Family-Friendly Things to Do in St. Louis (Part 3)

This is my third post about our family's time in St. Louis, Missouri. I suggesting reading the first and second posts before this one. Because I blog about educational travel, I received complimentary admission tickets, discounts, media rates, and other benefits for some of the places we visited throughout the trip. Many attractions we toured are free to everyone; I paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I am sharing is something that I whole-heartedly recommend.


Family-Friendly Fun in St. Louis, Missouri 

We started Day 3 in St. Louis at the oldest botanical garden in the United States. The Missouri Botanical Garden was started in 1859 and is truly a treasure. It is huge and gorgeous. The Chihuly glass was a delightful surprise!


There was something stunning around every corner. Flowers, trees, bushes, ponds, hedge maze, waterfalls, edible crops... you name it.

Don't miss the museum at the botanical garden. The upstairs was filled with paper sculptures...

 ... while downstairs housed botanical art and artifacts. We loved this giant book. Each of the pages is made from a different plant material. It was so cool.

The Missouri Botanical Garden does an outstanding job with education. In addition to the museum, there's a dedicated children's garden, plus a play space. There are many interpretative signs throughout the gardens.

We saw as much of the garden as we could before it was time to head to our next destination. Honestly, we could have easily spent 4 or 5 hours there... or longer, if we'd brought a good book to read or art materials to draw or paint, as we saw some of the visitors doing. It's a gorgeous place and I highly recommend visiting. 

Next stop, the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. Start with the 22-minute film, "Ulysses S. Grant: A Legacy of Freedom." All of us learned a lot about Grant's history as a Civil War general and our 18th president. Then visit the museum, located in the historic stable. It is set up differently than any other museum I have ever seen. Each area focuses on one of Grant's (alleged) negative qualities, then asks the viewers to look at the evidence and decide for themselves. It was so unique and challenges visitors to do more than just glance at artifacts.

Next, tour the grounds, either on your own or with a ranger. You can see the main home, summer kitchen, ice house, and chicken coop. 

Time for lunch! I'd read that there were five foods unique to St. Louis that we absolutely had to try. We'd already had the toasted ravioli and the St. Louis-style pizza. Now it was time for St. Louis Must-Try Food #3: a Gerber sandwich. The place to get it? Ruma's Deli

What exactly is a Gerber sandwich? It's basically ham and cheese on garlic bread. The cheese, of course, is Provel. We knew one sandwich would not be enough food for the three of us, so we asked for a recommendation for one other item. He suggested the baked mostaccioli (topped, of course, with Provel), so that's what we got. Both were delicious! Somehow, the Provel that we hadn't loved on pizza tasted much better on the Gerber sandwich and the baked mostaccioli. I'd definitely recommend giving either of these a try at Ruma's. 

The nice thing about two adults and a teenage boy splitting two entrees is that we had plenty of room after lunch to try St. Louis Must-Try Food #4: Ted Drewes Frozen Custard

Because St. Louis was in the middle of a heat wave (or maybe just because it's that popular), there was a huge line at Ted Drewes. 

Fortunately, the line moved pretty quickly. We shared a Twisted Caramel Concrete (vanilla with salted caramel and pretzels) and a Fox Treat (vanilla with hot fudge, raspberries, and macadamia nuts). Soooo good! Totally worth the wait.

Feeling pleasantly full and refreshed, we headed to the Missouri History Museum. It was fabulous and free, the best of all possible combinations. I'm impressed at how many fantastic, family-friendly, totally free things there are to do in St. Louis. If you've never considered it as a vacation destination, you should!

The museum is immersive, packed with all sorts of interesting things from Missouri history.

And, like all the best museums, there were plenty of hands-on things for kids (and adults) to do. 

On our drive back to the hotel, we made a quick stop for St. Louis Must-Try Food #5: Gooey Butter Cake. I'd asked everyone for the best place to get it and I kept hearing Park Avenue Coffee, so that's where we went. If it hadn't been hotter than Hades outside, we would have gone to the hotel first, parked, and walked. But instead, Steve and Trevor dropped me at the doorstep and then left to try to find parking. I dashed inside and was back out with our piece of cake in under two minutes, which means I did not take the time to photograph Park Avenue Coffee, nor their incredibly impressive display case of dozens of flavors of Gooey Butter Cake. 

Fortunately, I did photograph our piece once we returned to the Drury Inn

We arrived in time for the end of the 5:30 Kickback, so we grabbed drinks and split the cake into three pieces. Delicious! If I had to describe it, I'd say it was basically a lemon bar without lemon. Not quite coffee cake, not quite a Blondie, but close to both of those. Definitely tasty.

I wasn't hungry at all after eating 1/3 of the cake, but Steve was peckish and Trevor was starving (my growing teenage boy). Hurray for the Drury's amazing 5:30 Kickback menu, all included with the room price! Trevor had a hot dog, a chicken soft taco, and a bowl of soup before hitting the popcorn machine. 

When Trevor was full, we went to our room for our final night in St. Louis. The next morning, we headed west. Tomorrow I'll tell you all about our next destination!


  1. Awesome photos!!!! I NEVER ever visit the botanical gardens here, cause it is a bunch of cacti ... lol ... and after being here for LONGER than I ever wanted to, I have seen enough of those to last 50 lifetimes! HA!! But that botanical gardens is GORGEOUS! I could stay there for the next 50 lifetimes!! Glad your second try at that cheese was better than the pizza!!

    1. I LOVE Phoenix's Desert Botanical Garden! But I do see your point. I wouldn't be super enthusiastic about a botanical garden that featured California's chaparral, with sagebrush and manzanita.

  2. That Botanical Garden looks amazing. I'm sure I would enjoy it in cooler temps though.


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