St. Louis Union Station Staycation
Have you heard about all the fun new attractions at Union Station in downtown St. Louis? We decided to check them out this weekend during our staycation, which was a great way to see our city in a new light.
We love staycations for a few reasons; quality time with my boys without distractions, no to-do lists for mom, and during the colder winter months it gives us something fun to look forward to.
We highlighted all of our favorite things we did below and separated them into three categories: What we did, where we stayed, and where we ate.
What we did
The St Louis Wheel
Climb aboard one of the 42 different climate-controlled gondolas of this 200-foot-tall wheel to get an amazing view of St. Louis. We were able to see the Arch and the City Museum from the top. The boys also had fun trying to spot the stuffed animals they had left in the Drury hotel window. On a clear day, it’s possible to see nearly 20 miles away. The ride takes about 12-15 minutes and they even offer VIP cars for an extra $50 with glass floors and leather captain’s chairs. When the sun goes down, the 1.6 billion LEDs light the night sky. The wheel is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and is $15, $10 for kids ages 3-12.
Fun fact: For those wary about heights, the wheel is checked everyday starting at 5 a.m. for safety.
St Louis Aquarium
We also decided to see the new St. Louis Aquarium, which was super cool and full of fun exhibits. It took us about an hour and a half to walk through its entirety, but may take shorter depending on your family’s engagement. Mason spent a lot of time at each exhibit, but depending on your kids interest you might go through the aquarium quicker. I personally could have spent all day watching the sharks swim in their tank—so relaxing.
One of our favorite things we saw were the otters; Sawyer, Thatcher, and Finn. It was like they were putting on a show, showing off for the crowds and sliding down their tank’s waterslide. The boys loved Stanley the rare blue lobster.
We also got to feed turtles, and pet stingrays. One exhibit reminded me of a pedicure I got in Asia, where John Fish eat the dead skin off of your hands. So cool!
I talked with management, who informed us that they will be adding exhibits and new things throughout the year so the aquarium will not always be the same.
What we learned:
Before you go I would highly recommend buying tickets online before you get to the aquarium to guarantee entry as the lines can get pretty long.
Also a season pass might be worth it if your family loves aquariums and wants to go a couple times a year. The prices for this vary depending on how many are in your family. With a season pass you also get 15% off at restaurants and the gift shop. You can also enter the aquarium at any time with a season pass and do not have to have a time specific ticket.
As you enter look for staff having out scavenger hunt cards. The kids can look for fun facts and clues all over the aquarium.
Parking for the aquarium is discounted when you buy online. There are two large parking locations available for guests: West Parking Lot and South Parking Lot (between 20th street and 18th street). A $5 parking discount is available when you purchase a ticket online or from the ticketing window.
The Conservation and Education Center
A free place we stopped by was the Conservation and Education Center. This cute little stop was a fun and interactive place for kids to think about how to better treat the planet. Kids can also color fish and scan it and it will show up on a big wall which was fun.
This outdoor carousel has two chariots and thirty animals, and unlike a traditional carousel, includes a ton of different animals like a bald eagle and an ostrich, which my kids loved. It is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and costs $5.
We also played a little bit of mini golf at the outdoor course. It’s a no-frills challenging 18-hole course, but if you’re looking for a fun way to spend time, mini golf is always a good option. The course is also ADA accessible and is located next to the carousel with the St. Louis Wheel as a backdrop. The course is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Tickets are $10.
There is also a little playground for small children near the same area.
I wasn’t sure at first if this would be worth it—but we ended up loving this! My boys at first thought it might be scary but it wasn’t at all. They were begging to go again after we finished so we ended up going twice. The maze is great for all ages, but don’t be surprised if you walk into a few mirrors! They also have fun facts about the 1904 World’s Fair within the maze. Walking through only takes about 5 minutes and is a great activity for families with kids. Plus, I got some really fun photos on my phone in there too! The maze is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and is $8.
I have to admit, I am super adventurous and love things like this but I was a little worried that my kids wouldn’t be able to deal with the heights. However, they ended up absolutely loving it!
There are two courses; one for little kids and another for taller kids and adults. We all made the cut for the larger course, which also had a fun zipline at the end. You are harnessed to safety lines the whole time and also have staff along the course to help and encourage you if you need it. The obstacles are on the second and third levels of the course and you have thirty minutes to make it through.
It takes a bit of adjusting to get used to the course at first, but once you get the hang of it it’s super fun and perfect for the adventurous family. It’s also a great way to build confidence and encourage teamwork. My boys blew my mind with how much courage they had to face their fears. Afterwards at dinner, I told them that now when they think they can’t overcome a real-life obstacle to think back to the ropes course and how fearless they were.
Good to know: There are also free lockers at the check-in where you can stash your belongings while you go through the course, which is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and is $15 and $5 for the children’s course.
They don’t allow phones on the course so no selfies, sorry.
Try and get there when they open at 10:00am. There are only 45 people allowed on the course at once and it gets very crowded so the earlier you can get on the better.
Fire and light shows:
At Union Station, they also have fire and light shows set to music for free every half-hour from 5 to 9 p.m. daily. We watched from the balcony while eating lunch. The show only lasted for a few minutes but it was definitely worth watching. At night, the shows are more dramatic and you can actually feel the heat of the flames on your face.
The Grand Hall
There is also a 3D light show on the Grand Hall’s 65-foot-high vaulted ceiling every hour from 5 to 10 p.m. daily.
There is also a whispering wall you have to check out too! You stand on one side and wisper something that carries to the other side of the room. Try it.
Enterprise Center Monster Jam
The pit party pass is extra and starts a few hours before the show but you get to see the trucks up close, meet the drivers and walk around on the floor. It was super cool! The boys were so excited.
Monster Jam was Mason’s favorite event of our staycation trip. This show is absolute non-stop excitement. The monster trucks were flying through the air, doing back flips and stunts, competing for time, and some even caught on fire! I didn’t really know anything prior about monster trucks but we all ended up having a blast and are fans for life now. The event is very family friendly, but I recommend bringing ear covers or ear plugs for little kids or those sensitive to loud noises. Mason, my 5-year-old ended up wearing ear covers for the entire show but myself and my 9-year-old Logan didn’t end up needing them.
Mom tip: I was also able to bring in a backpack with our ear covers. It was not clear on the website if backpacks were allowed but I asked multiple people and they said it was okay.
For other fun ideas to help plan your staycation, see St. Louis Arch post here.
Where we stayed
Drury Union Station
We love staying at Drury hotels because of how much value they provide our family. As a mom, I’m always trying to stretch my travel budget so I love that Drury provides the daily “kickback” hour. With three free drinks for adults and tons of “snacks,” it can be a full dinner for my family. Especially because those snacks are often tacos, nachos, hotdogs, salad, and baked potatoes, just to name a few. If your kids are like mine that eat like birds when we go out to eat and are done in five minutes, then the option of grabbing food from the hotel for a quick bite is perfect!
My boys also love the Drury because of the free hot breakfast they provide that has tons of options like donuts, eggs, fresh waffles, and lucky charms, just to name a few of their favorites. They also love swimming in the pools and the free hot popcorn the hotel provides daily.
Where we ate
Union Station Soda Fountain
There are several different options for dining at Union Station, including the St. Louis Soda Fountain which serves sweet treats and crazy milkshakes as well as diner-style food. I would recommend booking a reservation before you go see attractions or getting there as soon as it opens at 11:00 am to get a seat due to the long wait times at peak hours.
Even better go after peak hours for dessert.
I think this would be a great date night place to grab a drink and appetizer and then go ride the wheel with your sweetie. They have a large cocktail and drinks menu as well as dinner and lunch.
1894 Cafe is located on the second level and is a family friendly stop with quick bites as well as an outdoor beer garden constructed from an old shipping container!
Overall, this was a fun-filled and amazing weekend. My heart is bursting with love thinking about all the fun experiences, belly laughs, and new memories we made together. The best part about a staycation is we are home within minutes, but it feels like you are on a vacation a million miles away. It’s a fun way to get a whole new experience of your hometown.
Have you done a staycation before?
We want to thank all of our partners on this post: Drury hotels, St. Louis Aquarium, STL Wheel, Union Station ropes course and mirror maze and Monster Jam. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
We hope these travel post help save you time and offer tips we learned along the way. Check out our other favorite travel posts here for ideas. Branson, Glamping, Arizona, Memphis, Nashville, Lake of the Ozarks, and Downtown St Louis at the Arch
Happy travels to you. XOXO Sarah~