louis without a trip to Ted Drewe’s. There’s nothing in Kansas City quite like it.
After dessert, spend the rest of the afternoon/early evening at The Magic House. This children’s museum was a favorite from my childhood and it still holds u today. Spread out over three floors, there are plenty of interactive exhibits, crafts, and play structures to occupy kids for several hours (and then some, if they had their way). Plus, it’s educational! For the fellow second generation visitors, rest assured, the electrically charged ball that makes your hair stand up – which was definitely everyone’s favorite in my day – is still there.
For dinner, definitely head to St. Louis’s famous The Hill neighborhood. Full of Italian restaurants, bakeries, and retail shops, one could try a different place for each meal on every St. Louis visit. One of our favorites is Cunetto House of Pasta. One of the more casual Italian restaurants, I always feel fine bringing the kids. Word of caution: portions are LARGE. The kids can all share with an adult and you’ll still bring back leftovers.
After a full day and extremely full stomachs, we head back to the hotel for some much needed rest.
Day 3: Missouri Botanical Gardens and St. Louis Zoo
After a free breakfast at the hotel, start the morning at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Alright, this is the part where I have to admit that I didn’t get to take in the full experience of the botanical garden. I’ve heard so much of its beauty and I wanted to see so many different exhibits. Alas, my children had other plans. They beelined for the children’s garden and there we remained for the remainder of our visit. That said, the children’s garden is a pretty amazing spot to spend your morning. A shaded area with a little spray park, tree houses, and plenty of climbing structures, it was actually a nice way to spend a morning in St. Louis. And it’s surprisingly large! Hopefully you will get to see more of this breathtaking garden than I was able, but don’t miss out on some time in the children’s garden as well.
With everyone starving and melting down, we grabbed a quick lunch at Sassafras at the botanical garden. As their casual, grab-and-go cafe, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, but Sassafras turned out to be pretty delicious. My husband and I ended up very satisfied with our impromptu lunch plans.
After returning to our hotel to rest and let the kids nap for a few hours, we decided to brave the St. Louis Zoo. It doesn’t matter how tired you are, you should brave the zoo too! Not only is it one of the nation’s top zoos, it’s also FREE! You pay to park or you can make the short walk from the St. Louis Art Museum, where parking is free. This gorgeous zoo features so many impressive animal displays that you won’t be able to see it all in just one visit. Also, for just $4, I highly recommend spending some time in the children’s zoo. With a petting zoo, a spray park, play areas, and a stage show, as well as additional animals too see, this will be your kids’ favorite part of the zoo!
Completely exhausted, we stopped at Serra’s Pizza, nearby our hotel for a quick dinner. WE DEVOURED IT ALL IN MINUTES AND I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT WAS ON IT. Sausage? Maybe? We were tired, hungry, and it hit the spot. We slept well that night.
Day 3: City Museum
It’s time to head home. But not before stopping at my favorite attraction in St. Louis – the number one place that you must visit at least once, both with and without kids – The City Museum. It would be an injustice to try to describe it. Just go, and feel lucky that you only had to drive four hours to experience it. I would travel a lot farther! There are no maps and you will never, ever be able to see and do everything there. There is plenty for kids of all ages and adults. Access to the roof is an add-on, but worth it. I mean, rooftop ferris wheel? We chose to not waste any City Museum time and ate a small lunch in the museum. End your trip with a bang and guarantee that your kids will sleep the whole way home.