When you’re ready to get out of the city for a weekend, the area around St. Louis has a lot to offer. Whether you’re looking for a romantic bed & breakfast in Missouri’s wine country, an action-packed weekend with friends or a getaway the kids will love, we’ve got an idea that is perfect for you.
Giant City State Park
235 Giant City Lodge Road
Makanda, IL 62958
The Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois is just two and a half hours southeast of St. Louis, but it is a world apart. Giant City State Park, just outside the college town of Carbonale, Illinois, is an extraordinary site for camping, hiking, backpacking, fishing and horseback riding. The park offers short and long (overnight) hiking trails through massive sandstone bluffs and structures that resemble the streets of a giant city. The trails are well-maintained, there is a stable for trail rides nearby and for those who don’t want to rough it in a tent, the lodge offers rooms or cabins, a swimming pool and a restaurant famous for its family-style fried chicken dinners.
Augusta Wine Country
Just an hour west of St. Louis is the scenic riverbluff town of Augusta. Augusta is an old-fashioned Midwestern small town that offers trailheads to both the Katy Trail and the Lewis and Clark Trail, the Daniel Boone Home and 14 excellent local wineries with scenic views of the rolling Missouri hills. Augusta wines have been recognized internationally. One German magazine has even named an Augusta wine as the “Best US Wine.” There are three B&Bs in town, with rooms priced from $125 to $175 per night: The Wine Country Inn, the Femme Osage and The Lindenhof.
Branson, MO 65616
Branson is the Midwest’s down-home answer to bright lights and live entertainment. The city is known for offering wholesome comedy and live music acts. Shows like Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede and Presley’s Country Jubilee epitomize the Southern country style at play here. Some people come for the three lakes that offer fishing, boating and water sports while others prefer shopping at the discount outlet malls. The Silver Dollar City amusement park keeps the whole family happy with rides and shows.
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13528 State Hwy AA
Potosi, MO 63664
Tucked away in the hills of Potosi, Missouri is the YMCA’s Trout Lodge, a sort of summer camp for families, with all-inclusive pricing that puts a parent’s billfold at ease. The lodge offers no-frills, hotel-style rooms or cabins for larger families or groups. Dining is in a large, noisy cafeteria with special buffets for children, featuring a shorter height and kid-friendly choices like chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. A mind-boggling number of activities is offered every day, from campfires to sack races. There is a small lake with a sand beach for swimming, sailing (free lesson!) or paddling around in Funyaks. Check out a bike and ride all over the grounds, or take a hike along a well-marked trail. Some activities, like climbing, zip-lines and horseback rides, might cost a little extra. The Lodge offers special weekends for singles, seniors and other groups.
452 E. Christmas Blvd.
Santa Claus, IN 47579
Holiday World is a unique Midwestern treasure and an easy three-hour drive east on I-64 from St. Louis. Opened in 1946 by a retired gentleman who thought children should get to see Santa when they traveled to Santa Claus, Indiana, the park is still family owned and operated. Holiday World offers two of the top-rated wooden coasters in the world alongside a massive waterpark and lots of rides and shows for younger kids. Free parking, free soda and free sunscreen are available to all, and the food booths in the park have reasonable prices. If you book early, you can get a reasonable and comfortable cabin at a nearby campground, and hotel rooms are also plentiful. This is a popular roadtrip for families and groups of teenagers, and makes a terrific date weekend.
Lauren Haas is a writer who specializes in finding the fun! Lauren was the publisher of the St. Louis Area Family Gazette for eight years, and now writes freelance articles on St. Louis events and attractions, budget travel, arts and entertainment and fitness topics. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.