St. Louis, like every city, has its popular attractions. After all, there's a reason why the Gateway Arch and the St. Louis Zoo bring in millions of visitors every year. But each city also has smaller places and experiences that give it a unique feel. Here are my recommendations on the top five things everyone in St. Louis should experience.
Stepping into Crown Candy is like stepping back in time. Crown Candy opened in 1913, and you'll be hard-pressed to say what's changed over time. With much of the original décor, menu and original booths intact, it's like having lunch in a time capsule. Beyond the décor, people come for the shakes, malts and candy. Crown Candy makes them all from scratch, using the shop's original recipes. Lunch items include simple but tasty sandwiches, chili dogs and the best BLT in town. It's a no frills sandwich with nearly a pound of bacon. Seriously, you have to try it!
The Lemp brewery was once the largest brewery in St. Louis, and the Lemp family mansion is everything you'd expect in the home of such a budding dynasty. But the dynasty seems to have been cursed. In a span of two generations, four members of the Lemp family committed suicide and others died under mysterious circumstances. No wonder the mansion is routinely listed among some of the most haunted sites in the nation. Today, the home is open as a bed & breakfast and you can spend the night in one of its haunted rooms. If you'd prefer to spend less time at the mansion, there's also a restaurant where you can get a quick meal.
Skip the grocery store for once and make the trip to the historic Soulard Farmers Market near downtown St. Louis. There are dozens vendors selling locally grown fruits and vegetables, but there are also rows of bakers, butchers, spice shops, florists and jewelers. The market is also great for people watching, as the shoppers are almost as diverse as the items for sale. If you were visiting some exotic foreign city, the guide books would insist you visit the open air market. Luckily we have something similar, right in our own backyard.
National Geographic ranked it among America's top 10 adventures, yet not many St. Louisans have visited Bonne Terre Mine. Once one of the largest mines in the world, it was abandoned in the 1960's, only to fill up with groundwater. Its current owners say the resulting billion-gallon subterranean lake is the world's largest. Visit the mine for a tour by boat or by foot, or if you're a certified diver (or want to become one), you can explore the lake to its depths, following up to 24 dive trails. Bonne Terre is about one hour south of St. Louis.
The City Museum is like no other attraction in St. Louis. It's a magical place filled with slides, tunnels, caves and more. All of the exhibits are made from recycled and upcycled materials like concrete, broken stones and rebar, giving the space a one-of-a-kind look. Favorite exhibits include the five and ten-story slides, ball pits and the old school bus perched precariously on the rooftop. The City Museum is not at "stand and observe" destination. If you spend the day, you'll definitely get a workout.