ABC Travel Guides for kids

A St. Louis Family Vacation THE ULTIMATE 6-DAY ITINERARY

Ask most families where they spent their summer vacation and it's unlikely the answer will be St. Louis. Yet, it's a great destination for families.

The Gateway Arch exceeded my expectations. At the Arch, in addition to the history lesson and ride to the top, we discovered another traditional St. Louis and touristy treat: Dad's Original Scotch Oatmeal Cookies. After a bunch of these cookies, we headed to another St. Louis landmark for dinner, Charlie Gitto's. Along with traditional Italian fare, we sampled a St. Louis original, toasted ravioli. Yes, toasted ravioli. Finally we checked into our hotel, the Hyatt in Union Station, a converted old train station, and got some rest.


We headed out early the next morning and went straight to Forest Park. Forest Park is home to the Art Museum, the Zoo, the Jewel Box, the Boathouse, the Muny and numerous other St. Louis must see attractions. But our first stop, Turtle Playground, was just outside the entrance to Forrest Park. As expected, here we found enormous concrete turtles. We climbed, took pictures and played in this most unusual playground. For brunch, we headed to the Boathouse, Forest Park's restaurant located on a lake featuring rowboats and paddleboats. Then we headed out of Forest Park to the "world famous" Ted Drewes Frozen Custard stand for dessert. At Ted Drewes, they hand you your cup of frozen custard upside down to show that it will not fall out of the cup! My 5-year-old daughter turned her custard upside down and, as expected, gravity didn't kick in. Unfortunately, when my 3 year old tried the whole cup fell out of her hand. Moving quickly, we applied the two-second rule picked it up, brushed it off and it was fine.

Our next stop was a Space Age like structure, the planetarium that is linked to the Science Museum. After some time in the Discovery Room where the kids could build, do arts and crafts, and play on computers, we took in a movie at the IMAX Theater.

For cheeseburgers, fries and root beer floats we headed to Fitz's. Here you'll see that not only is this place a restaurant, it's an actual bottling plant where you can see the soda bottling process while dining at your table.


Day three started at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Inside is a beautiful and exotic greenhouse, the Climatron conservatory. My wife was surprised to see M&M and gumball machines in the distance in the conservatory, but once we got closer and discovered the plants behind the machines were cocoa, sugarcane, and peppermint plants, we realized just how cool this place was. The kids ran through the Victorian maze, and we also explored the Japanese and Chinese gardens.

Just up the street from the entrance of the Gardens is "The Hill," a predominately Italian community where all the fire hydrants are painted red, green, and white. After picking up some lunch and cannolis, we did what any other family on vacation in St. Louis would do-we headed to the Anheuser-Busch factory for a tour. While the children enjoyed the Clydesdales and the "cold room," my wife and I sipped on our two complimentary 12-ounce draft servings of the Anheuser Busch beers of our choice.


On day four we headed to the Kirkwood section of St. Louis, home of great family attractions. Our first stop was McArthur's Bakery in the center of town for some pastries and coffee. Next we headed over to Laumeier Sculpture Garden where the kids could run, jump, climb and explore massive sculptures in both open fields and wooded trails. Next was a quick visit to the Donut Drive-In for some freshly baked donuts and then to the Art Museum.


Day five started at the "EAT RITE DINER" a 24-hour counter-only burger joint that serves a great breakfast. Quick stops at the Dental Health Theater featuring a set of three-foot high fiberglass teeth and a puppet show. We then headed to Grant's Farm; the kids loved getting up close and personal with the Clydesdales and feeding the goats bottles of milk.


On our final day we headed to the City Museum. We all agreed that we had never been to a museum quite like this. MonstroCity is an outdoor structure for climbing and is composed of recycled metal structures. Inside the museum there was an aquarium, a miniature locomotive train to ride, and lots of other really cool activities including a slide from the third floor down to the first floor.

So if you're looking for a place to take the family for a vacation, consider five nights and six days in St. Louis, you won't be disappointed.

Matthew G. Rosenberger, a Philadelphia resident, is publisher of many children's travel guides. For more information about ABC Travel Guides for Kids

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