One Day Itinerary in St. Louis

Despite the close location from Dallas, this was our first experience going to St. Louis and I definitely left feeling like I want to experience more!  We arrived Friday night and settled in with Pizza at our hotel.  We got the kids to bed early (Thank you, Melatonin) and prepared for an early departure from the hotel to get the most out of our day.

8 am-12 St. Louis Zoo

12-1 Lunch break

1 pm-5 St Louis Science Museum

5-6 Dinner

6pm-8 St. Louis Arch

ZOO: We started in the cooler weather at the St Louis Zoo.  The entry fee is FREE!  I know, I couldn’t believe it either!   Parking here was $15 a car and it was quite a long line to get in.

 

We went to lunch at Steak ‘n Shake. Kids eat free on the weekends (for every $9 spent, get one kids meal free).  This restaurant makes dining in easy with kids.  They provide coloring mats and crayons along with build-your-own cars with stickers. The menu is kid-friendly with pictures.  The food came quickly about right when the kids were finishing up their activities.

We headed to the St Louis Science Museum.  This was in the same area as the zoo (Forrest park).  It was probably a mile of driving, so not close enough to walk, but very close to the zoo. This was also a FREE entrance fee!  The parking here was $12/car.

My thoughts were, “You get what you pay for” and figured an hour or 2 would be all the enjoyment we would get.  However, this was a legit science museum; full of various exhibits and interactive learning.  We spent 4 hours and didn’t get enough. As a mom I love reading and learning different aspects of science and the kids have so much to touch, do, discover and learn.  Science museums really have something for every level.  We were busy playing and interacting so we didn’t get many pictures.  You’ll just have to experience it yourself!

Only 5 miles away was the St. Louis Gateway Arch.  The kids loved finding it on the skyline as we drove that way.

We weren’t sure where to park or how to get to it.  So we passed the first base and parked just passed the northern base.  I don’t think it really matters though, just find a space or a parking garage.  There was a Cardinals baseball game starting the night we were there so we wanted to get away from the stadium a bit. Where ever you park you will have to walk into the park, but it is made into a gorgeous park looking out over the Mississippi.

The visitors center is closest to the North Base.  We just paid for tickets right outside to get into the visitors center ($3 for adults/ Kids free).  The wait for going up the arch was 2 hours, but just going in there was no wait.  Once you got inside the Center there is a theater, a Ranger Station (with Jr Ranger booklets)  a gift shop and  LONG lines to get up the arch elevator.  Our kids were tired and I was glad we didn’t spend $60 to go up, but then again, we missed part of the experience.   We watched the 20 minute movie about how the arch was made. I thought it was fascinating (even though it was made in the 70s and was so dated! It just added to the appeal).  When we went in 2017, much of the arch was under construction, but it should be amazing when they finish the park in front of the arch, the museum entrance and the Museum exhibits inside.

IMG_9266Hopefully, when you finish this full day you get to crash at a hotel and maybe hit the pool, but we  drove 3 hours  to get to our next destination.  An audio book put the kids right to sleep!

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St. Louis Zoo

We started in the cooler weather at the St Louis Zoo (8 am opening!) The entry fee is FREE!  I know, I couldn’t believe it either!  Zoos are typically so expensive, to just walk right in was so unknown,  that we waited in a line, just to have the confused attendant, point to the gate and tell us to walk in like we were complete idiots.

Parking: Parking at the zoo was $15 a car. When we were leaving the zoo we saw people walking accross the street presumably to cheaper or free residential parking, but we didn’t know that trick, so we paid to park in the lot.

TIP: My husband dropped the kids and I off at the front entrance.  He then drove passed the LONG line, flipped a U-turn and entered the parking lot from the other direction where the line was only 4-5 cars long.

We went on a Saturday to a free zoo so, understandably, it was crowded.  But if we were patient, we were able to see all the animals we desired. The crowds moved freely and everyone at their own pace and agenda, so it all works out.

 

Favorite Exhibits: I loved the smooth perfection of the Cheetah’s fur, the butterfly encounter fluttering all around us and the polar bear swimming right up against the glass.  Seeing my 8-month-old laugh at the elephants and get splashed by a penguin was the best!  My daughter loved the sea lions swimming right over our heads in a walk through aquarium.  My son loved the butt of a wild hog and monkey, of course (He’s 9 thats what boys like).  Giant tortoises, red pandas, prairie dogs and the small insect rooms were among the other favorites.  We missed the whole section with lions, giraffe, etc.  So we will have to come again.

Costs: The zoo had plenty of options to see things the were free. That being said there were several things we wanted to see that you had to pay to get into. The kids were very excited about the children’s zoo with animals to pet and otters.  It was $4 a person and I would’ve paid it normally, but we had a few  more venues we wanted to hit, so we passed… this time.  There was also a sea lion show, wild west outpost (discovery room) and sting ray encounter for $4 to see.   The carousel, railroad, safari adventure, and theater we other pay-for attractions. We opted to see everything we desired for free and then move on, vowing to try it out again another day.  We still missed 2 HUGE sections of the zoo after 3 hours of animal viewing.

Food: Outside food and drinks (including coolers) are permitted inside the zoo.  If we would’ve been more prepared we could’ve eaten and stayed longer, but we needed a food break and recharge, so we headed out.

TIP: A Souvenir cup of soda costs $10.99.  Outrageous! but after you buy it you can get a soda refill for $1 and water at any of the concession stands for free.   Refilling with slushie was $2.50  We kept our kids hydrated in the hot temperature, so it was worth it to get refills constantly.

This will definitely be getting another visit from us!  Thanks City of St. Louis for offering such an amazing FREE zoo!

St Louis Zoo Homepage