Girls play in the Myseum kids science museum in suburban St. Louis

Girls play in Myseum, a fun, kids science museum in suburban St. Louis.

Suburbs of big cities often don’t get the credit they deserve as family-friendly vacation spots.

Take St. Louis.
During a recent stay in St. Louis’ western suburbs, we found a great little kids science museum buried in an upscale strip mall. It’s in the suburb of Town & Country, Mo., and it’s called Myseum.
We had 6 kids ranging in age from 3-10 in our group, and all ages loved it. A large slide that timed them as they went down had the kids strategizing on how to go faster (physics!). A “jungle” made of hanging swimming noodles made for an extra-fun game of tag.
The giant inflatable bouncy with balls and a volleyball net was just what we needed after a 5-hour car ride from Chicago. And the “magic wall” as my kids called it – the main photo on this story – is something too hard to describe in words. You just have to try it.
In west suburban Kirkwood, Mo., there’s The Magic House, another children’s museum my kids love, love, love. Again, it’s a good pick to satisfy our 3-10 year old age span. The museum’s spread out in a long, sprawling house, so it never feels as crowded as it is. Make sure to go to the top floor and touch the electricity ball, and then take a photo of your hair standing on end.
Touch the electric ball and watch your hair stand on end at The Magic House in Kirkwood, Mo., outside St. Louis

Touch the electric ball and watch your hair stand on end at The Magic House in Kirkwood, Mo., outside St. Louis

Here are more details on family-friendly St. Louis sites.
For treats, Ted Drewes has the best frozen custard I’ve ever had. And I’ve sampled from a lot of places.
The drool-worthy, old-fashioned, walk-up-and-order St. Louis landmark is on Route 66, and technically in St. Louis but on the western outskirts.
Ted Drewes frozen custard is on Route 66.

Ted Drewes frozen custard is on Route 66.

I still think longingly about that vanilla custard with brownie bits mixed into it. To show how thick the custard is, they hand it to you upside down. The sugar-free ice cream (which one person in our party needs to eat for health reasons) was also delicious.
Ted Drewes' frozen custard is so thick, they hand it to you upside down.

Ted Drewes’ frozen custard is so thick, they hand it to you upside down.

Our suburban St. Louis hotel, the DoubleTree Hilton in Chesterfield, Mo., cost just $109/night on a summer weekend. The price included an updated room, great full breakfast buffet with custom-made omelettes, a massive outdoor pool, and a decent indoor one. The pools were a long hike from the room, though, and they ran out of towels a few times.
Not every corner of the hotel was sparkling clean, but it was very family-friendly and a very good value — half the price of the downtown hotels. I would stay here again. Plus, those warm chocolate chip cookies DoubleTree gives you at check-in always make the kids (and me) so stinkin’ happy. Downtown St. Louis was a reasonable 15-min. drive away.
To summarize: 
 
See: Myseum, in Town & Country, Mo., The Magic House in Kirkwood, Mo., Ted Drewes frozen custard on Chippewa St.
Skip: The St. Louis Science Center on summer weekends. While admission is free, it’s painfully crowded.
Tip: Go to Myseum at 4 p.m. on a Saturday, after the birthday parties have cleared out and the staff is cleaning up and sanitizing everything. You’ll practically have the clean place to yourselves.