Top St. Louis Attractions and Nightlife
Whether you’re just visiting for a few days, or live here and are looking for something fun to do, St. Louis is a gem of the Midwest with lots to offer. It has plenty of attractions to check out during the day, and thriving restaurant/nightlife scene.
For daytime attractions, a great place to start is Forest Park. This nearly 1,300 acre site of the 1904 World’s Fair has seen something of a revitalization in the last ten years. If the weather’s nice, Forest Park is a beautiful place to just walk around, soak up the greenery, and see some beautiful architecture. Notable museums include The Science Center (great place for the kids) The St. Louis Art Museum, The Missouri History Museum, The Jewel Box (a large display greenhouse) and The St. Louis Zoo, all of which are steeped in history and free to the public. If you’re more of an outdoors person, the park offers miles of biking/running paths, numerous fields for a variety of sports including baseball, soccer, rugby, and more, several lakes for fishing, and an ice skating rink during the winter. Forest Park is a beautiful mix of outdoor activities and museums that can’t be missed no matter what the season.
History and architecture buffs should look no further than the St. Louis Arch, formally known as The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. This wonder of modern architecture is located in downtown St. Louis on the Mississippi River, near the starting point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Beneath the ground directly below the Arch is the Museum of Westward Expansion that celebrates not only the history and development of the city’s riverfront, but also Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase. Visitors can also ascend the 630 foot ‘Gateway to the West’ for beautiful views of St. Louis and the state of Illinois, which lies directly across the river. The Arch is also one of many highlights of the long career of Swedish architect Eero Saarinen. Directly behind the Arch, on the grounds of the National Expansion Memorial, lies the Old Courthouse, built in 1828. Atop the courthouse is an impressive Italian Renaissance cast iron dome, modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Famous cases that were held in the Old Courthouse include the Dred Scott case (1846) and the Virginia Minor case (1872), in which a woman was arrested for trying to vote.
Finally, no trip to St. Louis would be complete without the two things that are the lifeblood of St. Louis: beer and baseball. Anheuser-Busch, one of the world’s largest producers of beer, was founded in St. Louis in the late 1800s. The company’s original, and largest, brewery was opened in 1852 and still stands on its original site in the Soulard neighborhoods, about a mile south of downtown. Free tours are given daily, where you can learn about the history of Anheuser-Busch and the brewing process. Free samples are available after tours for those of legal age. And after the tour, Soulard is a prime area in St. Louis, reminiscent of New Orleans’ French Quarter, to find good shops, food, and drinks for any taste and price range. Just ask the knowledgeable and friendly Anheuser-Busch staff members for suggestions.
And don’t forget to check out a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium, located in the heart of downtown, if you’re there at the right time of year. Busch Stadium is a Mecca for baseball lovers, home to one of baseball’s most historical franchises, and home to some of the greatest fans in the game. However, most games sell out, so don’t forget to purchase tickets in advance.
The Hill, just south of Forest Park, is an Italian-American full of history and award-winning restaurants, bars, and cafes. Some of the most famous of these include Amighetti’s, Zia’s, and Mr. B’s Bar and Grill. But walk through the neighborhood on any of the main streets – Hampton Ave, Shaw Ave, or Macklind Ave, among others – and you’ll find numerous other places to eat and shop. If you’re not sure where to start, guided tours are available, for a fee, through various companies.
The Central West End, just northwest of downtown, provides an impressive mix of nightlife. With Washington University nearby, there are plenty of bars that offer cheap drinks and cater to a younger crowd. The area surrounding the Central West End is relatively residential and high-income, so the neighborhood provides many upscale restaurants that cater to groups or a romantic dinner for two.
If you’re in the mood for tunes, St. Louis has a thriving live music scene centered around a several block strip called The Loop, located in the University City neighborhood. World famous joints venues such as The Pageant Theater and bars like Cicero’s and Blueberry Hill have live music (a mix of local bands and more famous acts, depending on the night) virtually every night. Besides music, The Loop also has an eclectic mix of ethnic restaurants and shops for all tastes.
St. Louis, despite its small size, has plenty to do for all ages and interests. However, it’s small enough that the so-called ‘touristy’ attractions simply don’t exist. If you ever feel lost, or unsure of where to start, the key is to remember that everyone has a Midwest charm and courtesy, and you shouldn’t be afraid to simply ask for directions or advice.