We were delighted to get a sneak preview of the soon-to-open St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station—opening by the end of 2019.
It’s a wonderful addition to ‘one-tank’ drive family destinations. If you’ve traveled to Union Station in past decades, be prepared for big changes. What was once a shopping mall is now undergoing a $187 million-dollar face lift. The soon-to-open 120,000-square-foot, two-story aquarium is just one of the many worth-visit attractions in St. Louis.
Here are the top 8 reasons why you should consider planning a visit!
1) Hands-On Experiences
While this aquarium isn’t the largest in the world—with its 1 million gallons of water and more than 13,000 aquatic animals—it’s planning to staff 100 aquarium employees. That’s three times the amount of many other aquariums. Expect 3D virtual reality interactives, hands-wet touch tanks, playful otters, (not so playful) piranhas, 60 sharks and even a rare blue lobster. Education will be a major part of this experience.
Considering the new aquarium is within the St. Louis Union Station, it’s very convenient for families. The parking lot is one of the largest we’ve seen in the city. And if you get your fill of the aquarium scene, you’ll have many, many other places to visit without needing to move your car! And bonus that so many of the attractions are under shelter – you don’t have to deal with iffy weather.
3) Excitement Beyond the Aquarium
The aquarium is a key piece of the $187-million family entertainment complex planned for Union Station, but it’s not the only thing to experience. The developers are opening additional attractions conveniently located in the complex, including an ADA-compliant, 200 ft tall observation wheel with over a million LED lights and 42 6-person fully-enclosed gondolas on The St. Louis Wheel, 18 hole mini golf, a classic Carousel, mirror maze, ropes course, two-acre river park with splash and play areas, and more.
4) Rooms with a View
The hotel is building out a handful of rooms (approximately 30) that will overlook the aquarium. There’s no other aquarium in the US that offers this. Even if you don’t get a chance to snag one with the sought-after aquarium view, know most views are wonderful in the 600-room hotel. Our kids were obsessed with playing in our room’s spacious windowsill overlooking the pool.)
5) Culinary Focus
Since the departure of Hard Rock Café and Houlihan’s, the developers are prioritizing quality food – for tourists and locals alike. While the spots weren’t open on our visit, we were excited to hear about craft taps (25+), mixologists, phosphate sodas, and boozy craft milkshakes sourced with ice cream from local favorites, Clementine’s Creamery and Ices Plain & Fancy. Three new restaurants are in the works: The St. Louis Union Station Soda Fountain, The Train Shed, and The 1894 Café. There are also rumors that the beloved Fudgery Fudge might have a presence, as well.
6) Good for All (Multi-Generation, Special Needs)
If you haven’t been, you need to check out the Union Station Hotel. (Even before the aquarium opens.) The hotel’s historic crown jewel is Grand Hall – with its 65-foot sweeping barrel vaulted ceiling – provides 3D animated light shows across the roof every hour. Guests can also enjoy sitting on the Adirondacks around the lake to feed the massive Koi fish and see a fire and light show set to music. The hotel is also working with Culture City partners and an accessibility committee to make sure they think through details of every guest (sensory sensitivities, vision, hearing, nursing, dietary, wheelchair accessibility, etc). Quiet rooms, nursing rooms, and calming rooms are being discussed.
7) We Heart St. Louis
Many Hoosier Mamas we know always go to defaults like Cincinnati, Chicago, and Louisville. (Yes, still go to these places–obviously!) But if you haven’t experienced St. Louis, know there is SO much to explore in the downtown area. Forest Park and its 1,300+ acres, City Museum and the Gateway Arch grounds. By the way, don’t say Hoosier in St. Louis. (Trust us here) Check out our recent blog on family-friendly travel to St. Louis. Travel ideas and City Museum.
8) The Perfect Old-Meets-New Combo
The hotel and aquarium are in a National Historic Landmark. (Read–you’re not sacrificing your time and money in a cookie-cutter venue!) The 19th century iron umbrella train shed above your head is a constant reminder of the historic locale. (And it provides wonderful diffused natural light.) The St. Louis Union Station is old school and beautifully modern all at once! The hotel does such a nice job at celebrating the past, present and future throughout your experience.
Author Trisha Brand and her husband Adam are always looking for new ways to spend time with their young kids (Veda and Sully). Before joining Indy’s Child in 2018, Trisha logged time at various magazines (Indianapolis Monthly, Food & WIne, Bon Appetit, and SELF to name a few).