As Missouri's largest metropolitan area, St. Louis has no shortage of world-famous fun to keep your family entertained on any budget. Whether you want to spend time at one of the nation's premier zoos, travel back in time to an old-fashioned diner or immerse yourself in America's pastime, your hardest decision might be fitting everything into your itinerary.
Star Attraction: The St. Louis Zoo
No matter how many zoos your family has seen, the St. Louis Zoo (One Government Dr., St. Louis, MO) should be on your family's must-see list. One of the city's star attractions, the 90-acre St. Louis Zoo draws millions of visitors each year to see the more than 600 animals species who call it home. The zoo's Emerson's Children's Zoo offers even more opportunities for animal interaction, including a slide chute that will zip them through the otter pool. Your family also can hop on the Emerson Zoo Railroad for a 20-minute narrated tour across many of its attractions. Admission to the St. Louis Zoo, which is open year-round, is free, though some of the attractions, including the Children's Zoo and the train, carry an admission fee.
Horseplay: Grant's Farm
If the zoo leaves your family craving more fun with animals, visit historic Grant's Farm (10501 Gravois Rd., St. Louis, MO), the ancestral home of the Busch family and current home of the iconic Budweiser Clydesdales. Your family will see up to 50 of the famous horses, from foals to adults, in the stables as well as zebra, antelopes and bison in the estate's Deer Park. Your children also can feed goats, ride a carousel and explore a cabin built by former President Ulysses S. Grant, for whom the farm is named. When you're ready for a rest, visit the farm's Bauernhof for bratwurst, pretzels and, for the adults in your group, free samples of Anheuser-Busch products. In October, the farm gets a bit spooky_—but still family-friendly—_with Halloween-themed shows and lights. Admission is free, though parking and some of the attractions, such as the carousel and goat feeding, require a fee.
Take Them Out to the Ballgame: Busch Stadium
Even if it isn't baseball season, St. Louis can still offer a few hours of entertainment for the baseball fans in your family. The Cardinals' home turf, Busch Stadium (700 Clark Ave., St. Louis, MO), offers year-round tours, in which your family can get an up-close look at the dugout, field and broadcast booth as well as a glimpse at the franchise's World Series trophies. Your tour ticket also gives you access to the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum (601 Clark Ave., St. Louis, MO), where your family can enjoy the history and memorabilia of Cardinal greats like Stan Musial and Ozzie Smith. Tours operate daily year-round except for major holidays.
Sweet Finish: Crown Candy Kitchen
It's fine to indulge your kids'—_and your own—_sweet tooth every once in a while, and Crown Candy Kitchen (1401 St. Louis Ave., St. Louis, MO) will make every sugar-rushed moment worth it. A St. Louis institution for more than a decade, Crown Candy Kitchen has the decor of an old-style diner, complete with a jukebox and soda machine. Your family can enjoy a kid-friendly full menu of reasonably priced sandwiches, hamburgers and hot dogs, but don't fill up before ordering the real reason you came. The dessert menu features a wide variety of malts, shakes and sundaes, and per restaurant tradition, anyone who can down five shakes in a half-hour gets them for free. Leave that one to Dad, perhaps. Seating is first-come, first-served, so be prepared to wait on weekends and peak dining hours. Crown Candy Kitchen is closed on Sundays.
Play and Learn: The Magic House
When the St. Louis weather has you trapped inside, head to The Magic House (516 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO), a children's museum that will give your kids a chance to burn off some energy while enhancing their minds. The museum, established in 1979, is filled with hands-on exhibits that appeal to children 12 and younger. The exhibits change throughout the year, but year-round exhibits include a bubble room where your children can put themselves inside a giant bubble, a mystery room where they can play detective and, for any future politicians in the family, a replica of the White House's Oval Office. If you want to avoid crowds, the museum recommends coming on weekends and summer days after 2 p.m. During the school year, the museum is closed in the morning, though a few areas are open exclusively for preschool-aged children. The museum charges an entry fee for children aged 1 and older.
Michael Baker has worked as a full-time journalist since 2002 and currently serves as editor for several travel-industry trade publications in New York. He previously was a business reporter for "The Press of Atlantic City" in New Jersey and "The [Brazoria County] Facts" in Freeport, Texas. Baker holds a Master of Science in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.