Union Station and The St. Louis Aquarium

St. Louis is a huge destination for Indianapolis families to visit. Just under a four-hour road trip from Indianapolis, St. Louis has always been a great spot to visit for a day or two — there are so many things to do in St. Louis with kids, 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 o-FISH-ally opened a few years ago and has been a hit for all!

St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station

St. Louis’ Union Station has been transformed from the train station turned shopping mall, into a state-of-the-art aquarium and entertainment center! This gorgeous property is now open to the 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 two and a 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.

St. Louis Aquarium Free Days

Children age 2 and under enter free every day. At this time, there aren’t any St. Louis Aquarium Free Days, but stay tuned. Discounted admission is available to guests who buy their tickets ahead or purchase annual passes, group tickets, or combo packages. The nonprofit St. Louis Aquarium Foundation provides free admission to students and families in under-resourced communities by way of free field trips and outreach programs.

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, the health of ecosystems, local waterways, and the Mississippi Watershed.

The Giant Ferris Wheel at Union Station

As someone 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 St. Louis and Union Station.

Tickets for the St. Louis Wheel are $15 for ages 13 years old and up, $10 for kids ages 3-12 and children 2 and under ride free with an adult. There’s also a single VIP Gondola that has leather captain 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 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 three stories high above Union Station and the St. Louis Aquarium. The Sky Trail Ropes Course is thrilling and has so many features, that 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 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 do not doubt that we’ll see other fantastic dining options pop up over the next year or two as Union Station becomes increasingly popular.

Restaurants Near St. Louis Aquarium

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 into a restaurant near the St. Louis Aquarium and plan our meal times with a shorter wait time.

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 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!

The Station Grille

Union 30

The Pitch

Maggie O’Brien’s

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 12:30 pm, 1:30 pm, 5:00 pm, 6:00 pm, 7:00 pm, 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm.

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 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 looks like it belongs there is a classic carousel with beautiful animals that spin and rise 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.

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