St. Louis, MO

Month 3 of our 12 months of travel in 2021 consisted of a 3-day spring break trip to St. Louis, Missouri.

I just want to preface this by saying – we were here for 3 full days and didn’t even touch the SURFACE of the activities there are to do. If you are in the Midwest, this is a MUST city to visit! The suburbs were alive with hustle and bustle of people – live music on the street corners, every type of cuisine you can imagine, and activities I’d never even heard of before (I mean…a 10-story museum with an entire skate park inside?!)

Our three boys in Arch Park, with a snippet of the Mississippi behind them.

We started our trip at 4 AM on Friday morning – while it’s only a 4.5 hour drive to the East side of Missouri from Wisconsin, we knew we’d need a breakfast stop, as well as a potty stop with our newly trained 2.5 year old 😉

Our first stop was the St. Louis Zoo! The zoo is FREE and totally worth the $15 for parking. While the zoo is located in beautiful Forest Park, which does offer free parking, I suggest paying to park your car. Not only will your vehicle be in a secure lot, but the park extends for 3 square miles, so you may end up walking quite a ways. The zoo is BIG, so save your steps for the animals!

This zoo is home to over 18,000 animals. We were so grateful for a 60 degree day – and I think the animals were too! The brown bear was out and playing, all of the camels, cheetah, tiger, jaguar and giraffes were out to play as well. And don’t even get me started on the elephants – they have an entire area (4 displays worth) of elephants – they’re beautiful! Because the zoo was free, we grabbed lunch from the small restaurant there (pictured below) but you are able to bring your own food and beverage in if you so choose. I would also like to note that they DO have a Starbucks on campus if you choose a chilly day to go – coffee was a lifesaver in the early morning chill!

Lunch outside in the sunshine. Everyone had hotdog or a burger. Reasonably priced and delicious!

After a full morning + afternoon at the zoo, we headed to Gateway Arch National Park to check out the infamous Arch! Our boys are currently obsessed with the show Gold Rush (if you aren’t familiar, the show features modern day gold miners primarily based in the Yukon. Diggers and excavators galore – a boys dream!) We were so excited to show them the gateway to prosperity – Westward Ho! You get the idea 🙂 There wasn’t much happening when we arrived, but it was a beautiful park. Great for pictures, jogging, bike riding, and of course the Mighty Miss is always close by – it was fun to show each of our boys the same river they had seen on our trip to LaCrosse, WI last fall.

The Arch. So big. Just, so big!

By that time, we were all wiped out! We headed back to our resting place – Holiday Inn Express – Troy, IL. Our hotel was about 20 minutes outside in the city in Illinois. We chose this hotel mostly because it was MUCH less expensive than staying directly downtown, and partly because we knew that after a long day of exploring, we wouldn’t want to have to deal with finding a parking space or navigating cranky children through a downtown area. (Can you tell we’re country folk yet?!) The Holiday Inn was directly off the freeway – perfection. It was very clean, the staff was especially friendly (even when I asked for extra bedding for the spare bed that wasn’t located in our room), and there was a multitude of restaurants to choose from for dinner in close vicinity. Due to the timing of our trip, the pool was closed due to the “pandemic”, so we chose to order pizza to our room and call it a night!

Day 2 started bright and early with a planned trip to City Museum in downtown St. Louis. I reserved tickets online about a week before our trip (only $16/person!) and I am sure glad we did. The museum opens at 10 AM. We arrived at 9:45 and paid $10 to park in the lot across the street. I am definitely glad we decided to pay to park close – it was a secure/monitored lot, and there was a line wrapped around the block of the museum already to get in!

If you’re unfamiliar, City Museum is a hundred year old warehouse that designers have taken and used their imaginations to craft their own city. Life like caves (that only our children could fit in!), a full skate park on Floor 4, a 10-story slide, a full size school bus hanging off the top floor, and SO much more in-between.

There was something new to discover every time we turned around! Tunnels, caves, slides, life size whales and fish. INCREDIBLE doesn’t even come close to an accurate description. If you plan to spend the day here, I highly recommend tennis shoes and stretchy / moveable clothing. I had deeply regretted wearing jeans after the first hour of cave climbing. While I am super grateful for my health and ability to fit through the caves – jeans and a cardigan did not serve me well! Also, the museum does have lockers to rent, which is great! But if you can, stick your phone in your pocket or bring a string backpack. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend bringing anything into the museum with you. No food or drinks are allowed to be brought in, and even a string backpack will be a hard squeeze through some of the caves.

We spent the ENTIRE day roaming the museum. It was WELL worth the $16 each, and we definitely knew why the line was so long by the end of the day. (P.S.: The line NEVER got shorter! They just let more people in as others left the building!)

After our full day we decided on Sugarfire BBQ for dinner. Sugarfire is located downtown St. Louis, about 10 minutes from the museum. You will have to pay for parking along the downtown streets – I believe we paid $4 for 2 hours. We all sampled something a little different – myself with a brisket Philly cheesesteak, husband ordered a sandwich called the Carolina (brisket, coleslaw and a drizzle of mustard style bbq sauce – to die for!) and our kids each got a pulled pork kids meal. Our fries were made fresh and the meat was delectable. Not a crumb left!

The entrance to Sugarfire Smokehouse includes this iconic picture taking prop. My bull loving boys couldn’t resist the photo opp.

Our dessert plan was to head to Fitz’s for an iconic root beer float after dinner, however, when we arrived we realized that Fitz’s also serves dinner, and since it was still prime dinner hour, there was an hour and a half wait. After a full day, we just weren’t up for it, so we strolled the streets and found Snow Factory Rolled Ice Cream. None of us had ever had rolled ice cream before, so we figured why not! Snow Factory is located in the heart of college town – just blocks away from Washington University. The streets were alive with college students, families and musicians alike. Multiple restaurants and artists singing and playing in the street. We ordered our ice cream and enjoyed our treats on the sidewalk outside. The inside of Snow Factory is decorated with a multitude of colored post-it notes – all of which read a different message. SO fun to read! Snow Factory also offers a Plexiglas barrier (shown below) where you can watch the owner work his craft. Our boys LOVED that!

After a very, very full day – we headed back to our hotel for REST!

Day 3 started with cranky children. (hey, it happens!) When our children get cranky – we know the best thing to do is to get them OUTSIDE! So that’s exactly what we did. Husband found Laumeier Sculpture Park on a Google search, and we figured, why not?! The park was full of beautiful, hand crafted sculptures. There was plenty of room for our kids to run, jump, play and discover. Each sculpture had a small plaque with a unique description of the artist who created them, the time period it was created, and a brief history of what the artist was trying to bring to life when creating each piece. We found multiple covered picnic areas with bathrooms and water fountains, and multiple cleared gravel trails for hiking. We could have spent all day there if we could!

Just one of the many sculptures located in the park. The boys counted – this one had 26 ‘balls’ and reminded them of a caterpillar!

After a short hike, a hidden creek was found, and some more exploration of sculptures, we hopped in the car and began our journey home. As I said in the beginning, we didn’t even touch the surface of the number of activities that St. Louis has to offer. Who knew this gem was only 4.5 hours from our home! We will absolutely be back, very soon!