St. Louis is a city replete with history. Founded in 1764, it became a major port on the Mississippi River after the Louisiana Purchase. At one point, it was the 2nd largest city in the U.S. and was considered a “gateway” to the west. Now, the city is home to 318,000+ people, with a metro population of over 3 mil.
Our family stayed at Drury Plaza Hotel at the Arch in downtown St. Louis. The hotel has a prime location – within walking distance of the Gateway Arch, Citygarden, and the St. Louis Library. Affordably priced, the hotel’s guest rooms are pretty standard (and in need of some updates). That said, the chain does offer quite a few “extras” – complimentary breakfast, complimentary dinner, plus complimentary soda + popcorn every afternoon in the lobby. Parking is $16/night so be sure to budget that amount in.
Probably the most memorable part of our time in the city was venturing up to the top of the Gateway Arch, the tallest manmade monument in the United States and the largest architectural structure in the world that is designed as an arch. We boarded a tiny pod (beware if you’re claustrophobic!), which took us up 630 feet. At the top, we were able to take photos and see the city in all directions.
That same day, we walked through Citygarden, a collaboration between the City of St. Louis and the Gateway Foundation. The beautifully landscaped area offers walking paths, public art & sculptures, an audio tour, and – our girls’ favorite thing – fountains to splash in! Best of all, the garden is free and open every single day (sunrise to 10pm).
We also walked through St. Louis’ Old Courthouse (also free). Dred Scott was an African-American slave who sued for his freedom and that of his wife and their two daughters in the Dred Scott v. Sanford case of 1857. The United States Supreme Court decided 7–2 against Scott, finding that neither he nor any other person of African ancestry could claim citizenship in the United States. This decision ultimately hastened the start of the Civil War. The courthouse itself was beautiful to behold and fascinating to walk through. The many flights of winding stairs made my heart skip a beat since we have a fearless 1-year-old so she & I stayed on the ground floor, while Tim and the older girls explored up above us.
On our final day in the city, we drove to Forest Park, a public park that covers 1,371 acres. Admission is free to the park, as well as to the St. Louis Zoo, Saint Louis Art Museum, and the Missouri History Museum. Had we known ahead of time, we would have definitely planned to spend more time in this area. As it were, we enjoyed our morning at St. Louis Zoo, home to over 19,000 animals. My favorite were the elephants.
On our way out of town, we caught lunch at Fitz’s Root Beer. Located in a cool “college town” style strip of stores and restaurants, the restaurant features indoor & outdoor seating and a menu of burgers, sandwiches, wraps, and salads. I ordered The Loop Deluxe burger (which was GIGANTIC – easily enough for two) and Tim ordered the House Smoked Pulled Pork. The girls split an Old-Fashioned Turkey Club. We ended our meal with a root beer float – one to split between us!
Have you ever been to St. Louis with kids? What travel recommendations would you add?
* Special thanks to Explore St. Louis for providing complimentary accommodations and attraction passes.