If you’ve got only two days in St. Louis, this itinerary is the way to make the most of your time! It offers eight awesome things for families with tweens and teens. You might have to make some tough choices : Arch or zoo? Museum or cave? Frozen custard or ice cream? No matter what you pick, it’s gonna be fun.
My family visits St. Louis a lot. Even though we’re usually only there for two days, we pack in a lot of fun. When my kids were younger (elementary school aged), our favorite place was The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum. The outstanding, creative children’s museum inside a sprawling Kirkwood home, appeals to kids from babies to about 11 years old. The St. Louis Zoo and the Saint Louis Science Center in Forest Park, which are two of the best free things to do in St. Louis, were always a slam dunk, too.
Now that they’re a little older (ages 12 and 14), we’re doing different things in St. Louis. This itinerary highlights eight of our current favorites, which are fun options for teens and tweens.
TravelingMom Tip: Opening dates and times and these attractions are subject to change without warning. Always check the websites before heading off on your adventure!
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Two days in St. Louis – a Family Itinerary
A 20-minute drive from downtown St. Louis, in the upscale suburb of Town and Country, is Amp Up Action Park. It’s an indoor go-kart place with laser tag, an arcade and a ropes course. The go-karts are fun (the track is large!) but it’s also pricey. To get the best value, buy one of the packages – we chose one with unlimited arcade games and unlimited, two-level laser tag. Check the schedule, because the site offers a bunch of “unlimited laser tag” time slots. We played four back-to-back games on a recent weekday night.
For younger kids in Town and Country, I’d recommend Myseum, a hands-on science museum. There are things like a giant “jungle” made of hanging swimming noodles (a fun place to play tag!), and a magic wall that uses your shadow to create illusions.
TravelingMom Tip: Socks are required for play at Myseum. You can buy a pair there if you forgot.
Check in for the night at the Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel. It’s in a quiet area of downtown, near the Gateway Arch. It has an impressive, sleek, two-level gym with tons of cool equipment (the treadmill shows videos perfect for travel lovers — they can make it look like you’re running through mountains or cities around the world – so cool!), and the food at the in-house restaurant, Zenia Bar & Grille, was fresh and delicious. There’s also a big grocery store, Schnucks Culinaria, about a block away. This can help you save a few bucks on the family breakfast. For a fun, late night snack, try Insomnia Cookies. Within 45 minutes, the bakery will deliver warm cookies or ice cream to any hotel lobby until 3 a.m.
Day 1 Itinerary
Start the day by seeing the city’s iconic main attraction: the St. Louis Gateway Arch. Squeeze into tiny little elevator cars and ride to the top. The ride up and down is the the best part, even though the elevator moves slowly. At the top, look out the thin windows at the green-domed state capitol, the Mississippi River, Busch Stadium and more. Buy tickets in advance – they sell out fast during peak times. And expect some long security lines especially during the school year when field trips dominate.
For lunch, head to “The Hill,” an area filled with great Italian restaurants. Just about any you pick will be good, but we like Adriana’s, a small, family-owned, lunch-only cafe with Italian sandwiches on fresh bread. Try the Italian beef or meatball sandwiches – delizioso! Save room for a slice of their decadent gooey butter cake, a St. Louis specialty. Adriana’s is an order-at-the-counter place, and the line often goes out the door, but it moves fast.
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As a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, it pains me to admit this about our rivals, but the Busch Stadium tour is pretty cool. Learn about St. Louis Cardinals legends like Stan Musial, see the collection of World Series trophies, and then go in the dugout and out on the field, which opens to a view of downtown and the Arch.
You can stay for dinner at one of the many bars and restaurants near the stadium in “Ballpark Village.” Before you head back to the hotel for the night, stop at Ted Drewes. The retro, order-at-the-window stand serves phenomenal frozen custard. I still think about my vanilla custard mixed with chunks of brownie … mmmm!
Day 2 Itinerary
Start your morning at The City Museum, a quirky, hyper-creative children’s museum that’s all about climbing and exploring. Ride the rooftop ferris wheel, and climb into a suspended school bus hanging off the top of the building. If you’re willing to climb up what feels like 100 flights of stairs, you can ride down the 10-story corkscrew slide. The museum is like a giant children’s playground, but one that’s a little bit dangerous and scary, which makes it just right for adventuresome big kids and tweens. It’s easy to get lost in the dark cave maze, and expect some scrapes and bruises from climbing the steel and iron structures above the concrete floors. Yet, it’s a must-see, memorable place.
TravelingMom Tip: Wear pants or long shorts and closed-toe shoes; no flip flops or skirts.
City Museum is not the kind of children’s museum kids outgrow. In fact, the giant playground is extremely popular with teens and adults. Architects and designers geek out over the repurposed architectural and industrial elements throughout. And you’re never too old for a slide.
Another great climbing place in downtown St. Louis? The outdoor Citygarden. Kids can climb all over the 24 art sculptures, plus play in one of those spray-up-from-the ground water areas or wading pools. Awesome on a hot summer day in sultry St. Louis.
A good dinner option is the made-from-scratch soul food at Sweetie Pie’s, the subject of a reality TV show on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network. You might even see the show’s star (and the restaurant’s owner) Miss Robbie, who used to sing with Tina and Ike Turner. Or you can grab a sandwich, an insanely good milkshake and a box of homemade candy to go at the old-fashioned and historic Crown Candy Kitchen.
As You Head out of Town on Day 3
Before you head out of town, it’s worth the 45-minute drive outside St. Louis to Onondaga Cave State Park. While signs everywhere tout Meramec Caverns, this lesser-known cave is a hidden gem – and a good place for families to go on hot or bad weather days.
The coolest thing? The tour guide has you stand still, and then cuts the lights so you experience complete darkness. Trust me, you’ll say “whoa!” There also is one of those “gem mining” stations in front of the cave, which is something my kids always enjoyed when they were younger. Sand bags containing gemstones are sold in the gift shop.
For more fun things to do in and around St. Louis, check out these fun things to do with the kids in suburban St. Louis.