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  • Writer's pictureKaren Herbert

My Favorite 7-Day Family-Friendly Itinerary in St. Louis

Updated: Jul 8, 2023

St. Louis, Missouri is a worthwhile vacation destination. We love visiting there!

St. Louis is my hometown, and my heart is full whenever we visit. The sight of the iconic Gateway Arch, which stands on the bank of the Mississippi River, still gives me a thrill when we come back for a visit. St. Louis boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous museums, galleries, and historic landmarks. There are multiple attractions that are family-friendly but fun for grown-ups, too. Here's a seven-day itinerary that is proven to please.

Day 1 Riverfront/Downtown

  • Ride to the top of the Gateway Arch - the symbol of the city's role in history. This stainless steel monument rises 630 feet. The view is spectacular!

  • Stop by the Old Cathedral (officially the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France) - constructed in the early 19th century, and one of the oldest and continuously active Catholic churches in the United States. Beautiful stained-glass windows in this French Gothic-style building.

  • (Note: The Old Courthouse where the Dred Scott decision was handed down is currently closed for renovations. Otherwise, it would be on my list for a must-see downtown.)

(Author photos: Stunning view of the Arch, riding up in the tram; taking in the view from the top)

Day 2 Forest Park

  • Visit the giant sculptures at Turtle Park - let the kids climb! There are seven turtle sculptures and one gigantic snake.

  • Head across the highway to the acclaimed St. Louis Zoo. I think it's the best zoo in the country with natural habitat exhibits - River's Edge and Big Cat Country to name just two. Spend the day taking in the animals at this top-rated zoo. It's free admission, though the parking lots have a fee.

  • Finish up at nearby Imo's Pizza and try a dozen toasted ravioli, an official St. Louis culinary specialty, and a thin-crust pizza topped with provel, a unique blend of cheese that is like no other.

(Clark family photo at Turtle Park, with permission; Author photos at the Zoo, and Imo's)

Day 3 Forest Park - Science Museums

  • Experience hands-on learning about physics, chemistry, biology, and technology at the St. Louis Science Center. There is an IMAX theater there - always a great show, and you can rest your feet.

  • Traverse the walkway across the highway to the Planetarium, with its distinctive hyperbolic shape. The exhibits explain the wonders of the sky and planets. There's also a domed theater inside.

(Author photos: The Science Center, posing at the Star Trek exhibit, the "holiday" Planetarium)

Day 4 Central St. Louis County

  • Visit Grant's Farm - this wildlife park will surprise you! The bison and antelope graze freely on the property that's across from suburban neighborhoods. You will see those and more as you take a tram ride through the property. Before you leave, look for the Clydesdale horses in the pasture that adjoins the parking lot.

  • Explore the Magic House after for science-based activities for the young and young at heart. The exhibits have numerous themes for pretend play with interactive exhibits.

  • If there's still time, you won't be far from the National Museum of Transportation. Mostly outdoors, you will marvel at the extensive collection of locomotives and other modes of transportation.

(Author photos: Grant's Farm, the Magic House, the National Museum of Transportation)

Day 5 Downtown West/Central West End

  1. Crawl and climb through sculptures at The City Museum: The multi-level whimsical destination defies categorization! It's art, a museum, and a playground all at once. Designed by architect Bob Casilly, who also designed Turtle Park.

  2. Another marvel of art and architecture is the New Cathedral. Built in the early 20th century, this cathedral is renowned for its mosaics covering the interior.

Day 6 South City/Illinois

  1. A must-see in St. Louis is the historic Anheuser-Busch Brewery: Take the tour and meet the Clydesdale Horses. For a snack afterward, try a bratzel at Gus's Pretzels.

  2. Head across the river to Cahokia Mounds, in Collinsville, Illinois. Over 80 mounds preserve the remnants of a pre-Columbian Native American city. We enjoyed the interpretive center very much, and both boys had enough energy to climb to the top of Monk's Mound.

Day 7 Tower Grove

  1. Explore the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Founded in 1859, the beautiful grounds contain the Climatron, the world's first geodesic dome greenhouse. If you are planning to go this summer, you can attend Chihuly Nights, with stunning illuminated glass sculptures.

  2. Have dinner on The Hill, St. Louis's "Little Italy." Another opportunity to enjoy toasted ravioli.

(Author photos: At the City Museum, atop Monk's Mound at Cahokia, the Climatron greenhouse)

Honorable Mention

Laumeier Sculpture Park (Mid-County) - an outdoor sculpture park, perfect for an evening picnic.

St. Louis Art Museum (Forest Park) - Over 34,00 works of art, spanning thousands of years and diverse cultures. A special Monet exhibit runs through June 25th.

Our Lady of the Snows - (Belleville, Illinois) - A Catholic shrine with beautiful gardens, and an outdoor Stations of the Cross.

Disclaimer: Most photos are mine, one used with permission. I received no compensation from any of these attractions. They truly are my favorites we have visited many times over the years.

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