Grabbing an ice cream cone. Playing at the park. Singing songs at the top of your lungs during a long car ride. A well-timed hug. The simple things in life become life-long memories when they involve moments between grandparents and grandchildren.
Most grandkids consider just getting to visit Grandma and Grandpa’s house a victory, but as they get older, it helps to find creative ways to keep your grandchildren’s attention so you can keep adding to the memory bank. Luckily, St. Louis is filled with fun (and often FREE) things to do with your grandkids. The Family Attractions Card is here to help you map out the perfect weekend so you can do your own kids a favor and send their children home happy… and exhausted. Save at many of the attractions listed in this article with the FREE Family Attractions Card!Educate and Explore We’re going to start with the big one. The REALLY big one! The Gateway Arch. 630 feet high and the same distance wide, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (its official name) is the tallest national monument in the U.S. and the observation deck is a must for any St. Louis traveler. To get there? You’ll have to squeeze together in a small four person elevator. At the top, you and the kids will get an amazing view of the city that is nothing less than awe-inspiring. The Arch turned 50 years old in 2015, but personally; we don’t think she looks a day over 25. Looking for even better views? Check out the helicopter tours that will fly you over the Arch grounds (including the mighty Mississippi River) for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
All aboard! Next stop…The Museum of Transportation! If it flies, chugs, or zooms, you’re sure to find it here at this (mostly) open-air museum in Kirkwood, MO. Vintage military jets, classic cars, and dozens of explorable trains dot this immense monument to modern transportation. Young and old will love touring the classic railcars and locomotives as well as checking out the rare and classic autos that look like they just rolled off of Detroit’s assembly lines. Have you checked out The Magic House? Every third Friday of the month is an Emerson Free Family Night where you and your grandchildren receive free admission to explore all of the different exhibits and educate the kiddos with different hands-on learning experiences. What’s great about this children’s museum is that it isn’t just for children! Not only are adults allowed to play and interact with the exhibits along with the kids, it’s encouraged! If you’re looking for that long drive (with or without the soundtrack), head west on I-44 to Meramec Caverns. Besides the allure of visiting a cool cave (that just happens to be the old hideout for the infamous outlaw Jesse James) and learning about Missouri’s “buried treasure”, Meramec Caverns is filled with other fun activities like tours, boat rides and even zip lines that can give your trip that added thrill! Prefer to explore the preserved remains of an ancient native civilization? Cahokia Mounds State Historic Park is just over the river in Collinsville, IL and promises a full day of investigating archeological remnants of a prehistoric way of life. It’s the perfect blend of education and exploration for grandkids that have more than a little bit of energy to release. Plus, you’ll get a nice workout climbing the 154 steps to the top! Trust us, the view is worth it.
Next on our list of places that provide fun for all ages is the Missouri History Museum. Adults will love learning more about the great state of Missouri in the museum and kids will love the hands-on activities in the History Clubhouse. The History Clubhouse is a space to develop a love of history and learning. They’ll step back in time to explore, discover, and play in a welcoming environment where nothing is hands-off. They can steer a steamboat down the Mississippi, prepare food in the ancient city of Cahokia, and even sell ice cream at the 1904 World’s Fair! History can be fun! We promise! When most out-of-towners hear ‘botanical garden’, the idea of a stuffy, boring plant museum may pop into their heads. Not so at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Rated as one of the world’s top botanical gardens, this oasis near the historic Shaw neighborhood is a wonderland of exploration for kids and adults alike. From the Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden where kids are free to explore, learn, and play to the massive Climatron, a geodesic dome that houses an entire self-contained jungle ecosystem, the Gardens will take an entire day to fully explore. Another member of the Botanical Garden’s family of attractions is the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House. Much smaller in scale, but equally as entertaining, the Butterfly House allows kids of all ages to get up close and personal with the prettiest of pollinators in their tropical conservatory where nearly 2,000 butterflies flitter in free flight. You can also check out the daily displays of the "Miracle of Metamorphosis" as a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis before your very eyes.Eat and Entertain Along with iconic, family-friendly St. Louis eateries like Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, Crown Candy Kitchen, and Ted Drewes, there are plenty of ways to curb your appetite while enjoying the company of your grandchildren. For a taste of history, try Fitz’s in the Delmar Loop and order a round of root beers in frosty mugs for the whole crew. If you plan on visiting the Arch, stop by Laclede’s Landing and visit The Old Spaghetti Factory for some old fashioned, traditional Italian and their famous kid’s menu. Or, if you’re sticking around St. Louis County, you can’t go wrong with a pizza party and games at Incredible Pizza Company off Lindbergh Boulevard because nothing says ‘I love you’ like pizza. If baseball is what hits a home run with your grandkids, the St. Louis Cardinals are the premiere team to see. With 11 World Series Championships and 19 National League pennants, there’s little wonder why the Cardinals are such a huge draw, but getting tickets to any one of the 81 home games is still easy and affordable. Everyone loves puppies. Purina Farms offers puppy overload and the chance to partake in many animal-centric activities including cow-milking, a petting zoo, visiting an animal barn and playing in the hayloft, watching dog shows, diving shows and Frisbee competitions. It’s a one-stop shop for your puppy fix. While the movie theater is always a kid-pleaser, nothing can capture your grandchildren’s imagination and make their favorite shows come to life like a live show at The Muny in Forest Park. Every summer, you can catch critically-acclaimed presentations of famous musicals and Disney performances that will have you and the grandchildren singing along for weeks after.Plan the Perfect Weekend in St. Louis with Your Grandchildren Now that you have some ideas of what to do in St. Louis, you can mix and match the different activities and plan the perfect weekend to entertain your grandkids. Try a restaurant on Friday night and pick a place to explore on Saturday afternoon. If there’s still gas in the engine, add another activity on Saturday night or Sunday to cap off a fun-filled weekend. Each place promises a great time for grandparents and grandchildren alike, and most importantly, these St. Louis activities will help create those priceless, lifelong memories that capture the love you share for each other (and for adventure). What do you consider the perfect weekend with your grandchildren? Please share in our comments section below.