Founded in 1764, by Pierre Laclède and Auguste Chouteau, Saint Louis was named after Louis IX, the king of France at the time. Over 318,000 people live in Saint Louis, making it the 58th biggest city in the world. Home of the Saint Louis Cardinal baseball team, the Saint Louis Blues hockey team, and the Saint Louis Rams football team. Easily identified by the Gateway Arch, the city is known as the gateway to the west. Be sure to check out An Insiders Guide To St. Louis, which is an interview with local resident and seasoned traveler Adam Sommer. St. Louis is a 3 hour drive from Kansas City (250 miles), a 5 hour drive from Chicago (300 miles), a 4 hour and 20 minute drive from Memphis (280 miles), and a 4 hour drive from Louisville, KY (250 miles).
Top 13 Attractions
1. The Gateway Arch or the Saint Louis Arch is definitely this great city’s trademark. This landmark stands 630 feet in the air and offers an amazing, once in a lifetime view of Saint Louis and the Mississippi River. You get to the top by riding a unique, curved elevator that is unlike anything you’ve ever ridden before, curving up each side of the arch. See and hear what it was like for the construction workers to build this beautiful masterpiece in 1965. The Gateway Arch is also home to the Museum of Westward Expansion. Not only is this a once in a lifetime experience, but it is also educational. While there, make sure to take a ride on the nearby paddleboats that travel on the Mississippi River. The Tour to the Top costs $10 for adults and $5 for children.
The view from the top of the Gateway Arch.
2. The Missouri Botanical Gardens is the great and beautiful Missouri Botanical Gardens, more commonly known as “Shaw’s Gardens.” Shortly after its founding in 1859, this facility grew to become an excellent facility. Covering over 79 acres, the gardens contain many special gardens including a distinctive bird garden, a beautiful butterfly garden, and a garden dedicated to the memory of Missouri native George Washington Carver. If you want to become a better gardener, then make sure to take advantages of the many classes offered by this facility. The garden is also home to founder Henry Shaw’s original 1850 estate home. It’s considered to be one of the 12 Best Botanical Gardens In The USA. Admission is $8 for adults and free for children.
3. The Saint Louis Zoo was ranked as the best zoo in America by Zagat and also by the author of “America’s Best Zoos.” Over 3,000,000 people visit this zoo each year, making it the 3rd most-visited zoo in America. This zoo is home to over 18,000 animals, many of which are endangered. Originally built for the World’s Fair, the 1904 Flight Cage is one of the oldest continually operated animal exhibits in the world. The zoo is also continually building new exhibits like the 18 million dollar polar bear exhibit that opened in 2013. While at the zoo, make sure to ride the Zooline railroad, watch the Sea Lion show, pet the animals at the Children’s zoo, ride the Conservation Carousel, and if you are brave enough ride the motion simulator. Admission is free of charge.
4. The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis is another gorgeous attraction is Saint Louis is the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. Built between 1907 and 1909, the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis offers one of the largest mosaic collections in the world covering 83,000 square feet with 8,000 different colors, serving as a reminder of how God reaches into the daily lives of his people. The basilica also has red and blue rose windows by Tiffany and Company. Make sure to take in one of the great concerts by the cathedral choirs.
5. The City Museum is a great place to take the kids to play, and you are welcome to rediscover your own childhood at this museum. Play in a room full of slides, visited the enchanted caves, learn how shoelaces were made at one of the city’s first factories, and explore the circus created out of found objects. Climb, run, laugh and smile all day long at this museum. Hidden on top of the City Museum is a four story Ferris wheel offering stunning views of Saint Louis far below. In my interview with St. Louis resident and travel authority Adam Sommer, he highly recommends this museum, saying it’s “probably the newest and most cutting edge children’s museum in the nation.” Admission is $12 per person.
Rock out at the City Museum.
6. Forest Park – Who doesn’t love a sunny afternoon playing with the kiddos in a park? Well, Forest Park in St. Louis offers just that! This park offers three different playgrounds including the Turtle playground, the science playground, and the Dennis and Judith Jones Variety Wonderland. This park also offers four athletic fields, six cultural institutions, seven diner selections, two golf courses, 15 picnic sites, three tennis and racquetball fields, and numerous statues and monuments. As you can tell this park has everything in one, and has something to offer every member of your family.
7. Busch Stadium – Take me out to the ball game at the Busch Stadium accompanied by 46,680 other fans. Busch Stadium is home to the Saint Louis Cardinals who are often in contention to win the National League. Many historical moments and home run hits have been made in this stadium including the playing of the 2009 Major League Baseball all-star game. Make sure to arrive early at the park before a game to get the autographs of past and present players, buy souvenirs at the official Cardinal fan store, make your own cardinal mascot at the Freebird Store, and take the official tour of Busch Stadium.
8. Powell Symphony Hall first opening in 1925 as a stage for vaudeville acts, the amazing Powell Symphony Hall never has a dull moment! The European style symphony hall is often filled to its 2,683 people for the best musicians, singers, and musicals for miles around. At night, be very careful, as many attendees believe that a vaudeville actor ghost who loves to play with the lights and the elevator haunts the symphony hall. Make sure to try to catch a performance of the Saint Louis Symphony who calls this facility home. Each Christmas season, the Powell Symphony Hall offers a visit with Santa Claus, as well as Handel’s Messiah.
9. The Fox Theatre opened in 1929 and was the second largest theater in the United States at the time of its opening. Part of the Fox Theater Company, the theater is fashioned after the Hindu mosques of India. The Wurlitzer pipe organ in the theater is one of the most valuable in the world. If you are looking for the best Broadway shows, concerts, or comedians, then this place is for you. There are many seats available, but buy your tickets quick!
10. The Magic House has everything a kid could ever want to learn about all in one convenient location! With fifteen different play areas, this place will keep the kiddos entertained for hours! Some of the favorite attractions include touching a giant electrically charged ball making your hair stand on end, pushing a giant pin screen to capture your awesome silhouette, and expressing your creative side in the Art Studio plus lots and lots more! The Magic House is truly magical and created for a once in a lifetime educational experience. What better way than keeping the kiddos entertained while having fun yourself?
11. Museum of Transportation – With the “largest and best collections of transportation vehicles in the world,” this museum (founded in 1944) includes one of the two first man made railroad tunnels west of the Mississippi River. This unique museum features more than 70 locomotives, it boasts one of the most complete collections of American rail power anywhere, including an 1858 wood-burning locomotive, a Big Boy (the world’s largest steam locomotive), and a 1920s Pullman sleeping car. Automobiles on display range from a 1915 Ford Model T to Bobby Darin’s 1960 dream car. Other highlights include a miniature passenger train and a trolley circulating the museum’s 129 acres. We consider it to be one of the 27 Coolest Museums In America. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children.
12. Consider visiting Six Flags St. Louis for big thrills or family fun. While I am not a huge fan of the Six Flags theme parks due there general lack of theming and mid-sized rides, they can still be a lot of fun, including the St. Louis location! Admission is $56.99 for adults and $41.99 for children.
13. Anheuser Busch Brewery Tour – Why pass up a tour inside the largest brewer in the US when it’s free?! If you aren’t a fan of Bud Light, you would be surprised to know that Anheuser Busch also serves up Shock Top, Stella Artois, Margaritaville favorites and many others brews at the factory. Here you can enjoy a free tour inside the brewery that proves to be both fun and amusing with informative tour guides and impressive architecture and mosaics throughout the grounds. Not only will you learn about the brewing process, but the stained glass and statues really give the place a unique charm. See the colossal Clydesdale horses in the stables, and pick your favorite beer to sample. We rank it at #7 on our list of the Top 10 Chocolate & Beer Tours In America. The Brewmaster Tour (extra $25) dives deeper into the history and brewing process, and you get a free hat and glass to take home!
This exquisite city also offers boundless opportunities for amazing and unusual shopping. Bali Cargo Company of Saint Louis is an amazing store where all of the goods sold here are handmade on the island of Bali. If you are having men underwear problems, Boxers is the store to go to for men’s underwear since that is all they sell! Another awesome store for any candy lover is Miss M’s Candy Boutique where they sell over 250 kinds of candy including candy apparel, and candy jewelry. As you can tell this town has it all!
Fountain on Locoust – If that tummy is rumblin’ and you don’t know where the good food is, then look no further than Fountain on Locust. In this beautiful hand painted restaurant that is 20s themed you will find the tastiest food around! Fountain on Locust is home to the yummy ice cream martini. They also offer soup that is made for scratch every day! So satisfy that tummy while having fun!
Crown Candy Kitchen – Since 1913, this place has had a long standing tradition – who ever can drink five malts in half an hour receives them for free! They were named “Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America” by the Travel Channel. This family owned business a real treat for everyone in your party.
Ted Drewes – This frozen custard place is highly recommended by Sommer and has been a huge hit since it first opened in 1929, so much so that I drove quite a ways out of my way to get here (and let me warn you, it’s not in the best part of town). They have grown to have two locations, one in Chippewa and another on South Grand Boulevard. I had the Hawaiian sundae (with pineapple, banana, coconut, and macadamia nuts) and it was actually so good that we came back the next day for more – well worth the drive!
Chow down at Ted Drewes.
Hard Rock Cafe – At the crossroads of the Missouri River and the Mississippi in the historic Union Station area, you can train your sights on the fabulous Hard Rock menu while pondering what else to do and see. The Gateway Arch and Busch Stadium are just a stone’s throw away. Have a rocking’ good time at this St. Louis classic.
The Cheesecake Factory – Since first opening in Beverly Hills in 1978, these restaurants have become well known for their fun atmosphere, huge portions and more than 200 menu selections to choose from. They offer 50 cheesecakes and specialty desserts, with some that are only offered seasonally. These include: Key lime cheesecake, Chocolate Chip Cookie – Dough cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake (available from October – holidays), Pineapple Upside-Down Cheesecake, and after thanksgiving they even have a peppermint Bark Cheesecake!
Reaching Saint Louis is easy because the Lambert-Saint Louis International Airport is located just ten miles from the city. The city is also served by several smaller airports catering to private airplanes. Saint Louis is also a popular stop on the Amtrak line. Once in town, the city is easy to get around in, thanks to the city’s great metro bus service. Taxis are also available to take you somewhere and pick you up. Numerous companies offer car rental in Saint Louis.
4 Star- The Moonrise Hotel (rates start at about $149 a night) – See the world’s largest man-made moon here in the arts and cultures district. This rotating moon is on display above the rooftop lounge. Step in the lobby to see a few mini space-themed exhibits and discover signed photos of every Apollo astronaut who walked on or orbited the moon. Even the bathrooms come decked out! You may want to stop by just to get a meal in at their contemporary, yet casual Eclipse restaurant. It’s reviewed at 4.5 stars and among the best hotels in St. Louis on TripAdvisor. Nearby you will find the Planet Walk, where you can hike around the solar system in just a few short blocks!