Heading to St. Louis with kids? You’ll love it here! I’ve raised two teen boys in this friendly city, so I – and my stomach – know my way around. Here are our favorite spots…
1. If your kid is a baseball fan or likes nachos drenched in melted processed cheese with jalapenos, there’s no better place to be than Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, 2011 World Series champions, thank you very much. This beautiful ballpark also has a full bar and serves sangria, I’m just sayin’. In 2011, the Cardinals drew three million fans, with 27 sellout games – ranking seventh in MLB in attendance. With the Cards in the playoffs again this year, there’s a good chance you’ll run into a party anywhere you go.
2. If your family is really into baseball, check out the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum, which is the largest team-held collection in Major League Baseball and is second only to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in terms of size with more than 16,000 memorabilia items and 80,000 archival photographs. You can even take a tour of Busch Stadium and maybe run into our friendly-feathered mascot Fredbird.
3. Afterwards, treat everyone to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, a St. Louis favorite since 1931. You’ll probably have to wait in line in the parking lot, but it goes fast, and trust me, the rich and creamy frozen stuff is worth it. The custard is so thick, in fact, they serve it upside down, which is part of the shtick. Just don’t try that trick with the Cardinal Sin, a concrete or sundae smothered in tart cherries and hot fudge, especially on a hot summer day.
4. If you’re looking for an activity so that you can work up an appetite to eat again, head over to Forest Park, which is located in the heart of St. Louis and covers 1,371 acres—that’s bigger than New York’s Central Park. I pinkie swear, unless your kids have an attitude that day, which is not uncommon for adolescents, they won’t be bored here. Home of the 1904 World’s Fair, Forest Park has something for everyone and a variety of attractions, including the St. Louis Zoo, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Science Center, and The Muny, which is America’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theatre.
5. And if that’s too cultural, your family can ride bikes, rent a paddleboat, play tennis, ice skate outside in the winter, and, of course, eat a lot of great food. I recommend the Boathouse, a casual restaurant located on a picturesque lake. In the summer, you can enjoy patio dining and live music, and in colder weather, snuggle inside by the large stone wood burning fireplace and sip hot chocolate. In the winter, kids like to sled down Art Hill, which is in front of the art museum.
6. Another fun destination is downtown City Museum, which really isn’t a museum but a 600,000 square-foot playhouse located in the former International Shoe Company and features an eclectic mixture of a children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of unique, found objects. The brainchild of internationally acclaimed artist Bob Cassilly, a classically trained sculptor and serial entrepreneur, the museum opened for visitors of all ages in 1997. Caution: wear kneepads if you want to crawl after your kids in the tunnels, mazes, and pipes. Not to worry, City Museum offers plenty of concessions to satisfy your hungry explorers, including freshly made sandwiches on handcrafted bread, fruit smoothies, brick oven pizza, barbecue ribs, and warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven. Parents, wash it all down with an espresso or cocktail.
7. One more neighborhood hotspot sure to please is The Loop in University City, named “One of the 10 great streets in America” by the American Planning Association. In addition to the St. Louis Walk of Fame, The Loop offers lots of vintage clothing stores, ethnic restaurants, and a record store called Vintage Vinyl that has the largest inventory of vinyl and CDs with every type of music genre.
8. The best burger in town can be found at Blueberry Hill, a nationally renowned restaurant and music club filled with pop culture memorabilia where the great Chuck Berry plays the last Wednesday night of every month. You can play pool and shuffle board here, too. Over at Fitz’s Root Beer, you can eat dessert and watch how the workers brew and bottle all the frothy beverages.
9. Afterwards, catch a flick at the restored Tivoli Movie Theatre, which offers patrons the chance to view contemporary independent films in a historic cinema house. And if you like to bowl, don’t miss the Pin-Up Bowl, a nostalgic bowling alley and martini lounge; kids are welcome here before 6 p.m. A full kitchen serves up an assortment of tasty foods, with everything from Campbell’s soups to freshly baked pizzas and even Pop-Tarts.
10. Finally, Demolition Ball, in St. Charles County, is a favorite hangout with teens—no wonder so many Bar/Bat mitzvah parties are here. This crazy sport involves supercharged bumper cars with two five-player teams who shoot a whiffle ball through a 16-inch circular goal using a track ball scoop. I can’t figure out why grownups like this game so much, especially when whiplash is the prize. That’s why I recommend using a heating pad, while your kids run around Adrenaline Zone, a multi-level laser tag arena, located in the same building. Better yet, pop a couple ibuprofen while sipping on a strawberry daiquiri. You’re gonna need it; this place is loud and wild.
Got some family favorites in St. Louis? Leave them in the comments!