Family Fun for Every Budget in Missouri

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When it comes to family fun, the Show-Me State offers many affordable attractions. Here’s a dozen ideas that can fit into most any travel budget.

Swimming Spots

Spend a summer day splashing in one of Missouri’s lakes or rivers.

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park – Take a dip in the Show-Me State’s natural “waterpark.” The shut-ins were created by the Black River carving out chutes and pools in ancient volcanic rock.

State park swimming areas – Many Missouri State Parks offer public swimming areas. Several have sand beaches, including Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Mark Twain State Park and Long Branch State Park. 

Hiking and Biking Trails

The Show-Me State has more than 1,000 miles of hiking trails, many of them located in state parks and conservation areas.

Elephant Rocks State Park – Follow a mile-long paved trail to explore giant pink granite boulders lined up like circus elephants. Maze-like pathways through rock outcroppings lead to scenic views and the remains of an old mining operation.

Katy Trail State Park – The nearly level 240-mile-long trail is popular for hiking and cycling. The country’s longest developed rail-to-trail route follows alongside the Missouri River through much of the state. Trailheads and small towns along the way offer plenty of places to access the trail or take a break.

Animal Encounters

You’ll find creatures of all varieties at zoos, farms and animal sanctuaries.

Saint Louis Zoo – The award-winning 90-acre zoo is home to more than 13,000 animals – many rare and endangered. Don’t miss the bears at Grizzly Ridge and Polar Bear Point. Travel through an underwater tunnel into the seal and sea lion habitat. Visit Penguin and Puffin Coast for an underwater view of the oceanic birds.

Shatto Milk Company – Meet the cows behind the milk at this small, family-owned farm that produces a variety of dairy products. You’ll want to try the out-of-the-ordinary flavored milk choices such as cookies and cream, cotton candy, and root beer.


Explore art and science through interactive exhibits and displays.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art – The first thing that will catch your eye is the giant Shuttlecocks sitting on the museum’s vast lawn. Inside, explore a collection of nearly 40,000 works, including American, African, American Indian, Chinese, Japanese art, photography and more.

Saint Louis Science Center – One of the top science centers in the country offers hours of learning creatively disguised as fun. In addition to dozens of hands-on activities, there’s a planetarium, four-story OMNIMAX Theater and flight simulator.

Iconic Sights

Enjoy the views from a streetcar, tram or towering observation wheel.

Gateway Arch National Park – Take a tram ride 630 feet to the top of the Gateway Arch for over-top-sights of the city and the Mississippi River.

KC Streetcar – Hop on the streetcar and travel from the River Market to Union Station and Crown Center. With 16 platform stops, there are many opportunities to explore the city’s neighborhoods, museums and shops.

The St. Louis Wheel – Climb aboard the 200-foot observation wheel at historic St. Louis Union Station for a ride in one of 42 fully enclosed, climate-controlled gondolas.

The Branson Ferris Wheel – Once located on Chicago’s famous Navy Pier, the giant 150-foot-tall wheel was dismantled and transported to the Show-Me State. The wheel’s 40 gondolas provide views of the Ozark Mountains by day and the bright lights of Branson at night.