All Ages

5 Short Trips From St. Louis for Families

See recent posts by Lissa Poirot

Whether you live in the big city on the Mississippi River or you”re in a neighboring state, there are so many choices for short trips from St. Louis. Highlights include Meramec Caverns, where you can learn about Jesse James and his gang who used the caverns as a hideout. Treasures like these are all within a few hours’ drive of the city.

Here, we’ve highlighted a few of our favorite weekend trips near St. Louis for families.

Written by Lissa Poirot


Louisville, Ky.

Louisville, Kentucky is much more than the Kentucky Derby. Sure, you can check out Churchill Downs and its museum (a must!), but this is also the home of the Louisville Slugger, and baseball fans should visit its museum and factory during their weekend trip near St. Louis.

Must-See Attractions and Activities
Louisville Mega Cavern
The man-made Louisville Mega Cavern runs 17 miles and features the world"s only underground zip-line. Visit in November or December for the underground holiday light display.

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
The makers of the renowned wooden baseball bats since 1884, Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory offers visitors the chance to explore the history of the bats in baseball. Kids can take home a mini-bat as a souvenir.

Locust Grove
Visit a Locust Grove, a 55-acre farm from the late 1700"s, to discover a bit of Kentucky"s past. Pack a picnic lunch and lounge on the grounds after a tour. Admission is free!

Kid-Approved Restaurants
Wild Eggs
Head here for breakfast and indulge in pancakes with a variety of sweet toppings, like whipped cream, fruit, granola and more. You can build your own omelet, too. It's open for lunch and dinner daily.

Lynn"s Paradise Café
Downhome cooking and ugly décor make this a unique stop for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Lynn"s menu serves up soups, salads, chili, burgers, pasta and more.

Toast on Market
Breakfast and lunch are served at Toast on Market and families will love trying new takes on classics, like King French Toast (bananas and peanut butter, with mascarpone cheese) or one of the four different grilled cheeses. Closed Sundays.

Hotel Picks
Budget: Hyatt Place Louisville East
Moderate: Embassy Suites Hotel Louisville
Luxury: Galt House Hotel & Suites

Little Rock, Ark.

Home of former president Bill Clinton, Little Rock is one of the best weekend trips from St. Louis for families, as well as the surrounding states of Oklahoma, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. This city oozes small-town, Southern charm in a hilly setting that is especially beautiful during the fall.

Must-See Attractions and Activities
William J. Clinton Presidential Center
Introduce kids to presidential history, and let them explore a replica of the Oval Office of the White House at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, dedicated to our 42nd president.

Pinnacle Mountain State Park
Just outside the city limits is Pinnacle Mountain State Park, with hiking trails and views of the Arkansas River Valley. Nature programs and horseback trail rides are also available.

Museum of Discovery
The Museum of Discovery will keep kids busy for hours. It even has programs for children under 6. Learn how the brain works or see the forces of extreme weather -- it"s all hands-on.

Kid-Approved Restaurants
Flying Fish of Little Rock
Fish cooked in all different ways is available on the menu at Flying Fish. The kids" menu serves cheeseburgers, chicken strips and more, with a drink and fries included.

Catfish Hole
Want to try frog legs? Then head to Catfish Hole. And if you don"t, you can still dine here, with options like chicken, fish, shrimp and more on the menu, too. Open for dinner only; closed Sundays and Mondays.

Franke"s Cafeteria
Franke"s is a family-style cafeteria with chicken, turkey and catfish. Sides consist of southern favorites and kids get a balloon to take home with their meal.

Hotel Picks
Budget: Courtyard Little Rock Downtown
Moderate: Hampton Inn & Suites Little Rock - Downtown
Luxury: Capital Hotel


At some point, every family should see Nashville, nicknamed Music City for a very good reason. This isn"t just the home of country music, but rock remains in its history with Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers recording music in this city by the river. There are so many things to see and do in Nashville for a weekend trip near St. Louis with kids.

Must-See Attractions and Activities
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
The impressive Country Music Hall of Fame showcases the music that has passed through Nashville"s city limits from the mid-1900"s through today. Exhibits even include focuses on kid-favorites, like Taylor Swift.

Grand Ole Opry
What began as a radio program in 1925 continues as an iconic radio and TV show at the Grand Ole Opry. Guided tours are available.

The Parthenon looks like the Parthenon in Greece and features a 42-foot tall golden statue of the goddess Athena. Enjoy a picnic in the surrounding Centennial Park afterwards.

Kid-Approved Restaurants
Loveless Café
Try the biscuits at Loveless and indulge in Southern barbecue favorites. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The Cupcake Collection
Pick up pastries with unique flavors. Sweet Lemonade, Wedding Cake and Red Velvet are popular. Closed Saturdays.

Burger Up
Grab a lamb and boursin burger, a citrus salmon burger, or just a regular beef one at this joint and sit with other families at the communal tables. A kids" menu is available.

Hotel Picks
Budget: Holiday Inn Nashville-Vanderbilt Downtown
Moderate: Gaylord Opryland Resort
Luxury: The Hermitage Hotel

Branson, Mo.

If your family has yet to visit Branson, what are you waiting for? Located near the Arkansas border at the southwestern corner of Missouri, this Midwestern destination is a year-round favorite for its attractions, festivals and family-friendly activities, especially those at Silver Dollar City. Enjoy fall and winter weekends in Branson, and take part in its popular annual events. The area"s location makes it an easy weekend trip near St. Louis.

Must-See Attractions and Activities
Silver Dollar City
The biggest attraction in Branson is Silver Dollar City, which has been providing tons of fun for more than 50 years. Warm weather calls for water rides, roller coasters and camping, while festivals, horseback riding and haunted mansions are great for fall.

Dolly Parton"s Dixie Stampede Dinner
The Great Smoky Mountains may call Dollywood home, but Dolly Parton has brought music and shows to Branson with her Dixie Stampede Dinner Show.

Table Rock Lake State Park
Outdoor lovers will want to visit Table Rock Lake State Park to enjoy the lake, hiking, biking and more. It"s especially beautiful in the fall, when the foliage colors ignite in reds, oranges and yellows.

Kid-Approved Restaurants
Silver Mine Restaurant
Enjoy pizza, salads and sandwiches at this cafeteria-style establishment, located underground with a mine theme, of course.

Big Jack"s Sandwich Shop
Healthy options throughout the menu will have families feeling good after eating their sandwiches at this shop. Sides for kids include grapes, pasta or salads.

Rowdy Beaver Restaurant
Trust us when we say this is a family-friendly place. The rustic, barn décor is warm (perfect for fall) and comfort food like nachos and fried chicken are delicious.

Hotel Picks
Budget: Comfort Inn & Suites Branson Meadows
Moderate: Welk Resort
Luxury: Marriott"s Willow Ridge Lodge


Think the only reason to visit Indy is for its big race? Think again! As the capital of Indiana, Indianapolis has a plethora of fun for visitors seeking a long weekend trip from St. Louis with kids. The city boasts one of the best children"s museums in the country, art museums, history museums, and parks, and even is home to polar bears at its zoo.

Must-See Attractions and Activities
Children"s Museum of Indianapolis
A visit to Indy with kids is not complete without a stop at this fantastic children"s museum, which is also home to a historic carousel. It is the largest children"s museum in the world!

Conner Prairie Interactive History Park
Step back in time at Connor Prairie Interaction History Park, affiliated with the Smithsonian Museum. Make crafts, take a cooking class or milk a cow.

NCAA Hall of Champions
Outside of the Indy 500, Indianapolis is home of the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) and visitors can check out the NCAA Hall of Champions dedicated to college basketball and college football.

Kid-Approved Restaurants
Color on the tables at this healthy pizzeria while you wait for your pie. Parents can order wine and relax, too.

It"s an all-American drive-in with hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and the like. Finish lunch or dinner off with root beer float.

Hollyhock Hill
Food is served family-style, which will have you feeling right at home at Hollyhock. Plus, the restaurant offers make-your-own ice cream sundaes for dessert!

Hotel Picks
Budget: Country Inn & Suites Indianapolis Airport South
Moderate: Embassy Suites Indianapolis Downtown
Luxury: Omni Severin Hotel

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