19 Reasons St Louis is Our Top Pick for a Midwest Spring Break

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Discover the best things to do in St Louis for teens with our exciting new guide for families! We think St. Louis is the perfect place to take your family for a Midwest spring break this year.

While you won’t find white sand beaches or a tropical paradise in St. Louis, you will find plenty of adventure, the smallest US National Park, lots of things to do for free, delicious food, AND three professional sport options! Plus, there are many things to do indoors in St Louis too, just in case the weather is not ideal.

things to do in st louis mo include going to see a cardinals game - iconic view of the arch and busch stadium

Many thanks to Explore St Louis for hosting my trip to see what’s new in the Lou!

Nestled along the mighty Mississippi River, St. Louis is one of our favorite Midwestern cities. With so many fun things for teens to do in St. Louis, it’s perfect for teens and families. Home to impressive world-class museums, the smallest US national park, an amazing food scene, and more professional sports than most any other city in the Midwest, we are convinced that St. Louis is one of the best large Midwestern cities for family vacations.

St Louis is the perfect Midwest city to visit with your teens. If you’re looking for fun things to do in St Louis MO that your teens will love, make sure to read these 19 reasons to head to St. Louis with your family!

st louis arch & courthouse

Mild Spring Weather in St Louis

Weather is an important consideration when you’re looking for a spring break destination. If you’re from the Midwest, you probably know that the weather fluctuates a lot. There’s nothing quite like experiencing all four seasons in one week – a real occurence in the Midwest. However, by spring break time in mid – to late March through April, the weather in St. Louis is warming up. The humidity hasn’t crept in yet and days aren’t sweltering like they often are in Missouri during the summer.

You can expect temperatures to range from the high 50s on the low end to the upper 70s on the high end. As long as you check the weather forecast and pack suitable clothing, we think the cooler temps are perfect for exploring. Don’t fret, though, if the weather is bad, many of the top free things to do are also things to do indoors in St Louis!

Crowds are also not as big during off-season travel. This is one of the main reasons we like to travel during the off-season. Fewer people = shorter lines = more time to have more fun!

So Many Free Things to Do in St. Louis

We know parents will love the many free things to do in St. Louis. Do you know how many free things there are to do in St. Louis area? Just look at all of these options. Most are open year-round and this list is not exhaustive!

  • Forest Park 
  • Saint Louis Zoo
  • Gateway Arch National Park
  • Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour
  • Grant’s Farm
  • Saint Louis Art Museum
  • Saint Louis Science Center
  • Lafayette Park
  • Great Rivers Greenway
  • Union Station Laser Show
  • Missouri History Museum
  • Laumeier Sculpture Park
  • Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

Make sure to double check – while most of these places do offer basic admission for free, many places also offer more experiences for a fee. Just double check before you go to keep your expectations in check.

15 Things to do in St Louis for Teens

Whether your teen wants active adventure, animal encounters, a historical overview, time in museums, or watching professional sports, they can experience all of that in St. Louis. Here are a few things to look forward to when you visit St. Louis, Missouri.

view the arch from a riverboat cruise

Gateway Arch National Park

One of the most iconic things to do in St Louis Missouri is visiting the Gateway Arch along the Mississippi River in downtown St Louis. The park is free to enter, but there is a fee to go to the top.

Despite the fact that I have walked under this Gateway to the West time and again, this most recent visit was the first time I’ve ever been to the top of the arch!

Designed by architect Eero Saarinen, construction of the arch was completed in 1965. Since then, it has become one of the most recognizable US monuments and has welcomed more than 140 million visitors to the city! 

Part of the National Park Service as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial since 1935, the area was officially designated Gateway Arch National Park in 2018. It is the smallest and most urban national park in the United States, followed closely by Hot Springs National Park (which you must also visit!).

Fun fact: at 630’ tall, the St Louis Arch is as tall as it is wide. I did not know that! Make sure to check another national park off your bucket list when you visit!

gatweay arch national park (1)

Old Courthouse

Commemorating Lewis and Clark’s travels to explore the Louisiana Purchase, there’s more to the national park than just the arch.  Gateway Arch National Park is also a somber testament to slavery in the US. We want our teens to enjoy and learn from our travels and the Gateway Arch National Park is a great place for them to do both.

The Old Courthouse (which is also part of the park) is where the infamous Dred Scott case was decided. This 1857 court case, the culmination of a decade-long fight for Scott’s right to freedom, instead upheld slavery in the US territories, denied the right to Black citizenship, declared the Missouri Compromise to be unconstitutional, and was part of the reason for the Civil War. 

In 2024, the Old Courthouse is currently closed to visitors. It is undergoing the largest public-private renovation project in National Park history- $380 million CityArchRiver project. As part of the renovation project, the courthouse will receive accessibility upgrades, new museums, and more.  I’m so excited to go back when it opens in the spring or summer of 2025! For now, you’ll just have to walk by and take a look from the outside!

Visitor Center and Museum at the Gateway Arch

Before you ride to the top of the Arch, make sure to spend some time in the Visitor Center and Museum where you can explore more than 200 years of St Louis history. 

Starting with the earliest Native Americans who inhabited the area, the interactive exhibits tell a more complete story of the area including European explorers, early pioneers, and African slaves too.

This indoor activity is interesting and educational. Make sure you don’t skip it!

Tram Ride to the Top 

Another thing you must do when you visit the Gateway Arch National Park is take the tram to the top from inside of the Gateway Arch. Make sure to buy your tickets ahead of time as they sell out. Just going to admit that I was a tad nervous about going up to the top. I’m not a huge fan of heights and the promised 30 mile view from the top really didn’t excite me all that much.

However, the trams were really interesting – think ferris wheel car meets elevator. It takes four minutes to get to the top. Once there, you have limited time to look, then it’s back down. The trams are small which is fine because the space at the top is also small. They only hold five people, so keep that in mind if you have a large family like I do.

Gateway Arch Parking

If you need to park when you visit the Arch, the best place to do so is at the Stadium East Parking Garage. It costs $10 for five hours and you can purchase your parking ticket ahead of time to make the process easier. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk to the Arch from the Stadium East Parking Garage.

take a selfie from a riverboat cruise with the arch in teh background

Cruise the Mighty Mississippi on Gateway Arch Riverboats

Cruising along the mighty Mississippi River is a great way to learn about the history of the area and find great views of the Gateway Arch and the city skyline. Your teens might not care so much about the history, but maybe they will enjoy taking selfies from the riverboats? 

Gateway Arch  Riverboats offer lots of options for a daytime sightseeing cruise or a lively evening riverboat cruise with live music and dancing. Definitely add a river cruise to your teen friendly St. Louis itinerary.

Book your riverboat cruise on Trip Advisor.

Jewel Box Arboretum in Forest Park

Explore Forest Park

Forest Park in St. Louis is one of the largest urban parks in the United States and is such a great place for families to explore. It’s even bigger than Central Park in New York City!

You’ll find over 1,300 acres at Forest Park with scenic trails, paddle boats across the lake, the St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis Art Museum, the St. Louis Science Center – all with free admission and more. With open green spaces perfect for picnics or tossing a frisbee, Forest Park is a great place to get active and create fun family memories.

Forest Park is the former site of the famous 1904 World’s Fair. The over arching vision of Forest park is to be a legacy for all – regardless of socio-economic status – to enjoy art and nature. Forest Park is where you’ll find many museums to explore for free! 

I love the following words spoken by Chauncy F Shultz, the then-presiding judge of St Louis County when Forest park was dedicated to the city on June 24, 1876.

 “I present to you, the people of the County of St. Louis, your own, this large and beautiful Forest Park for the enjoyment of yourselves, your children and your children’s children forever . . . The rich and poor, the merchant and mechanic, the professional man and the day laborer, each with his family and lunch basket, can come here and enjoy his own . . . all without stint or hinderance . . . and there will be no notice put up, ‘Keep Off the Grass.’”

Major props to St Louis for keeping this vision alive well into the 21st century!

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Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour 

You might scratch your head at taking the kids on a brewery tour, but the basic brewery tour at Anheuser-Busch is free and family friendly! It’s also indoors, so if you need something to do during inclement weather, head over for a tour!

Grant’s Farm

If you want to visit to the historic Budweiser Clydesdales and visit their stables, a visit to Grant’s Farm is a must!! Admission is free, but there is a parking fee.

play games at the Armory STL

Armory STL

This former home to the 138 Infantry of the Missouri National Guard, the Armory STL has been given a whole new life, and it is a lot of fun! For more things to do indoors in St Louis, head over to this massive indoor entertainment destination! It’s basically a 6-acre indoor playground for adults, featuring everything from adult-sized teeter totters to tricycles, a two-story slide, putting greens, and more!

The Armory STL is THE perfect place to hear live music, have a taco and a beer from one of six bars, and enjoy a great day! It’s 260,000 square feet of fun! What a great indoor resource for rainy days or anytime you need to add a little spice to your weekend. 

adult sized teeter toter at the armory

Note: during the week the Armory STL is only for adults, 21 years of age and older. On Saturdays and Sundays until 6 pm, however, kids are welcome. I know my teens would absolutely LOVE the Armory STL. 

City Museum St Louis

When I polled my friends on what to do in St Louis, the overwhelming response was to visit City Museum. Housed in the former International Shoe Building, this museum first opened in 1997 and has been welcoming visitors ever since.

If your teens enjoy hands-on experiences, unique art installations, and climbing and exploring unconventional spaces, they are likely to have a great time at the City Museum. Many teenagers enjoy the City Museum because of how unconventional and adventurous it is. Its MonstroCity sculpture park is nuts (in a fantastic way)!

With lots of climbing structures, tunnels, slides City Museum St Louis is a great way to move your body and get creativity. The blend of art, architecture, and interactive elements creates an environment that many teens find engaging and exciting.

pet manta rays at the St Louis Aquarium Union Station

St Louis Aquarium at Union Station

If your teens like marine biology and interactive experiences the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station is a great place to explore.

fun in the st louis aquarium

Fun things to do include walking through The Shark Canyon exhibit, touching rays and other aquatic animals in interactive touch pools, and the 3D virtual reality ride to learn about Missouri’s unique freshwater rivers and animals. Don’t miss this fun adventure located inside the historic St Louis Union Station.

St Louis Wheel

Also located at Saint Louis Union Station is the 200′ tall St Louis Wheel! Riding the Wheel is a great thing to do in St Louis with teens. With climate controlled cars that seat up to eight people, you can enjoy a view of the St Louis skyline in comfort and style.

laser light show in the grand hall

Grand Hall Light Show at Union Station

Inspired by the walled city of Carcassonne in France, the building might be a little out of place in metro St Louis! St Louis Union Station is absolutely breathtaking. Designed by architect Theodore C. Link, the building looks like it belongs in Europe.

You don’t have to stay at the Union Station Hotel (though I highly recommend it) to take a walk through this historic building. Your teens will be mesmerized by the laser shows in the Grand Hall. Starting every hour on the hour from 5 pm – 10 pm, these light shows 

The Union Station Laser Light Shows features a state-of-the-art laser light show synchronized with music and dynamic visuals. It tells interesting stories about the history of St. Louis as it projects patterns and colors onto the walls and ceilings inside Union Station’s Grand Hall. It only lasts a few minutes and is definitely something kids of all ages will enjoy.

Union Station opened in 1894 and quickly became one of the busiest train stations in the US. As many as 100,000 people a day traveled through the beautiful Grand Hall in its heyday. However, the last train passengers came through in 1978. Union Station closed and fell into disrepair. Read more about the early history of Union Station St Louis here.

In 1985 it reopened and I well remember the shopping area it became. Now it houses the St Louis Aquarium, a beautiful hotel, and more. Make sure to stop in at this National Landmark even if you don’t stay here.

Walk or Bike along the Great Rivers Greenway

The Great Rivers Greenway in St. Louis is great place to connect with nature, recreation, and natural beauty. With more than 128 miles of trails and greenways, the Great Rivers Greenway is a great place to bike, jog, take a leisurely stroll, or have a picnic.

This extensive trail network weaves through urban landscapes, parks, and alongside scenic rivers while connecting different areas of the city to each other. If you’re civic minded, you can also find an opportunity to volunteer here during your spring break!

see the tulips in bloom at Saint Louis Botanical Garden

Missouri Botanical Garden

Spring is a great time to visit the Missouri Botanical Gardens, especially if you enjoy tulips, daffodils, and other spring bulbs. Not only can you see spring flowers in their full splendor, but you may also enjoy the Japanese Gardens, the geodesic dome conservatory, and the Children’s Park too.

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Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House

You’ll find the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House in the St Louis suburb of Chesterfield and butterfly lovers will love to explore this great park – a division of the Missouri Botanical Garden. More than 60 tropical butterfly species and 150 tropical plants live in the enclosed 8,000 square foot Tropical Conservatory.

Visiting the Butterfly House is one of locals favorite things to do indoors in St Louis and it’s open Tuesdays through Sundays, 10 am to 4 pm.

Explore St Louis City Foundry

Another thing you’ll want to do in St. Louis Missouri is eat your way through the St Louis City Foundry located in the Midtown neighborhood. This reimagination of 15 acres that used to house the Century Electric property (vacant since 2007) is truly amazing. 

City Foundry opened in 2021 and instead of decrepit and abandoned buildings, now you’ll find the first true food hall in St Louis with 17 different kitchens plus fun shopping and entertainment areas as well. If your teens are foodies, like interesting shops, or indoor mini-golf, they’ll love City Foundry as much as I did.

play puttputt at Puttshack

Puttshack

Your whole family will enjoy mini golf at Puttshack at the Foundry. This one of a kind indoor mini golf concept award (or deducts!) points for trivia and does all the calculating for you. Fun, but also a bit head scratching. It’s much harder to cheat at mini-golf when a machine is counting your swings.

Shopping at City Foundry

Shopping at City Foundry

Check out the fun, independently owned shops at the Foundry. I loved the woman owned Golden Gem – full of fun and uplifting woman-power gifts. 

City Foundry 3730 Foundry Way St. Louis, MO

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Six Flags St Louis

Adventure park enthusiasts will enjoy Six Flags St Louis which opens for the 2024 season sometime in the spring – late March or early April.

With a variety of live entertainment and almost 40 rides to choose from (9 of which are roller coasters) you’re sure to find something you’ll love about going to Six Flags St Louis!

st louis in spring (

Teens will Love all the Professional Sport Options in St Louis

If your teens love professional sports, St Louis is definitely the city for you! As of publishing, here are the important dates for spring 2024 in St Louis. Make sure you double check as dates do change.

Watch the St Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium

From cheering and jeering to the seventh-inning stretch, watching a baseball game is something that most teens enjoy and every teen should experience at least one. Busch Stadium, the iconic home of the St. Louis Cardinals, is  nestled in downtown St. Louis and is one of the coolest stadiums I’ve been to! 

The electrifying atmosphere, the crack of the bat, and the sea of red jerseys, the iconic St Louis Arch in the background all make attending a Cardinals game an unforgettable experience. Make sure to take your teens to a St. Louis Cardinals game if they’re playing when you visit.

watch a st louis blues hockey game

Feel the Freeze – St. Louis Blues Hockey Game

Whether you’re a die-hard hockey fan or a first-timer, attending a St. Louis Blues hockey game at Enterprise Center is a lot of fun! The fast-paced action on the ice, the thunderous cheers of the crowd, and the occasional fights make for watching hockey games unforgettable.

The Enterprise Center is a state-of-the-art arena that offers fantastic views from every seat. Teens can’t help but laugh and get caught up in the excited exuberance of die hard hockey fans when you watch!

Soccer Fever at City Park SC in st louis

Soccer Fever at City Park SC

One of the newest professional sports stadiums in the country, City Park SC was just built after the pandemic and it is absolutely beautiful. There’s not a bad seat in the stadium. Not a single seat in the 22,500 seat stadium is less than 120 feet of the soccer pitch! Even non-soccer fans will enjoy the vibrant energy, passionate fans, and fast pace of professional soccer. 

st louis union station hotel

Where to Stay in St Louis

If you’d like to stay in a convenient downtown location inside a National Historic Landmark, we highly recommend the St. Louis Union Station Hotel. With beautifully appointed rooms in a historic train station, you’ll find lots of love about this St. Louis hotel. Make sure to watch their hourly laser light shows, even if you stay somewhere else.

We also think Drury Hotels are great for families and there are several in the St. Louis area including one downtown at Union Station.

St. Louis – It’s not Chicago.

“It’s not Chicago.” That’s what I heard when I visited St Louis recently. Living closer to Chicago, I visit Chicago more often now. However, my parents are both native Missourians and I spent countless family vacations in the state of Missouri.

With grandparents south of St. Louis in the Cape Girardeau area and another set in the tiny town of Clarkton in the Bootheel, I spent a lot of time in Missouri when I was young even though we didn’t live in the state. 

When I was 14 however, my family made the move to the central Missouri town of Sedalia and I graduated from high school there. I also earned my BA at the University of Missouri. While I no longer call Missouri home, it’s in my blood. 

St. Louis is definitely not Chicago, but that doesn’t make it any less cool. In fact, that might make it better! 😉 If you’re looking for a cosmopolitan city that is taking strides to repair turbulent race relations, has great food, and a lot of really fun (and free!) things to do, St. Louis is definitely the city for you!

Did we leave something out that you love about St. Louis? Please share!

If you’re looking for more spring break ideas, check out these posts:

13 Best Midwest Spring Break Destinations in 2024

3 Day Teen Approved Itinerary – Orange Beach & Gulf Shores (Family Activities

Fun Things to Do in Panama City Beach, Florida with (& without) Teens!

Fun, Affordable Family Skiing in Colorado at Sunlight Mountain Resort

17 Things to do in Natchitoches La to Bring History to Life!

A Weekend Getaway for Art, Culture, and Adventure in Hamilton County, Indiana

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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