Sometimes it’s nice to be told what to do, so I’m going to come right out and say it: plan a trip to St. Louis, Missouri sooner rather than later.
When the girls were still in school, we skipped town for a few days and headed to St. Louis. I love that it’s within four hours of Indianapolis; close enough to go for a weekend, but far away enough to feel like a vacation.
While we were in St. Louis, we stayed at the Drury Plaza Hotel, and we really need to talk about it. We normally travel with our camper and skip hotels. It’s more cost-effective for us to travel most places (especially within a day’s drive) with our camper. BUT. The Drury Plaza Hotel changed the game for me: a great view of the Arch, a breakfast buffet that felt like an actual restaurant, unlimited popcorn and pop in the lobby all day, and something called a 5:30 Kickback they advertise as a snack time but is an actual full meal…all included in your room rate.
When I shared my shock and awe of the Drury Plaza Hotel on social media, people weren’t as surprised as I was–PEOPLE KNOW HOW WONDERFUL THIS PLACE IS. And they never told me. If this was supposed to be a secret, I’m refusing to stay quiet. It’s a magical place (there’s a rooftop pool! look for part of Ellie’s tooth if you’re there!), and we should all have the experience at least once.
You can get to Gateway Arch National Park and the Old Courthouse in less than a five minute walk. This isn’t the Arch of your childhood either, the grounds, the entrance, and the underground museum have all been remodeled and updated. It looks amazing. When we were there in 2015, it was under construction and not very pretty to look at. But now! Now it’s amazing. Make sure you leave enough time before your tram ride up to the top of the Arch to explore the museum exhibits. It’s kid-friendly, utilizes universal design making it accessible to almost everyone, and really interesting (unfortunately, the actual Arch isn’t as accessible; the construction makes it pretty much impossible to redesign or make friendlier for more people). The museum curators also did a good job of addressing some painful parts of our history in relationship to westward expansion. The exhibits tell the story of the area from three different perspectives: the white settlers, the Native Americans, and the Mexican settlers. It’s done really well.
(The Park suggests you buy tickets online ahead of time if you want to ride the tram or do any of the boat/helicopter tours. Especially in the summer, things sell out fast and you don’t want to have to wait hours for your ride time.)
Make sure you actually visit the Old Courthouse too, don’t just walk by in your way to the Gateway Arch. The Old Courthouse is part of the National Park Service and worth a stop. Both the Dred Scott case and the Virginia Minor case were heard in this courthouse, so the American history is rich and important. You don’t have to spend all morning there, but don’t miss it.
The park, formerly known as Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, was renamed Gateway Arch National Park and became an official national park in 2018. The National Park Service has worked hard to make the whole park an experience, not just the Arch. The grounds are beautiful and spacious. As we walked around, people were biking, using electric scooters, running on their lunch breaks, and playing frisbee with their dogs. You could easily spend the day at the park between the courthouse, museum, Arch, and the surrounding areas. Behind the Old Courthouse is Kiener Plaza complete with a splash pad, fountain, and playground. (If you’re there in the morning, walk the few blocks over to Pharoah’s Donuts. When you walk in, there is powdered sugar hanging in the air so you know those are going to be good donuts. It’s nothing fancy to look at, but the donuts are so good. Grab a box and head back to the playground to eat them.)
If you’re not into a picnic lunch (but seriously, why not?), take a stroll over to Laclede’s Landing where there are food and entertainment options. We ate at Mas Tequila Cantina and I’d definitely recommend it if you’re bad at making choices and just want to be told where to go (i.e. the first paragraph) for good food.
What’s great about the Drury Plaza Hotel location is that later in the evening, you can walk the few blocks over to Ballpark Village at Busch Stadium for a Cardinals game. You don’t have to mess with traffic or parking, you just waltz on into Ballpark Village carefree and fancy free. If you don’t have a ticket, you can grab food and a seat at one of the many restaurants or bars in the Village, but if you can get a ticket, seeing a game in Busch Stadium is bucket-list worthy. We got to take the girls to their first major league baseball game in St. Louis, and it was an experience they won’t forget.
You could hit a few highlights on a long weekend in St. Louis, but if you have the time, try to stay a little longer. This was our family’s third trip to St. Louis and every single time we leave wishing we had just a few more days.
-I’ve got so many recommendations for St. Louis. If you need more (like the not-to-be-missed City Museum or all the free attractions), you can see this post from our first visit and this one for our second visit.
-There’s still time to plan a trip for the 4th of July weekend! Fair Saint Louis is happening at the Gateway Arch National Park July 4th, 5th, and 6th (2019). It’s humbly called “America’s Biggest Birthday Party” and includes musical acts, air shows, free family fun, and fireworks celebrating our nation’s independence. Any time is a good time to visit St. Louis, but this weekend will be extra special
–DISCLOSURE: This is a sponsored post in partnership with the National Park Service and Explore Saint Louis. All opinions are my own.