Here are my favorite (in no particular order) places for day-trips from St. Louis:
The only destination on my list that's not in Missouri, Springfield is all things Abraham Lincoln. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum is the best of its kind in the nation and its Disney-esq atmosphere makes for an all-day kids destination (and its primary permanent exhibit is the single best exhibit I have ever seen anywhere). Even as an adult I thorough enjoyed the presidential museum, the Lincoln homestead (which is free and managed by the National Park Service), and visiting Lincolns tomb (also free). Its a great educational opportunity for kids, especially those in grade school learning about the Civil War and Lincoln.
|Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum|
Just like Springfield is all things Abraham Lincoln, Hannibal is all things Mark Twain. Another great learning destination for kids, Hannibal is home to the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum where the entire life of Mark Twain is covered. The boyhood home (which the site also includes homesteads of Huck Finn, Becky Thatcher, among other historic buildings) features guides in custom, several museum exhibits, and during the busy season many events in the pedestrian only street. Just a few blocks down the road is the brand-new Mark Twain Museum Gallery, which has a host of modern museum exhibits geared towards kids.
|Mark Twain's boyhood home|
Known for its wine and Oktoberfest, Hermann is also home to several historical museums. The Deutschheim State Historic Site consists of several historic German homesteads that are original to Hermann and demonstrate a great history lesson on the city and even the state of Missouri. These homes provide a solid educational context of life in the 1800s, and as the tour is guided by very well-informed historians, a great learning opportunity as well. Hermann is also home to the German School, a history museum that as several floors of exhibits further showing how life was once lived in Hermann and Missouri.
Of course wineries are what make Hermann famous, and believe it or not they are very family-friendly. In fact some of them (such as Stone Hill) provide ample space for kids to play outdoors and allow families to picnic on their grounds (naturally including wine).
Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Another great river town, Cape features a very walk-able historic downtown highlighted by gorgeous murals that cover its flood walls. Host to several marquee events throughout the year (such as the fantastic Storytelling Festival) Cape also has a plethora of kid-focused attractions. Their children's museum, Discovery Playhouse, is great for younger kids and has kept our son busy for hours. Another hit with our son was LeBounce, an indoor bounce house. On our next visit we plan to enjoy the Lazy L Safari Park (a Grant's Farm-like petting zoo), Cape Splash Family Aquatic (large outdoor water park , and some of Cape's educational attractions like the Conservation Nature Center and Fort D.
|Driving a firetruck inside Discovery Playhouse|
If you have any ideas for more day trips from St. Louis, please share! I love to explore new places and appreciate all suggestions!