Author Topic: Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?  (Read 4229 times)

ABC123

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Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?
« on: May 20, 2016, 01:23:35 PM »
We have decided to do a family vacation this summer, before the new baby comes this fall.  We very rarely do "fun" trips, as most of our vacation time is spent vising family.  Not that family isn't fun, but this will literally be our first time travelling that didn't involve at least one other family member since the kids were born.  My boys are 5 and 7.  Anyone live near or traveled to St. Louis or Branson, MO?  Our big expensive activity will be going to the Silver Dollar City amusement park.  Beyond that we want to keep it to free/cheap stuff.  Would love some recommendations!

notactiveanymore

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Re: Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2016, 01:42:51 PM »
Missourian here! I grew up in STL. I've only been to Branson for work and it's not my cup of tea, but I've got stl down!

Free things in St. Louis:

St. Louis Zoo - Consistently in the top 5 nationally. The children's zoo admission does have a cost and is pretty awesome with a petting zoo, etc. But you could totally skip it and still not come close to seeing everything.

Science Center - all kinds of fun, interactive exhibits. Perfect for 5 and 7 year olds. Also nice because it is indoors and a good break from the oppressive humidity.

The Muny - outdoor theater with free seats in the back. The shows are very family-friendly.

Both the Zoo and Science Center and Muny are in Forest Park which has free parking if you're willing to walk.

Grants Farm - Free admission but paid parking. There are petting zoo things, old cabins, and animal shows. Very much geared for kids.

Magic House - I think they have some times with free admission, but most of the time it costs something. It's a very cool place with lots of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The City Museum - Not free, but totally cool. It's hard to describe, but it's got all kinds of indoor tunnels and passage ways, different indoor playground rooms, a huge slide, and a big ball pit.


Lordy

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Re: Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2016, 02:48:06 PM »
I recently spent some time in STL and would have likewise suggested the Zoo and the Science Center.

FLBiker

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Re: Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2016, 02:56:16 PM »
I'm from STL (been away for a couple of decades but visit regularly).

My favorite spot: http://www.laumeiersculpturepark.org/

The zoo is great (but likely quite hot) as is the Science Center.  I loved the Magic House as a kid, but I haven't been back for 20 years.  And the City Museum might be cool w/ kids, but I actually found it pretty boring (despite everyone in my fam raving about it -- might just be me).  The Art Museum (also in Forest Park) is great, too, but maybe not so interesting for kids.

I really like Castlewood Park (about 25 miles west of St. Louis).  You can hike along the cliff which is cool, and walk along train tracks.  Also out in that neck of the woods is Lone Elk Park (you can see elk and bison).  You can hike in the elk areas but w/ bison you need to stay in the car.

jamaicaspanish

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Re: Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2016, 04:19:19 PM »
St. Louis - Forest Park - loads of free stuff
Shakespeare in the Park (through mid-June)
Friday night movies on Art Hill (July)
Art Museum
History Museum
the Muny (free seats at the top)
Zoo - $ to park in the lot, but free on the street.
Science Center ($ for special exhibits)

Shaw Botanical Gardens are free on Wednesday mornings

And there are loads of coupon books / sites available for discounts on other stuff.

Greenly Spirits

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Re: Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2016, 08:36:35 PM »
I second a lot of what's already been said.

I recommend this website: http://stlmotherhood.com/category/st-louis/
The author has posts specifically about free things to do even.

Also, the first hour the zoo is open, the children's zoo, sting ray exhibit, and carousal are free I believe. As long as you enter the children's zoo within that hour, you can stay in as long as you want. The zoo is awesome! You can also park across the interstate from one of the entrances at Turtle Park which is free and has cool turtle sculptures that you can climb on.

Creve Couer County Park has splash pads and playgrounds. The lake is for non motor boats, so think sail boats and rowing.

I think there's a small low cost water park in Collinsville, IL. I used to take daycare kids there during the week and it was great. Not too busy, small, and fun.

Have fun! St. Louis is one of the best cities for free family fun :)

bassman2003

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Re: Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?
« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2016, 11:43:04 AM »
All great responses thus far.  I've lived in Saint Louis for the past 4 years.  We have boys just a bit younger than yours (3 year old twins).  Here's my take on a few things, with extra hints to help things go more smoothly

Forest Park (FP):  The largest park within city limits in the US.  About 2.5x the size of Central Park in NYC.  Main Attractions within FP: Saint Louis Zoo, The Muny, History Museum, Art Museum, and Science Center (part of this is in FP, the other part is right across the street).  Here's a couple of items about each of these.

Saint Louis Zoo:  Largest free zoo in the world I believe.  Admission is free, but if you get there late the only parking left will be in the lots, which is $15.  Can pack a lunch and bring it with you (or just go back out the car to eat).  The best parking that's free is by the North Entrance (lots of 'street' parking within FP just north of the zoo, as well as the small surface lot by the art museum).  Get there early to get free parking, and enjoy many of the paid exhibits for free before 9:00 (another poster mentioned this).  Children's Zoo (basically a petting zoo) and Stringray Cove are free up until an hour after the zoo opens.

The Muny:  One of the largest outdoor theatres in the US.  Fairly central within FP, lots of ways to get in/out  Broadway type of plays each evening in the summer.  Typically a show plays for about a week (so while you're here, there's likely only one show that will play).  The free seats area is approximately 1000-1500 seats that are in the back of the theatre.  You have to get there typically 1-2 hours before the show to free seats.  Depending on how your kids will be in the hot sun from 6-8 PM (show starts at 8:15), I might spring for the $9 seats in the back of the theatre (the rows right in front of the free seats).  Still a fantastic experience.  Probably your 7 year old would enjoy more, don't know about the 5 year old.

History and Art Museum: Free

Science Center:  They advertise that they're one of the top 10 science centers in the US.  Free admission, but parking is $10 if you park in their lot on the outside of FP by their main entrance.  80% of the Science Center is south of the interstate, but is connected to the remaining 20% (the planetarium) that is in FP, connected by a cool walkway over the interstate.  Park on the FP side by the planetarium, because parking is free, and you can walk to the main part of the science center through the walkway.  Omnimax (bigger than IMAX) is really cool for that age, especially if its like an animals/robot/space type of show but costs a couple of $ per person.

Other stuff thats great for STL: City Museum, STL Cardinals game, Botantical Gardens,  Magic House (children's museum).

City Museum: Downtown.  Admission is $12 last time I checked per person($10 for the Friday and Saturday evening sessions after 5 PM).  I am not yet brave enough to take our 3 year olds there.  Its basically a massive indoor/outdoor climbing/slide experience.  Never seen anything like it anywhere else in the world.  Truly have to to experience it.  One of their main advertising draws is the 10 story slide (not a typo), but there's much else there that's cooler.  Your age range would LOVE LOVE LOVE this probably.....but are you and the spouse brave enough :)  I'm not yet.  There's crawling involved, I would wear athletic pants (unless its crazy hot).  It's right downtown.  You can pay $5 to park in one of the lots close to there, or find street parking thats probably free.  Google some of the 'city museum' images to get an idea.

STL Cardinals game:  Downtown.  Sounds pricy, but can be very mustachian.  If you go to a game Mon-Thurs, you could theoretically enter in the 'aaa16' code on the Cardinals website if you were a AAA member (or so could anyone else, wink wink nod nod), to get $10 off each ticket.  The tickets won't go below $10 with this code (example: an $11 ticket does not go to $1, only goes to $10, but a $20 ticket goes to $10).  The crazy thing about the Cards games....you can bring in all the food and drink you want.  Soft coolers, and closed plastic bottles are allowed (water, soft drinks....they just don't want people sneaking in alcohol in open containers).  My wife and I bring sandwiches and drinks with us, and pay NOTHING for food while we're there.  A family of 4 could go for $40, plus the cost of their food they bring in, and sit in decent seats.  I've seen people with families walk in with pizza's and paper plates for the kids.  Parking is $6 if you park about 5 blocks north of Busch Stadium in those parking garages off Pine Street.  Much cheaper, and easier in/out.  Also, if kids get bored, there's small playground/batting cages/arcade area close to the Ford Plaza near the outfield seats that you can go to for a bit.

Botanical Gardens:  One of the best if not the best gardens in the US.  About 2 miles southeast of FP.  Admission is not free during regular hours BUT, if you go on any summer Wed evening after 5 PM, admission is FREE, you can enjoy the gardens for a couple of hours, then enjoy a free outdoor concert.  People bring food in coolers and lawn chairs.  http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/things-to-do/events/signature-events/whitaker-music-festival.aspx

Magic House:  In Kirkwood.  About 25 minutes southwest of downtown.  Fantastic children's museum with loads of stuff to do.  My favorite area is the detective area where they can solve a mystery (find hidden room behind a fireplace, very cool)  Can get very busy, especially if its raining that day.  Admission is about $10/person.  Free parking.

Good luck.  Saint Louis is probably one of the best cities in the world for free/cheap stuff for kids.  Have fun!
« Last Edit: May 21, 2016, 11:45:23 AM by bassman2003 »

Trudie

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Re: Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2016, 01:08:15 PM »
These are great endorsements for STL.  I also give my thumbs up for Forest Park and the Botanical Gardens.

Eating out a lot may not be in your budget, but I also recommend a trip to "The Hill" -- the Italian neighborhood with a plethora of restaurants.  It also has some great Italian groceries and bakeries and you could certainly put together a great picnic to enjoy in nearby Forest Park.

ABC123

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Re: Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2016, 10:56:51 AM »
Thanks, all!  These are some great ideas!


iris lily

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Re: Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2016, 03:31:00 PM »
There is nothng in the world like City Museum. Yes, it does cost to get in. You COULD apend an entire day there if you wish. It was built by a mad genious who loved archtecture.

For beer and horses, take the Anheuser Busch tour. There is a free tour and then another one that costs. Take the free one, you still get free beer and get to see the horse barn where the Clydesdales live.
The Victorian brewhouse and other 150 year old buildings are fabulous. I uave a little house just down the block off of Pestalozzi street, its a cool neighborhood.

Personally, were it me, Id skip the hot smelly zoo and go to Grant's farm. It is the former home of the Busch family ( and prior to that, the home of Ulyssus Grant) and it is currently in litigation as to ownership, so it may not be open to the public much longer.

I dont have children and my recommendations reflect that. I find City Museum to be fascinatng. I love architecture, and you will see mAny pieces of old St. louis buildongs there.

The Botanical Gardens are great, these are in the to,ten gardens of the world.

« Last Edit: May 23, 2016, 03:32:52 PM by iris lily »

TrumanGrad

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Re: Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2016, 04:58:34 PM »
On I-44 Which is the major interstate that takes you most of the way between Branson and St. Louis you will find in Grey Summit the Shaw Nature Reserve ($5/adult, kids 12 and under are free) and Purina Farms.

I would also suggest World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis County also off I-44 - it is a sanctuary and rehab for birds of prey although they do have some other animals as well like rabbits, turtles and parrots. Admission is free.  Right next door is Lone Elk park where you can drive through and see elk and bison.  This is also free.

Bobberth

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Re: Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?
« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2016, 03:52:15 PM »
The best way to do the Zoo is to arrive right when it opens-all the pay stuff is free the first hour and you will be there early enough to get free parking (look for the lot near the Art Museum). Do the children's zoo first and head to the sting ray exhibit right before the free hour is up. They do the feeding after the free hour so if you get in and hang around you get to see that for free. That is if you're able to get your kids out of the children's zoo in less than an hour-get there RIGHT when it opens. Or don't and enjoy petting the goats longer.

The most mustachian thing to do, in my opinion, is the City Museum. Yes it costs money but the value received, especially with the ages of your boys, cannot be matched! Pay the extra amount to go on the roof too. Get there early and look to park on Delmar instead of paying for the lot. You will also miss out on the heat of the day and the metal slides and exhibits won't be as hot. It sounds crazy to take the kids to a 'museum' but once you go there you will understand the name. It's hard to describe without having been there. DO IT!

For the Science Center, look to park for free on the Planetarium side. There is a free lot and street parking in the park. In addition to not paying for parking there is an F-18 (Blue Angel if I remember correctly) on display there and you can visit the space exhibits that most people miss out on as they don't go over to that side but it is all connected via the bridge. Arriving early helps with not paying to park. Additional free bonuses from parking on Planetarium side: There is a lake nearby that is shaded (small one on the Science Center side, not the big one across the road) and would be great to have a picnic lunch and for your boys to explore. Then if you have energy left you can walk the equivalent of 2 blocks east (under Kingshighway) and there are 2 playgrounds there (kinda one playground that is on both sides of the street) that are fun and have bathrooms & water fountains.

The Missouri and Mississippi Rivers converge just north of St. Louis and there is a state park at the confluence. While different than going to a zoo and such, it's neat to have one foot in the MO and one in the MS Rivers and my kids have never had a bad time going to a river. The flag pole there is mind blowing. It's a bit of a drive to get into the middle of the "Y" but it's closer to go to the MO or IL side if you just want to see the confluence of these two mighty rivers. See if you can spot a difference in the water of each before they eventually mix together.

The Arch is one of those things that you "have" to do but it's ok if you ask me. It's cool to look out the windows and be in the Arch but in about 5 minutes (or less for the boys) you're done and when you calculate the time & money invested, the City Museum comes out WAY ahead. So do it if you want or skip it if you or the kids won't be disappointed, there are better places to spend your time and money if you ask me.....but again, it's one of the things you "have" to do while in St. Louis so it's a toss up.

I love the suggestion of the Botanical Gardens on a Wed night. After 5 the Gardens open for free and you can have 2 hours playing in the children's garden for free (bring a towel and possibly have the boys wear swim suits). Then, when they shut the kids area down for the concert, you can walk around to check out the rest of the gardens or have a picnic dinner. I've never stuck around long enough to hear much music when I was there with my kids, they are usually tired and ready to go by the time it starts. Look to park in the neighborhood east of the garden as the lot and the street in front of it will be a zoo. I used to live 3 blocks away on Russell and now I look to park on Klemm near Russell as there is a side gate to enter there. I try to park on Klemm or the 2nd block east on Russell as the little extra walk is worth it because the 1st block is a dead end and is tougher with all the extra cars to get out of than just parking a little further away.

The Budweiser brewery tour can be a worthwhile stop, especially for free. It's pretty amazing to see how big everything is and they do have Clydesdales there. If you do go there, I would suggest hopping across I-55 on Arsenal for 1 block and grabbing lunch or a snack at Gus' Pretzels. There is a big window that the kids can watch them making pretzels. Gus' Pretzels are a big St. Louis thing, like Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, and they have pretzel wrapped hot dogs, bratwurst and salsiccias (Italian sausage) for less than $3 that make a good lunch (skip the sandwiches though).

mjones1234

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Re: Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?
« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2016, 05:30:57 AM »
We live in Atlanta, but some of the nicest trips weve had with the kids have been in Branson. Check out Big Cedar Lodge. Boating, fishing, swimming, lazy river, shopping and the nicest resort weve seen. Lots of activities and very kid oriented. Fantastic live music in town too. I also enjoy trout fishing and Lake Taneycomo is tough to beat for this region. And, staying on Taneycomo at a place like Lilys Landing would be less expensive than Big Cedar, but more laid back in a sense. We will normally catch some beautiful rainbow trout, grab some salad and baked potatoes and cook right on the grills available outside the room. Great experience for the kids and saves money. Were not big fans of doing the big city thing so St Louis would not be an option.

SKL-HOU

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Re: Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?
« Reply #14 on: May 25, 2016, 07:55:23 AM »
This thread is making me miss St. Louis :(

iris lily

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Re: Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?
« Reply #15 on: May 25, 2016, 09:45:48 AM »
This thread is making me miss St. Louis :(
I love  STL so much! I am not a native. I found my "hme" when I moved here and gave up n career aspirations which would have required me to move cities.

elaine amj

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Re: Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?
« Reply #16 on: May 25, 2016, 10:16:59 AM »

The Arch is one of those things that you "have" to do but it's ok if you ask me. It's cool to look out the windows and be in the Arch but in about 5 minutes (or less for the boys) you're done and when you calculate the time & money invested, the City Museum comes out WAY ahead. So do it if you want or skip it if you or the kids won't be disappointed, there are better places to spend your time and money if you ask me.....but again, it's one of the things you "have" to do while in St. Louis so it's a toss up.

I was in STL on a work trip a few years ago but didn't get to explore much. the coworker I traveled with is mostly only interested in shopping so we hit the mall :(  That said, I did insist on visiting the Museum under the arch (sent her off to have lunch with some other folks while I enjoyed the museum). I've always been a bit fascinated with the story of westward expansion so I LOVED the hour or so I got to spend in the museum. Best of all for me was that it was free. I skipped the arch - no interest in paying $$ to go up to the top of a tower/arch. I'm not big into city views although I know most love it. Just not my thing and I've been up some of the tallest towers in the world (for their time). I think it's kinda fun - but not "spending my own dime on it" kinda fun.

Now you guys are making me wonder if i should plan a family trip to STL. I wasn't hugely impressed on my work trip, but of course, didn't wander around much. My kids are teens now though so not sure....

honeybbq

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Re: Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?
« Reply #17 on: May 25, 2016, 02:07:22 PM »
Everyone has given you great ideas for st Louis. It's really a fantastic place to visit since SO much is free.

I highly highly highly recommend the city museum as mentioned previously. It's not cheap or free, but it is seriously one of the most unique places you'll ever go.

Also Soulard farmer's market on the water is one of the oldest farmer's markets around.

And get some Ted Drew's ice cream while you are there. Eat it while you wander around Tower Grove park.

iris lily

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Re: Mustachian activities in St. Louis and Branson, MO?
« Reply #18 on: May 27, 2016, 06:55:51 PM »
Everyone has given you great ideas for st Louis. It's really a fantastic place to visit since SO much is free.

I highly highly highly recommend the city museum as mentioned previously. It's not cheap or free, but it is seriously one of the most unique places you'll ever go.

Also Soulard farmer's market on the water is one of the oldest farmer's markets around.

And get some Ted Drew's ice cream while you are there. Eat it while you wander around Tower Grove park.
You are slightly mis-remembering. The Souldarbd,ad keyboards s the first outsoor farmers's market west of  the Mississippi and it dates from the 1780's. But its not on the rver or the n and body of water.It is in the Victorian neighborhood of Soulard. I live within n walking  distance..