10 Must-Dos for a Fun Family Vacation to St. Louis


family fun in St Louis Des Moines MomSt. Louis is a fantastic place to road trip from Des Moines. At a 5 hour drive, it’s a doable option for a long weekend with enough things to do for an entire week’s vacation if you’re lucky enough. We always pick a combination of free, cheap, and easy things to do on a vacation.

10 Things to do in St. Louis

Here are things I would recommend doing with your kids and family on your St. Louis vacation.1. Visit the St. Louis Science Center.

While my kids have been to our Des Moines Science Center many times, they still enjoyed the exhibits and science shows at the St. Louis Science Center. My children especially enjoyed the Dinosaur exhibit and the Grow exhibit. Note: you’ll have to pay for parking.

2. Spend an afternoon at the St. Louis Zoo.

Entrance is free (parking is not), there is a Starbucks (bless them for having coffee), and our favorite parts were the red pandas and the Primate Canopy Trails. The Primate Canopy Trails allows you a firsthand look at primates in a unique environment. 

3. Picnic in Forest Park.

Forest Park is home to the St. Louis Science Center and the St. Louis Zoo and boasts 1,300 acres featuring forests, ecosystems, lakes & streams, and trails. The day we were there was some sort of special owl roosting and lots of interest from avid birdwatchers. 

4. See the Arch.

It wouldn’t be a trip to St. Louis without going to the top of the Gateway Arch. And while it does cost to go up in the Arch, the Museum is free (and fascinating – it was probably my favorite thing we did in St. Louis)! 

st louis family fun5. Split a float at Fitz’s.

They make their own craft soda pop and have a restaurant where you can eat and drink their craft sodas. Their ice cream soda floats are huge – you can easily share one with a friend. Make sure you grab your favorite soda to go as a souvenir! 

6. Ride the enclosed gondolas aka The St. Louis Wheel at Union Station.

After the ride, stay for the Fire & Lights show. 

city museum st. louis

7. Spend an entire day at the City Museum.

Bring small flashlights for your kids who are climbing through darkened tunnels, establish a buddy system because this place is huge and the possibility of your child getting lost is real, determine a meeting spot if someone does get separated from the rest of your group, and buy rooftop tickets! We were there in March, so I should have purchased rooftop tickets for the afternoon when it was warmer (instead of the AM) – learn from me. Weather factors into your experience, so if you’re there in the summer, plan for the rooftop in the morning when it’s cooler. If you’re there in the off-season, enjoy the rooftop activities when the weather makes the most sense! 

Also, if you are planning on climbing through the tunnels with your kids, determine whether or not you have almost 40-year-old knees who dislike metal tunnels and bring knee pads.

Honorable mention: Tour Busch Stadium if you are a baseball or a Cardinals fan. My husband and son are big baseball aficionados so this tour was a highlight for them. My daughter and I are not as avid fans so we opted to stay behind at our Airbnb. 

Again, as I mentioned, we were there in March over spring break. Everyone raves about the St. Louis Botanical Garden, so if I were planning a summer vacation to St. Louis I would definitely add this as a must-do!

If visiting in the summer, I would also add a visit to Six Flags if there was time. 

I hope you enjoy my suggestions for a busy family’s must-dos on a family vacation to St. Louis. My kids were 10 and 7 when we visited and enjoyed the variety of things to do and see in St. Louis! It is definitely worth the drive from Des Moines. 

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Kara Knaack
Kara originally hails from northwest Iowa where she met her husband, Lance, through a 4-H fashion show. After a decade of living in central Iowa, Kara is still figuring out which way is north. Wearing the hat of “wife, mommy, employee, chef, ribbon tie-er and family calendar organizer,” Kara knows a bit about juggling life and work. Kara became a boy-mom in June of 2011 to Lucan and a girl-mom to Gracelyn in December of 2014. Most days you can find her mixing up metaphors and oversharing life’s moments via social media. Kara enjoys yoga, reading, gardening, cooking, sewing in straight lines and singing along to musicals. A spender by nature, but thrifty by necessity, Kara is always in hunt of a bargain. She’s an active member of Northpoint Church and a resident of Grimes. Her vision for life includes “doing the best we can with what God gives us.”


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