Your Trip to St. Louis: The Complete Guide

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There’s no longer a need to escape to the coast for a vacation rich in culture and experience. You can find all of that and more—at budget-friendly prices—right in the middle of the country in St. Louis. Thanks to the city’s low cost of living, tech startups and creative types are moving in, and St. Louis is doing an excellent job keeping up.

With a vibrant food and drink scene and plenty of free activities, the Gateway to the West is the ideal destination for all kinds of travelers: families, couples, urban explorers, and more.

Planning Your Trip

  • Best Time to Visit: Late spring through early autumn, when the weather is warm and free activities abound.
  • Language: English
  • Currency: US Dollars
  • Getting Around: St. Louis is incredibly spread out, so driving is the most common choice. There is limited public transportation via the Metrolink train system. Uber and Lyft is widely available and residents use both services often.
  • Travel Tip: Pack layers because St. Louis weather is unpredictable and can change on a whim. While the temperature is unlikely to vary too much in summer, other parts of the year can bring unforeseeable weather changes.

Things to Do

St. Louis is full of fun activities year-round. The city is best known for its baseball, barbecue, and breweries, but there’s much more to it than that! You can find live music and outdoor dining just about anywhere on a warm day, and the parks are constantly packed no matter the weather. No matter your interests, you’re sure to find an activity or event that you’ll be talking about for years to come.

  • Take in a game at Busch Stadium. Even if you’re not a big baseball fan, there’s nothing like seeing a game at Busch. Right in the middle of downtown, Busch Stadium is the baseball mecca of the Midwest, and the fans’ enthusiasm for the Cardinals is infectious. It’s a great way to experience an event that’s important to many St. Louisans, with the added bonus of a great view of the St. Louis skyline.
  • Explore Forest Park. Forest Park is the city’s largest park and was the home of the 1904 World’s Fair and Summer Olympics. The park is home to many important cultural institutions, including the Zoo, Art Museum, History Museum, The Muny theatre, Science Center, and more.
  • Play around the City Museum. More a playground-cum-art-installation than an actual museum, the City Museum is certainly one of the most unique places you’ll ever see. It’s a collection of found objects, architectural pieces, and larger-than-life art, almost all of which is meant to climb in, on, and around. Definitely wear comfortable clothes and tennis shoes; you never know what nooks and crannies you’ll end up discovering. Don’t miss the 10-story slide or the Ferris wheel on the rooftop!

And that’s just a short list of St. Louis’s most famous attractions! Add to your itinerary with the help of our articles on the top tourist attractions, things to do under $10, and fun things to do with kids (that adults will enjoy too).

What to Eat and Drink

Historically, St. Louis food hasn’t gotten much nationwide praise. Though the city is (in)famous for its thin-crust pizza topped with provel cheese, toasted ravioli, and gooey butter cake, it’s also becoming a verifiable foodie destination.

If you’re in the mood for old-school Italian food, the Hill has dozens of “red sauce” joints and daytime-only sandwich shops. South Grand has an extensive list of international restaurants and you can find Mediterranean, Ethiopian, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Moroccan, and Brazilian cuisine all on one street! For foodie restaurants with inventive menus, venture into the Central West End, Lafayette Square, and Grand Center neighborhoods. Chefs from around the country have discovered the versatility of Ozark-region ingredients are moving in and bringing new techniques along with them, giving you the opportunity to try new dishes at a relatively affordable price. Additionally, local chefs who have long-known St. Louis’s appetite for excellent food continue to thrive, and several James Beard winners and nominees own some of the best restaurants in town.

One such local chef, Gerard Craft, who was awarded the James Beard award for Best Chef in the Midwest, has made his name in the city thanks to his several excellent restaurants. You could do a full food tour on Craft’s restaurants alone by visiting Clayton (Sardella and Pastaria), the Central West End (Brasserie and Taste), and downtown (Cinder House). Another chef with a James Beard nod, Kevin Nashan, runs Benton Park’s Sidney Street Cafe and Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co., which flies their fresh seafood in daily.

St. Louis is a decidedly pro-drinking city. With lax liquor laws and a microbrewery on seemingly every street, there’s never a shortage of beer no matter where you are. St. Louis is best known for its largest brewery, Anheuser-Busch, which you can tour almost every day for free. You’ll learn about the history of brewing in America (and specifically in St. Louis) and will see the brewing process up-close! If you’re not an AB fan, never fear: There are plenty of microbreweries around, each with their own distinct identity. Try local brews from Civil Life, Urban Chestnut, 4 Hands, Schlafly, and more to get a real taste of what St. Louisans like in their beer. If beer isn’t up your alley, St. Louis also has excellent spots for award-winning handcrafted cocktails or for working your way through carefully curated wine lists.

Explore our articles on the most famous restaurants in St. Louis and a beer-lovers’ guide for specific recommendations!

Where to Stay

St. Louis is made up of fairly distinct neighborhoods that all have their own personality. Because the city is heavily suburban, there aren’t as many hotels as you’d expect to find in a larger city. That’s why it’s a good idea to look into Airbnb. Not only can you find beautiful apartments or even whole houses at a relatively low price, you’ll be able to experience what life is really like as a St. Louis resident. Most homes are built with traditional red brick on tree-lined streets. The Shaw, Tower Grove South, and Central West End neighborhoods are the most popular; they’re centrally located, historic, safe, and incredibly beautiful.

If you’re looking for a room service experience instead, why not skip the more recognizable chains and try one of St. Louis’s new boutique hotels? Look into the brand-new Hotel St. Louis in downtown St. Louis, the Chase Park Plaza in the Central West End, the Moonrise Hotel in the Loop, or Hotel Ignacio in Grand Center. All of these hotels will give you the luxury experience you’re craving at a price you can stomach!

For more hotel recommendations, check out this list of the best hotels in St. Louis.

Getting There

St. Louis is centrally located in the middle of the country and it is an easy drive from pretty much anywhere in the Midwest. Three interstate highways — Interstate 70, Interstate 64 (often referred to as Highway 40 in St. Louis), and Interstate 44 — run right through it, making it a few hours’ drive from many major cities.

You can also fly into St. Louis’s airport, Lambert International (which is not actually an international airport anymore!). Many flights into St. Louis are very affordable. The airport is less than half an hour from the city itself, so you should either rent a car, call an Uber or Lyft, or take the Metrolink to your destination.

Culture

St. Louis is a multicultural city that has historically been very welcoming to immigrants. There is a large Bosnian population in St. Louis, centered in Little Bosnia in the city’s Bevo Mill neighborhood. In fact, it’s the largest Bosnian population outside of Europe and the largest in the United States. There are also many Vietnamese and Thai restaurants, thanks to its many east Asian immigrants. If you are not an American citizen, you will feel at home in the city’s many international restaurants and neighborhoods.

However, the city has historically had a racial segregation problem, which was made worse by a large amount of white flight several decades ago. While the city and its citizens are working to repair these divides, it is important to be cognizant of these issues as you explore new neighborhoods.

For instance, the Old North neighborhood north of downtown has some excellent restaurants and boutiques, but it’s often not recommended for many tourists to venture there at night. Additionally, there is a large socioeconomic divide that runs along Delmar Boulevard, particularly near the Central West End, and it’s not recommended for casual tourists to go north of Delmar without being aware of their surroundings.

Money-Saving Tips

If you’re vacationing on a budget, you’ll be delighted to hear that some of St. Louis’s most beloved cultural institutions are free every single day.

  • The St. Louis Zoo is completely free to all visitors.
  • The St. Louis Art Museum is one of the best in the world and is completely free, with the exception of some rotating exhibitions.
  • The St. Louis Science Center is also free and is an excellent place for children (of all ages!) to learn about science and technology.
  • There are a massive amount of free activities and festivals in St. Louis, particularly in the warmer months. While many of these festivals center around food and drink, usually you don’t need a ticket to enter.
  • Find even more wallet-friendly things to do with these lists on free things in St. Louis and free things to do with kids.
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