All Ages

48 Hours in St. Louis With Kids

See recent posts by Jeff Bogle and Kaitlin Braun

Weekends are perfect for quick trips to a new city — but they also tend to fly by, so you have to go in with a game plan if you want to make the most of your getaway! If your family only has 48 hours to spend in St. Louis, the kids will enjoy this itinerary.

Arch, courthouse, staircase, water.

If the weather is good when you arrive, head to the City Garden, explore the Serra Sculpture Park, and let the kids splash around in a water staircase playground with stellar views. Check to see if there’s a home game at Busch Stadium and cheer for the Cardinals alongside locals, or stop for a meal at the Cardinals Nation Restaurant and Bar to watch an away match.

At some point during your stay, you’ll need to experience the iconic Gateway Arch: the view will take your kids’ breath away as you ascend into the clouds via an enclosed tram. Note that hours are currently limited due to construction (which is scheduled to wrap up in mid-2016), so fit it in wherever you can. On a clear day, you can see up to 30 miles in every direction from the observation deck — so you may not be able to explore all of St. Louis, but at least you can see it all!

Plan to spend a significant amount of time at the City Museum, a shoe-factory-turned-quirky-play-space that’s perfect for youngsters. Families fall immediately in love with this thoroughly strange, forever-expanding hands-on museum located inside, outside and on top of a massive old warehouse.

Children climb in a tube in the outdoor section of the City Museum play area.

At the museum, kids and their spry grown-ups climb through man-made caves, spin down a 10-story corkscrew slide, try out some parkour on half-pipes, climb through a maze of steel and dilapidated airplanes that protrude from the building, and so much more. Even the food inside the City Museum is stellar, especially the out-of-this-world fried chicken and waffle sandwich. Every U.S. family needs to visit this magical, mystical place at least once: it’s one of the greatest places to be a child in America.

When kids are worn out and ready to sleep, there’s only one place a family should stay: St. Louis Union Station – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel. This enormous downtown spot located inside an ancient castle-like train depot is one of the most awe-inspiring hotels we’ve ever seen. You’ll want to carve out time during your stay to relax on one of the many lobby sofas at night to look up at the indoor light show and listen to the classical score that accompanies it. Your kids will feel spoiled — apologies for that — and all other hotels will seem sorely lacking from this point forward.

St. Louis Union Station - a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel.

From the Doubletree, your family is minutes from the Arch and the City Museum, and from some of the best eats in the city: you must sit down for an Imo’s Pizza (there’s one on your walk to the Mississippi River and Arch), grab some BBQ at Pappy’s Smokehouse and drive out to the University City neighborhood for lunch and a round of amazing root beer floats at Fitz’s.

If you have time to fit in a few more hours of fun before heading out, check out the Go Ape Treetop Adventure Course. This wooded zipline and ropes course is less than 30 minutes from downtown and features five ziplines cutting through the canopy of lust Creve Couer Park. Tip: bring all-purpose gloves or plan to spend the $6 to buy them at the course – they are a must!

And just like that, your trip will be over, far too soon. In only 48 hours time, you’ll have traveled up into the famous Arch, reveled in the glory of the City Museum, enjoyed St. Louis-style thin crust pizza, and zipped your way through a forest, all from a majestic central hub at Union Station. It may not be enough time to fully experience St. Louis, but you’ll still manage to get a good taste of the best this gateway to the west has to offer.

Recommended Hotel: St. Louis Union Station – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel

More From Family Vacation Critic:
Weekend Trips from St. Louis
Weekend Trips from New England
Weekend Trips from New York City

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