St. Louis is a huge destination for Indianapolis families to visit. Just under a four hour drive, St. Louis has always been a great spot to visit for a day or two, but with the addition of the Aquarium and other attractions at Union Station, you better add another day or two on to your visit! The St. Louis Aquarium is o-fish-ally open! Er… The St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station is OFFICIALLY open!
St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station
St. Louis’ Union Station has been transformed from the train station turned shopping mall, in to a state of the art aquarium and entertainment center! This gorgeous property is now open tot he public, boasting six galleries, including “Shark Canyon,” foodie influenced restaurants, animal encounters, behind the scenes access, a multi-level ropes course, an observation wheel and experiences you only read about. The St. Louis Aquarium and all of the restaurants and other entertainment options have taken us a whole weekend to explore!
Many of the attractions and restaurants opened earlier this year but the St. Louis Aquarium opened on Christmas Day to massive crowds, eager to see what has been hiding inside for all of this time. Our kids loved the touch tanks and hands on activities. I’ll share more of our adventure later, but it was awesome! My honest opinion is to wait for the crowds and initial excitement to die down. Most people we spoke to before our visit said that it took about an hour to go through the aquarium at a leisurely pace, but we spent about 2 and half hours there because my three and five year old children LOVED the water table and we couldn’t get my seven year old and nine year old away from the touch tanks.
Admission at this time is $25 for adults and $18 for children age 3-12. Age 2 and under are free.
St. Louis Aquarium Free Admission Area
The St. Louis area is famous for their huge number of free attractions, and the St. Louis Aquarium didn’t leave out a free admission area. While you won’t have full access to the aquarium without paying admission or having an annual pass, the Conservation & Education Center is a free-admission, 7,500 square-foot space in the lobby of the Aquarium. Within this space are three galleries where you’ll find science-based, interactive exhibits about water conservation, health of ecosystems, local waterways, and the Mississippi Watershed.
The Giant Ferris Wheel at Union Station
As someone who is terrified of riding a Ferris Wheel, I wasn’t sure I would be joining my family on this ride, but I’m so glad I did! The pods on the St. Louis Wheel are temperature controlled (heater in the winter, air conditioning in the summer), have music and are 100% enclosed. They hold 6-8 people comfortably and provide an amazing view of the city of St. Louis and Union Station.
Tickets for the St. Louis Wheel are $15 for age 13 years old and up, $10 for kids age 3-12 and children 2 and under ride free with an adult. There’s also a single VIP Gondola that has leather captains chairs and a glass floor!
Union Station Mirror Maze
The A-Maze-ing Discoveries Mirror Maze was one of the most popular attractions at the 1904 World’s Fair and Union Station is paying homage to it with their own re-imagined version. Weave your way through a maze of mirrors but don’t make a wrong turn, you’ll bonk your head! The maze leads to fun rooms along the way, one that is full of doors that open to surprises, or maybe they don’t. Another room that was a favorite of our family allowed you to experience the smells of the World’s Fair! This attraction will take you 5-15 minutes, we recommend you take your time and enjoy it!
Admission for the Mirror Maze at Union Station is $8 per person.
High Ropes Course at Union Station
This 90,000 cubic foot attraction spans over three stories high above Union Station and the St. Louis Aquarium. The Sky Trail Ropes Course is thrilling and has so many features, I don’t know if you’ll be able to complete them all in one visit! The favorite spot of guests is the 100 foot zip line that takes you zipping right over the Union Station lobby. Children under age 13 must be accompanied by an adult on the course. I attempted the course with three of my children and this wasn’t a good idea, you won’t be able to complete as many of the obstacles in a group that size. The Sky Tykes course was a lot of fun for my three year old and it was totally worth the $5 price tag. Kids up to 48 inches tall can play in the Sky Tykes area. On both the Sky Trail and the Sky Tykes area, you’ll have a timer attached to your harness and it will beep when your 30 minutes are complete.
Admission for the Ropes Course at Union Station is $15 per person for 30 minutes. Sky Tykes admission is $5 per child for 30 minutes.
Restaurants and Places to Eat at the St. Louis Aquarium
St. Louis is a wonderful foodie city and the newest hot spots at Union Station are family friendly and a great place to eat in St. Louis with Kids. In addition to the two restaurants we enjoyed on our trip, you’ll find a casual, quick serve cafe on the second floor, the Station Grill inside of the Union Station Hotel and Landry’s Seafood House across the pond from the Aquarium. I have no doubt that we’ll see other fantastic dining options pop up over the next year or two as Union Station becomes more and more popular.
We experienced very long wait times at the Union Station restaurants, but we found that if we used the “Add to Waitlist” function in the Yelp app, we could get in to a restaurant and plan our meal times ahead with less of a wait.
Soda Fountain at Union Station
This is one of our newest favorite places to eat! The Soda Fountain in St. Louis is reminiscent of a 50’s diner, complete with Soda Jerks and vintage beverages. With six people in our family, we tried six different beverages, including two of the famous “freak shakes,” a milkshake topped with pretty much anything you can dream up! These beautiful masterpieces are anything but freaky! The Soda Fountain is a great spot to enjoy a dinner (there are just a few menu items but the grilled cheese sandwich is a must-try in our book) or for a dessert stop. The candy shop inside of the restaurant is a bright, colorful space that draws you to buy bulk candy, both vintage and modern brands.
Expect to spend $12-30 per person at the Soda Fountain restaurant at Union Station.
The Train Shed Restaurant at Union Station
You won’t find a kid’s menu at the Train Shed restaurant, but there is a great selection of delicious menu items for the whole family. Pizza, appetizers and other delightful entrees. If you like Caesar salad, try this one!
More Family Fun at Union Station
Union Station Fire and Water Show
Right outside of Union Station, on your way to Landry’s Seafood or the Soda Fountain is a large pond with fish swimming around. As you walk by during scheduled times during the afternoon and evening, you’ll see a musically synchronized show with fire, lights and water. Don’t let those lotus plants floating on the water fool you, during the show they shoot flames 25 feet into the air. The lights in the trees will pulse with the music as delightful bursts of fire and water play in the water. Relax in a lounge chair and catch the shows at: 12:30pm, 1:30pm, 5:00pm, 6:00pm, 7:00pm, 8:00pm and 9:00pm.
Union Station Music & Light Show
The Grand Hall in Union Station is historic and lovely and in pristine condition, reminiscent of the peak years of train travel, but the ceilings and walls come alive every evening with hourly music and light shows. Grab a beverage at the bar or lean your head back on the couches as you take in the sights and sounds of one of the 18 different shows that project on the magnificent ceilings of Grand Hall. This free attraction will amuse all ages.
Mini Golf at Union Station
This fun miniature golf course is so much fun for the whole family. There are even plastic toy putters available for the littlest kids. This is the perfect way to pass the time away if you have some time to spare before your St. Louis Wheel ride or your ticketed time for the St. Louis Aquarium.
Special Themed Train Rides
It wouldn’t be Union Station without train rides and these train rides are loved by many, so make sure you plan ahead and reserve your seat in advance. During the holidays, all aboard for the Polar Express, a train ride themed after the beautiful story of the Polar Express. We can’t wait to see what other fun train rides might come in the future!
Carousel Rides at Union Station
Under the train shed there are many attractions, but the one that really looks like it belongs there is a classic carousel with beauitful animals that spin and raise as the whirl of lights fly by.
We can’t wait to see even more restaurants and attractions come to life at Union Station over the next many years.