The gateway to the West, the convergence of the Missouri and Mississippi River, and the culturally rich and historically significant the city of St. Louis is worth your time. There is no shortage of things to do in St. Louis. With a Midwest charm the people of Saint Louis were some of the friendliest I have come across during my travels across the United States.
Saint Louis is the largest city in the Great Plains of the United States and with size comes a myriad of museums, parks, and things to do during your time in St. Louis. Surprisingly it is very budget friendly since the locals pay a tax that allows most of the attractions in the city to be FREE!
An eclectic city St. Louis offers things to do for all ages and types of travelers from baseball to chess. Surprisingly enough, Saint Louis is a foodie’s paradise, try the different local cuisines and St. Louis BBQ- you won’t be bored! Also, one cannot forget the awe-inspiring view of the St. Louis Gateway Arch that can be seen from miles away in every direction.
Saint Louis, MO is not a Fly-Over
I didn’t realize how amazing this city was until I arrived. Saint Louis is a destination that you may have never thought of for a city break, but this is for sure not a fly-over city. If you want great food, a cultural experience, and see where the East meets the West, come to Saint Louis, Missouri. You won’t regret it.
Saint Louis Missouri is a flyover state that I would drive a few hours for. From the free museums and beautiful greenery of the city, to the Gateway Arch. A foodie’s paradise was definitely not the first thought I had when I thought of Saint Louis, but the local delicacies such as toasted ravioli, Imo’s Pizza, and Pappy’s Smokehouse ribs were mouthwatering.
Whether you are exploring the history of Lewis and Clark’s expedition west, or the varying architectural styles that show Saint Louis’s rich history of industrialization and western expansion your trip to the fly over state will be one to remember.
This travel guide will tell you the best things to do in Saint Louis: where to eat, stay, and what to do. The best part many of the attractions are free or nearly free, so it is perfect for a budget holiday!
Quick Run Down of St. Louis
- St Louis time zone- The Time Zone in Saint Louis is Central Standard Time.
- St. Louis Airport- Saint Louis Lambert International Airporteasily accecible to the city by MetroLink. A roundtrip fare costs $5 USD and a one way costs $2.50. The Metrolink runs from Saint Louis Lambert International Airport to Downtown Saint Louis in 30 minutes.
- Saint Louis Population ~318,069 People
- Weather in Saint Louis Missouri? St. Louis Temperature varies throughout the year. The best times to visit St. Louis are in April and May and September through October. St. Louis experiences long, hot summers and long, cold winters.
Where is St. Louis?
Many people may not know where St. Louis is located, but they definitely recognize the iconic Gateway Arch that has symbolized the gateway to the West. Saint Louis Missouri is located in the Great Plains in Missouri. It sits near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi River, which has made it a major city through much of its’ history for trade, transport, and industrialization.
Things to do in Downtown St. Louis
While I was in Downtown St. Louis, I was constantly astounded by the amount of green space that was tucked around every corner. From sculpture gardens, to the iconic view of the court house and arch in the background there was plenty of space to get some fresh air. The downtown area sits on the Mississippi area, however the downtown area is definitely a place of business and not residential like many other cities. To really get to know St. Louis you need to make it to one of the many St. Louis neighborhoods worth checking out, like Delmar Loop, Cherokee Street, or The Grove to name a few.
1 . St. Louis Gateway Arch and the Old Court House
Growing up I always wanted to see the Saint Louis Gateway Arch, I know I was a weird kid. But I always idolized the time of cross-country road trips on the iconic Route 66, and it passed right through St. Louis.
The St. Louis Arch is the largest arch in the world, and you can ride to the top of this 630 ft (192 Meter) stainless steel masterpiece. This definitely has the best view of St. Louis and beyond. On a clear day you can see as far as 30 miles in either direction.
The tram is slightly claustrophobic, I had to bend down and squat to enter the 5 person tram that takes 4 minutes to the top. But the views at the top were worth it!
If heights aren’t your thing check out the free museum at the bottom of the arch that was recently unveiled in 2018 after a five-year, $380-million renovation project.
2. Pretend you’re a kid at the Saint Louis City Museum
The Saint Louis City Museum is basically an adult playground of repurposed architectural and industrial objects in the old International Shoe Company Factory building. It was opened in 1997 by artist Bob Cassilly. My first experience here was during the day, and my second was for a after party for WordCamp US Conference hosted this year in Saint Louis.
Luckily enough, I was able to experience the rooftop of the St. Louis City Museum and ride the Ferris wheel that offered a unique view of the city of St. Louis all lit up at night. The upcycling of materials, industrial objects, and remains of an old factory created one of the most entertaining adult playgrounds. The spot is used often for some of the best events in Saint Louis, such as parties with DJs and dancing. This space is definitely one of the most creative and unique spots in Saint Louis.
Tickets: $16.00 (PLUS TAX) AGES 3 YEARS AND UP
3. Explore the sounds of the Mississippi at the National Blues Museum
Thanks to Explore Saint Louis I was able to see the National Blues Museum. Saint Louis is an important capital of Blues and holds a special spot in the musical history of Blues.
The National Blues Museum is where music lovers can celebrate artists, such as Chuck Berry and Lonnie Johnson, and see how the sounds traveled up and down the Mississippi Delta.
Want to catch a live show while you’re in Saint Louis, one of my favorite things was the live jam sessions hosted at the Museum on Fridays and Sundays. Check out the St. Louis Blues schedule HERE.
Tickets: Adults (18 years and older) – $15
Seniors Over 65/Military– $12
College student/Children age 5-17– $10
Children under 5 – FREE (must be accompanied by an adult)
4. Catch a Game at the Saint Louis Cardinal’s Busch Stadium
“Take me out to the ball game” in Saint Louis. The Saint Louis Cardinals fans are amazing and the Busch Stadium is in the middle of Downtown Saint Louis. Even if it is in off season you can tour the stadium, or play a few rounds of golf.
5. Chess Hall of Fame and the Saint Louis Chess Club
One of the largest Chess Clubs in the United States, and host of the U.S. Chess open calls Saint Louis Home. The Saint Louis Chess Club is one of the largest clubs, and while I was in town I dropped in for a game.
Nerd Alert! I am a chess player, and pretty darn good. I played competitive chess throughout school, and recently decided to get back into it.
While in town I could not help myself and decided to go to the Chess Hall of Fame. The museum was free and it was right across the street from the Saint Louis Chess Club. If you are in town, it is definitely worth stopping by. Even if it is just to see the largest chess piece in the world that stands in front of the museum.
6. St. Louis Union Station and the St. Louis Aquarium
The recent renovations of the St. Louis Union Station, definitely make it worthy of your time when looking at Saint Louis activities for your itinerary. The St. Louis Aquarium opened December 2019, and with that a rejuvenated space including restaurants, such as the Soda Fountain with the best ice-cream, a ferris wheel, and the St. Louis Union Station Hotel. The opening saw 61000 guests to the 120,00 square foot aquarium for it’s grand opening week. Definitely a must on your trip to St. Louis.
Tickets are $25 USD for adults, children are $18 USD
Forest Park Saint Louis
The best activities and things to do in Saint Louis Missouri surround a park bigger and grander than Central Park in New York City- Forest Park. Forest Park’s 1300 acres offers 5 of the largest cultural institutions in the region, natural ecosystems, buildings and fountains from the 1904 World’s Fair, and trails for many recreational activities in Saint Louis.
Saint Louis Missouri has recently received some accolades for being one of the greenest cities where its’ locals #OptOutside according to Rei.com. In 2016, Forest Park was voted the #1 City Park in the country by readers of USA Today.
7. Wander through Forest Park
It is impossible to go to Saint Louis and not go to Forest Park. While you can easily spend a day there doing many cultural as well as outdoor activities. One of my favorite things to do was get lost on the trails in Forest Park and take a walk. Luckily enough I was in Saint Louis for the fall foliage season, which provided a beautiful scenery for my walk.
The park is easily accessible by public transit and bus, but my favorite thing to do was walk between the museums in order to experience Forest Park.
8. Saint Louis Zoo
Lions, tigers, and bears oh my! The Saint Louis Zoo is a must, if there is anything that brings you the same joy as when you were a kid it has to be a visit to the zoo. The Saint Louis Zoo is home to 17,000 exotic species, and was started after the citizens of Saint Louis bought the 1904 World’s Fair Flight Cage for $3,500 USD, and has since expanded to enclose over 90 acres.
St Louis Zoo hours: The Zoo is open year-round, except Dec 25 and Jan 1, from 9am- 5pm daily.
9. Saint Louis Art Museum
After roaming the largest Saint Louis Park, you will come to a grand fountain and manmade lake with the Saint Louis Art Museum overlooking it on a hill. The Saint Louis Art Museum is FREE and occupies the 1904 World’s Fair Palace of Fine Arts building.
Tuesday–Sunday, 10 am–5 pm, Friday, 10 am–9 pm
Closed Monday, Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Open New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day.
Tip: Friday the main exposition is free.
Tower Grove Park Area
Here hipsters coexist, with the old school, and young families, all make a go of it. The streets are alive with dog-walking, bike-riding, stroller-pushing St. Louisans it was one of my favorite neighborhoods to take a Lime scooter and enjoy the beautiful park.
10. Meander through the Missouri Botanical Garden
Out of the many things to do in Saint Louis, one of the most relaxing experiences I had was wandering through the Missouri Botanical Gardens. The Missouri Botanical Garden is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the United States. Founded in 1859, the Missouri Botanical Garden is a National Historic Landmark and offers a variety of garden types, from Japanese, to English gardens with a beautiful mansion in the center of the 70 plus acre garden grounds.
Tickets Cost $14 USD for Adults 13 and over. Children are FREE!
11. Missouri History Museum
While I did not plan to come to the Missouri History Museumit proved to be a great look into the history and culture of St. Louis. From learning more about the St Louis World Fair, to seeing the “Pultizer Prize Photographs” the museum was multifaceted, gave me a better grasp of the significance of Saint Louis Missouri to the country.
Delmar Loop Neighborhood
After exploring Downtown Saint Louis, it is nice to get out of the city to the suburbs, and if you like shopping, great food, and eclectic architecture head to the Delmar Loop neighborhood in Saint Louis.
12. Delmar Loop
The Delmar Loop has to be my favorite neighborhood, it has been named one of the greatest streets of America by the American Planning Association. Everything was clean, there is amazing coffee, restaurants, and thrift/boutique shopping. Probably because a university is nearby, there is a youthful and fun atmosphere to the Delmar Loop. My favorite coffeeshop in the city was here, Blueprint Coffee. Order a side car, it is great because you can taste and enjoy a shot of espresso on the side of a smaller 8-ounce latte. Genius!
Right outside of the coffeeshop starts the Saint Louis Walk of Fame, that has stars on the ground ranging from Maya Angelo, to the famous Saint Louis musicians like Chuck Berry. The Loop is home to 145 shops including restaurants, galleries, clothing boutiques, entertainment venues, and a boutique hotel.
13. Washington University in St. Louis
The beautiful campus of Washington University in Saint Louis is a prestigious institution worth a stroll and sits not far off from the Delmar Loop.
St. Louis Restaurants to make your mouth water
Foodies will rejoice, as Saint Louis restaurants and delicacies abound. I had no clue how happy my stomach would be when I arrived in Saint Louis. Starting off a cool morning with a warm gooey butter cake at Park Avenue Coffee will warm you up for a long day of exploring. When it comes to lunch there is nothing better than Imo’s Pizza to try the Saint Louis style Pizza, and there is definitely no shortage of St. Louis style BBQ. One thing is for certain, come hungry to Saint Louis Missouri!
14. St Louis Bread Co. aka Panera Bread
The St. Louis Bread Co. is what locals call Panera Bread. The country wide food chain has roots in Saint Louis and the locals are proud of it. They actually will never refer to it as Panera Bread, but always call it the St. Louis Bread Co.
15. St Louis style ribs
I love barbeque and I was not going to Saint Louis before trying St. Louis Style Ribs at two of the best places in St. Louis for BBQ. I went to both Pappy’s Smokehouse and Salt and Smoke to determine the best (in my opinion). My conclusion is that both are amazing, but I preferred the ambiance of Salt and Smoke, although the portions at Pappy’s could feed a small village.
16. Eat Toasted Ravioli in The Hill Neighborhood
Toasted Ravioli is a thing in Saint Louis. I learned this tradition of frying ravioli began at Mama’s on the Hill according to them (well at least that’s what they told me). It was definitely a great appetizer to begin the meal. I would say I highly recommend eating Italian when you are in Saint Louis, definitely some of the best Saint Louis restaurants are in The Hill Neighborhood!
St. Louis Things to do in the Suburbs
St Louis Neighborhoods offer a lot more than the things to do Downtown. Some of the best things to do are often off the beaten path. From exploring the former homestead of President Grant, to visiting the pre-Colombian Native American settlement at Cahokia Mounds, there are a wide variety of activities.
17. Grant’s Farm
A popular St. Louis destination established in 1954, Grant’s Farm is the 281-acre ancestral home of the Busch family (yes of Anheuser-Busch), and was once lived on by the former President Ulysses S. Grant who originally worked a portion of the land.
See the original Grant Cabin, where the former President resided. Make a day out of it to explore the vast grounds, animals, and nature at the Grant Farm.
18. Cahokia Mounds
Who knew a UNESCO World Heritage Site sat at the doorstep of Saint Louis? I did! I geek out when it comes to history and ruins, so remembering the days of AP American History I remembered the Cahokia Mounds.
While they may just look like very large man-made hills, they are actually the remnants of pre-Columbian Native American City established in 1100 CE. Today it covers 2200 acres and there are 80 mounds. However, the original society was said to be as large as contemporaneous London!
Have a Sensory Overload from Cherokee Street, to Soulard Market
19. Anheuser-Busch Factory
While I don’t drink (read more about my decision here), this is definitely a massive worth seeing structure and definitely an important part of Saint Louis’s History. I would be remiss in not mentioning this as one of the top things to do in Saint Louis. The Factory leads tours year-round and they also give free samples.
Actually, located in Collinsville, IL a short half hour drive from Downtown Saint Louis, the Cahokia Mounds is a hidden gem!
20. Antique and Thrift Shop on Cherokee Street
The historic brick row homes along Cherokee Street, are now a hot spot in Saint Louis for antique and thrift shopping. Cherokee Street not only has great shopping, but it also has great breakfast joints. I especially loved The Mud House, where I had a new twist on the St. Louis Slinger a must try Saint Louis diner delicacy, sure to give you a heart attack! (The Mud House, 2101 Cherokee St., Cherokee Business District)
21. Soulard Farmers Market
Soulard Farmers Market is located at 730 Carroll Street in St. Louis, Missouri, a short walk from the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. The market is open Wednesday thru Saturday, year round, since 1779. Definitely worth a stop if you like fresh produce, farmers markets, and doing as the locals do!
Hotels in St. Louis
There are many great hotel options depending on where you want to be in the city. However, the hotels are not cheap, so if you are on a budget I highly recommend heading to Homestay.com, Homeaway, or Airbnb for some more affordable options. But below are a few hotels I think are definitely worth the money and are located by most of the activities and things to do in Saint Louis.
Moonrise Hotel– Delmar Loop $$
Marriot St. Louis Grand– Downtown Saint Louis $$
St. Louis Union Station Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton– Union Station Area. $$$
Things to do at Night in St. Louis
An eclectic city, will always have a varied nightlife from swanky rooftop bars, to breweries and drag show bars Saint Louis plays to a wide variety of nightlife enthusiasts. Nightlife in Saint Louis is spread across a few neighborhoods, but here is where I checked out.
The Grove– Is a neighborhood that is very LGBTQ friendly and has a lot of options for nightlife on the weekends. From live performances, breweries, tiki bars, and drag shows!
Three Sixty–Downtown Saint Louis’ swanky rooftop bar sits pretty with a view of the St. Louis Gateway Arch. Definitely the most iconic bar in the city with the best views!