If you are planning a family vacation that offers something for everyone, St. Louis, Missouri might not be the first place that comes to mind. However, you may be surprised to learn that the city has a plethora of activities and attractions, and best of all, many are free! It also has the advantage of being located right in the middle of the United States, which makes it a convenient vacation destination from both coasts.
Use this vacation guide to learn about attractions and events.
- The first place that you'll want to visit when planning your vacation is the St. Louis tourism website, Explore St. Louis. This website can help you with everything from hotel reservations to dining options, as well as listing many events that may be happening while you're in town.
- You'll want to make your hotel reservations early if you're vacationing during the summer. Many hotels fill up quickly, especially during the St. Louis County Fair and other festivals. If you're trying to keep your vacation within a tight budget, you may want to consider hotels in the outlying areas of the city. Nearly any attraction in the city can be reached within twenty minutes, due to the lack of traffic congestion.
- The next consideration in planning your vacation is the ages and interests of those who are traveling with you. St. Louis has several very large casinos, including Harrah's and Ameristar, for the adults in your group. Or try the Riverboat casinos on the Mississippi River right near the arch: the Casino Queen and the President Casino. Many hotels offer casino packages which include complimentary transportation to the casinos, twenty-four hours a day.
- If you're traveling with children, St. Louis offers an almost unlimited array of activities to keep them busy. Family vacation planning in the city is easy. A perennial favorite is the St. Louis Zoo. This is one of the very few world-class zoos in the United States which has no general admission charge, aside from a small parking fee.
The zoo is located in Forest Park, which also boasts the incredible Missouri Botanical Garden, the Turtle Playground, the Missouri History Museum, the Muny Opera, which offers outdoor performances in a very large amphitheater, McDonnell Planetarium, several golf courses, an ice-skating rink and a host of biking and jogging trails. Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country, bigger even than Central Park in NYC.
- Another children's favorite is Grant's Farm. This is an attraction which showcases exotic animals in natural habitats. Again, there is no admission charge. Grant's Farm is operated by the Anheuser-Busch family, so, in addition to the lions, tigers and zebras, you also have the opportunity to get your picture taken with the well-known Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale horses.
- If you'd like to venture just a bit outside the city, a trip to Chesterfield will introduce you to more butterflies than you've ever seen, at the Sophia Sachs Butterfly House. As an added bonus, a brand-new handicapped-accessible playground just opened next door to the Butterfly House, which is sure to delight any kids that accompany you.
- A trip just a little bit further south of the city will lead you to Six Flags, an amusement park with over fifty rides and attractions. General admission to Six Flags also includes admission for the day to Hurricane Harbor, the attached waterpark.
- Of course, no vacation to St. Louis would be complete without a trip to the top of the 640-foot Gateway Arch, and the museum at its base, the Museum of Westward Expansion. You can ride up to the top of the arch and look out over downtown, the Mighty Mississippi River and East St. Louis, in southern Illinois.
- St. Louis is also known for its dedication to sports, especially baseball. Residents are proud of their Rams football team and their Blues ice hockey team, but almost everyone is a die-hard Cardinals baseball fan. Better yet, the Cardinals just got a new stadium right across the street from where the old Busch Stadium used to stand. If you're in St. Louis during baseball season (and can get tickets), it's worth heading out to a game. The stadium will be a sea of red, packed to the brim with screaming Cardinals fanatics. And if the Cubs are in town watch out...that rivalry makes for some boisterous, emotional, exciting games.
- And, just in case the variety of attractions is too overwhelming, you may just want to start with a nice, relaxing tour of the city. You can choose from "glided" Segway tours, riverboat cruises, walking tours, iPod-guided tours, bicycle tours and tours conducted from double-decker buses.
As you can see in this travel guide, St. Louis offers all of the choices of a large city, while still maintaining a friendly, Midwestern attitude perfect for your next family trip.