Too often, Missouri and other midwestern states get attributed the misnomer “flyover states,” but there is actually so much to do in Missouri with kids!
You would think that living and teaching in South Korea would mean that I wouldn’t have much to say about Missouri, but I love the state! Before moving across the world I spent a few years bouncing around the Great Plains, including Missouri.
Known unofficially as the “Show me!” state, Missouri certainly has a lot to show you, from nature to art to fun. So, to plan your Missouri family vacation, check out this list of the top ten things to do in Missouri with kids.
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The Best Things to Do in Missouri with Kids
In no particular order…
St. Louis Butterfly House
The St. Louis Butterfly House isn’t very big, but it has over 1,000 butterflies at any time and it offers a lot of charm. It is especially geared towards young children, but don’t worry, even teens and adults can enjoy sitting in the humid butterfly greenhouse and watching the winged beauties flit by.
There are educational exhibits on butterflies and other bugs, as well as daily butterfly releases for new butterflies who have emerged, and a place to watch those new butterflies emerging from their chrysalis.
Walking out of the greenhouse is also great fun, as you must be personally checked to make sure none of the butterflies have attached themselves to your hair or clothes without you noticing!
The St. Louis Butterfly House is a part of the Missouri Botanical Garden family of attractions, if you have the time you should check those out too!
Open: 9AM – 4PM, Closed on Mondays
Cost: $8 general admission, $5 seniors 65 & over, $5 children 3-12, Free children 2 & under
Address: Faust Park, 15193 Olive Blvd. Chesterfield, MO 63017
Nelson Atkins Museum of Art
The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art is one of the best museums you’ve probably never heard of. And it’s free!
They often hold large family-friendly festivals, such as picnics and multi-cultural holidays full of events for everyone. There is also a shockingly good café where you can sample delicious cakes and tarts beside an indoor fountain.
Their exhibit on Native American tribes is particularly well done, with over 200 examples of jewelry, pottery, and clothing. Continue on to their other multicultural exhibits on Asia, Africa, and Europe across a variety of time periods.
Open: Sun-Mon 10AM – 5PM, Closed on Tuesdays, Wed 10AM – 5PM, Thur-Fri 10AM – 9PM, Sat 10AM – 5PM
Cost: Free (some special exhibits cost money)
Address: 4525 Oak Street Kansas City, MO 64111
Missouri has a surprising number of caves, well over 6,000, but this is the one to see! It has some of the most varied history you can find in any cave. Native American artifacts, mining, and finally, one of the infamous Jesse James’ hideouts.
Yes, that’s right, in the 1870s Jesse James and his gang had a hideout in these caves that took decades to discover!
The world’s rarest form of cave structure is also on full display in the Meramec Caves, the Wine Table, which formed entirely underwater. Stretching the height of a 7-story building, there are simply tons of pockets to see and explore.
The entry price includes a guided tour (leaving every half hour) which takes around an hour and a half. In the same area, you can also experience ziplining, wall climbing, and riverboat rides down the Meramec River. Even if you’re not interested in caves, there are clearly tons of great activities for the family to do!
Open: Everyday, times change according to the month
Cost: Adults $23, Military $20, Children 5-12 $12, Children 5 and Under are Free
Address: 1135 Hwy W, Sullivan, MO 63080
St. Louis Zoo
Encompassing around 90 acres, the St. Louis Zoo is recognized as one of the best zoos in the United States. In fact, in 2017 and 2018 it was ranked number 1 by USA Today!
With over 16,000 animals and various activities such as sea lion shows and stingray feeding, you are sure to have a full day of fun. As any good zoo should, the St. Louis zoo is heavily focused on efforts concerning conservation and education.
They are a world leader for helping to save endangered animals and the places in which they live. Additionally, the St. Louis zoo allows for overnight programs occasionally for both families and adults! What could be more fun than that?
Open: Sun-Thur 8AM – 5PM, Fri-Sat 8AM – 7PM
Cost: Free (Although some shows are an additional cost)
Address: 1 Government Drive St. Louis, MO 63110
I know when I was a kid I loved science exhibits, nothing could be more fun than a planetarium and some instruments controlled by waving my hand through lasers. And Science City in Kansas City is full of over 120 such hands-on science exhibits!
They provide daily demonstrations and activities, and their discovery areas are particularly engaging. Hands-on activities involving engineering and chemistry are available, along with the ability to participate in “labs” in the Maker Studio.
Here you can enjoy daily workshops involving 3-D printing, fibers, and electronics. No matter what your age, you’re sure to find something fascinating in Science City!
Open: Wed-Sun 9:30AM – 12:30PM, 2PM – 5PM (Closed Monday and Tuesday)
Cost: $14, children under 12 months are free. The Planetarium is an additional $8.
Address: 30 West Pershing Road Kansas City, MO 64108
While technically not in Missouri, it’s listed as one of the top sites of St. Louis for a reason. It’s only just across the border into Illinois and it’s one of the most impressive sites in the entirety of the Great Planes.
The Cahokia Mounds are the stunning remains of one of the most advanced prehistoric societies in North America. Over 100 giant mounds dot the landscape, the left overs of a giant metropolis covering over 2,200 acres of land.
Some places allow you to climb to get a view of what this ancient city would have looked like. A “Woodhenge” is a recreation of how the ancient Mississippians (those who lived along the Mississippi River) kept a calendar that followed the sun, much like Stonehenge in the UK.
Open: From dawn to dusk everyday
Cost: Free, although donations are suggested
Address: 30 Ramey Street Collinsville, IL 62234
Both historical and fun, Grant’s Farm is a great stop on any road trip through Missouri. Built by the 18th president of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, it is now owned by the Busche family. The small cabin where Grant resided is still present on the farm and can be visited.
A farm with many exotic animals, such as elephants, camels, and peacocks can be enjoyed via a tram ride through the large deer park on the property. The famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses are kept on Grant’s Farm, where you can visit them in their stables and pasture.
While the children enjoy the animals, adults 21 years and older are welcome to sample Anheuser-Busche products free of charge. Relax in the courtyard with some pretzels and bratwursts and enjoy the 1913 German farmstead area, where the famous carriage collection is also housed.
As you can see, there’s more than enough to occupy your day at Grant’s Farm!
Open: 9 AM – 3:30 PM with extended hours on Fridays in summer, open 9 AM-10 PM
Cost: Free! Although parking is $15 and animal interactions and the carousel are separate fees.
Address: One Busch Place. St. Louis, MO 63118
Silver Dollar City
Your best bet for a theme park in Missouri is definitely Silver Dollar City in Branson next to the beautiful Table Rock Lake (also worth a visit). The amusement park is themed around the 1880s, with over 100 demonstrating craftsmen specialized in blacksmithing, candle, candy, soap making, and more. And, of course, there are many different rides to satisfy nearly any age.
Part of Silver Dollar City is also a water park, offering great amusement in the summer heat. You can cruise Table Rock Lake on a dinner cruise, and even stay overnight at the lovely campground (cabin, tent, and RV camping is available).
Tons of events occur year-round, from their evening admissions with fireworks and exclusive concerts. It’s practically guaranteed to be a great time!
Open: 9:30AM – 10PM
Cost: from $30-$72 per person, children under the age of 3 are free
Address: 399 Silver Dollar City Parkway Branson, MO 65616
For those members of the family who love sports and baseball, a game at Busche Stadium isn’t to be missed. Over 44,000 people can fit into this grand arena, the home of the Major League team the St. Louis Cardinals.
Of course, for those not interested in a sporting event, several music-related events also take place at this stadium. Give your kids a day out at the ball game at Busche Stadium!
Open: 11AM – Midnight
Cost: A basic ticket can cost around $34 per person.
Address: 700 Clark Ave. St. Louis, MO 63102
Ha Ha Tonka State Park and the Lake of the Ozarks
Castle ruins, natural villages, sinkholes, and caves are just some of the many things to explore at the Ha Ha Tonka State Park. Located on the Lake of the Ozarks (a place to explore further if you have the time) the Ha Ha Tonka State Park is picturesque and named after the many springs within its 3000 acres.
The castle ruins are incredible against the natural backdrop of the state park. The castle, destroyed by fire in the 1940s, was originally built in the early 1900s to model 16th century castles found in Europe. Now, they’re just as magical as any of those real castles!
Fifteen miles of hiking are available as are caving activities. The Natural Bridge is an easy walk with a history of being a hideout for Native Americans and criminals in the past. Camping is available to make it a full experience!
Come and explore this lesser-known state park and come away with fantastic memories!
Open: April through October 7AM – sunset, November through March 8AM – sunset
Address: 1491 Missouri D, Camdenton, MO 65020
Start Planning Your Missouri Family Vacation!
I hope these ten places I’ve suggested help you and your family have a wonderful time in Missouri! Missouri is an often underrated, yet beautiful place to explore.
Honorable mentions are the Lake of the Ozarks and Table Rock Lake, which are both popular outdoorsy escapes for the family. While St. Louis and Kansas City are both featured on this list, there is clearly so much more to do in the “Show Me” state. Make sure you check out the famous Kansas City barbeques and live music throughout your journey!