The Essential Guide to St. Louis

Marked by the Gateway Arch—the tallest man-made monument in the United States—St. Louis is famous for baseball at Busch Stadium and, of course, beer. Home to the headquarters of Anheuser-Busch, the city has a thriving brewery scene, from the commercial to craft. It’s also home to loads of free activities, including the 90-acre Saint Louis Zoo, world-class museums, and the sprawling lawns of Forest Park. In between sightseeing, explore the many exciting restaurants, offering everything from toasted ravioli and St. Louis–style pizza to James Beard Award–winning fare.

Highlights
5046 Shaw Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA
Located on “The Hill” in St. Louis’s version of Little Italy, Guido’s defines its wide-ranging menu as “the best of Mediterranean cuisine.” On it, you’ll find everything from classic Italian fare like homemade lasagna to traditional Spanish tapas such as boquerones and patatas bravas—but get the pizza. St. Louis has its own version—featuring a cracker-thin crust topped with Provel, a weirdly addicting white processed-cheese blend with a smoky, butter flavor—and Guido’s executes it perfectly. Opt for the Guido’s Deluxe with sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers; it goes well with a side of toasted ravioli (essentially deep-fried meat ravioli), another St. Louis specialty.
4260 Forest Park Avenue Entrance On Boyle, At Corner Of, Duncan Ave, St. Louis, MO 63108, USA
Husband-and-wife team Michael and Tara Gallina met while working at New York’s acclaimed Blue Hill at Stone Barns, he as the chef de cuisine and she as a captain. In 2017, they moved to Michael’s native St. Louis and opened their own restaurant, Vicia, which received almost instant accolades, including “Best Chef: Midwest” from the James Beard Foundation in 2019. The restaurant focuses on vegetable-forward cuisine, made with the freshest possible ingredients from local farmers, fishermen, and artisans as well as from the on-site garden. In the sleek but inviting dining room, diners enjoy such innovative dishes as kohlrabi shell tacos, grilled fairy tale eggplant, and Berkshire pork with nectarines and pistachios, all served in warm, unfussy Midwestern style. While the à la carte offerings stand on their own, you should consider ordering the Chef’s Menu to try off-menu dishes, or the Farmers Feast to share family-style options with the table. Whichever you choose, pair it with one of the botanical beverages, like the Garden Herbs with your choice of nasturtium-, lemon verbena–, or orange-mint-infused rum.
6726 Chippewa St, St. Louis, MO 63109, USA
You can often spot Ted Drewes Frozen Custard by the long line that’s snaked around the front of the building. Located on Chippewa Street—a designated section of the historic U.S. Route 66—the ice-cream shop is a St. Louis institution for its extra-thick, extra-smooth frozen custard. The go-to order here is a concrete, which Ted Drewes allegedly invented in 1959. It’s similar to a milk shake, but with custard so thick it’s served upside down, and comes with mix-ins like candy, fruit, and marshmallows. If you’d rather leave the decisions to someone else, go for specialty versions like the Cardinal Sin (with tart cherries and hot fudge) or the Hawaiian (with pineapple, banana, coconut, and macadamia nuts).
4344 Shaw Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA
Founded in 1859, this 79-acre oasis is the nation’s oldest continuously operating botanical garden and a National Historic Landmark. Built by Henry Shaw, whose estate still sits on the grounds, the garden boasts one of the world’s largest collections of rare and endangered orchids, as well as more than 48,000 trees, including a few specimens that date back to the 19th century. Also on-site are Japanese, Chinese, English Woodland, and Ottoman gardens, plus a Victorian district with a labyrinthine maze. After touring the grounds, guests can get their hands dirty with cooking and gardening classes, while senior citizens and those with special needs can take part in a therapeutic horticultural program that provides stimulating nature-based activities.
750 N 16th St, St. Louis, MO 63103, USA
Located in a former shoe factory, City Museum devotes 600,000 square feet and four levels to play for all ages. The museum was the brainchild of artist and entrepreneur Bob Cassilly—along with a crew of 20 artisans known as the Cassilly Crew—who constructed the space from objects found around the city, from construction cranes and fire trucks to church pipe organs, old airplanes, and plenty of reclaimed building materials. The result is a wonderfully weird and wacky museum that’s constantly evolving, depending on what’s been donated and collected recently. There’s a sky-high jungle gym, a rooftop Ferris wheel, an aquarium, and multi-story slides that once served as chutes for shoes. The museum has a “no map” policy to encourage exploration, but does advise visitors to bring their own flashlight—you never know what you’ll find in those dark caves.
615 Washington Ave, St. Louis, MO 63101, USA
Opened in downtown St. Louis in 2016, the National Blues Museum offers a deep dive into the blues, a genre that served as the bedrock for all American music. Here, historical exhibits and immersive experiences teach visitors about everything from electric blues and early rock ’n’ roll to prominent female artists and those who contributed directly to the city of St. Louis. For the ultimate experience, head to the on-site sound booth, where you can write and record your own blues record with different piano, harmonica, and guitar styles. The museum is robust, but small enough to navigate, making it ideal for an afternoon visit.
736 S Broadway, St. Louis, MO 63102, USA
Broadway Oyster Bar wears many hats. First and foremost, it’s an oyster bar, serving bivalves in a variety of fashions, from raw and char-grilled to fried and Rockefeller style. It’s also a solid bar, where a lot of folks come to party both before and after Cardinals games. Finally, it’s one of the finest music venues in St. Louis—or at least the most fun—with live shows twice a day, save for Fridays when one act plays the whole night. Expect local and national bands, plus a lot of New Orleans artists, playing anything from bluegrass to rock and reggae. Between all the eating, drinking, and music, take some time to learn the history of BOB. It’s housed in a building from the 1840s—one of the oldest in the city that’s still in use—that has served as a boardinghouse, Chinese laundry, record store, and bordello over the years. Naturally, it’s said to be haunted.
700 Clark Ave, St. Louis, MO 63102, USA
It’s impossible to visit St. Louis and not hear about the Cardinals—the city is crazy for its major league baseball team. The Redbirds play in the heart of downtown at Busch Stadium, a Populous-designed, retro-classic ballpark with panoramic views of the skyline and Gateway Arch. As its name suggests, the stadium is owned by Budweiser, though visitors can find some craft beers for sale, including local favorite Urban Chestnut. In terms of eats, the toasted ravioli—a St. Louis staple—are a must-try. For pre- or post-game entertainment, head to the Ballpark Villa across the street, where you’ll find the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum, Cardinal National Restaurant, Budweiser Brew House, Fox Sports Midwest Live!, and PBR St. Louis. You can also get a closer look at the stadium on a guided tour, which meets at Gate 3 in front of the bronze statue of Cardinals legend Stan Musial.
1200 Lynch St, St. Louis, MO 63118, USA
When it was founded in 1852 in St. Louis’s Soulard neighborhood, the Anheuser-Busch Brewery was revered for its access to the Mississippi River and natural caves that were used to keep beer cold prior to modern refrigeration. Today, it sprawls across 1,655,280 square feet of building space, set on a 142-acre site. Tours here range from free 45-minute experiences to food-pairing sessions and even make-your-own beer classes. There’s also an on-site beer garden for social sipping. Perhaps the best attraction, however, is the brewery’s Clydesdale horses—book the Horses & Heritage Tour for a behind-the-scenes look at their lives, plus the chance to pet and pose for pictures with the stunning creatures.
Gateway Arch Trail, St. Louis, MO 63102, USA
The unofficial symbol of St. Louis, the Gateway Arch is the tallest man-made monument in the United States, rising 630 feet into the air. It sits at the center of Gateway Arch National Park, which was established in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a transcontinental America. In 2018, the park emerged from a five-year, $380 million renovation, which added a grassy pedestrian walkway over the interstate as well as a revamped museum with new exhibits about the construction of the arch and how the expansion of the United States affected Native American communities. Tour the new sites, then take the four-minute, vertigo-inducing tram to the top of the arch, where you can see up to 30 miles east and west on a clear day.
5595 Grand Dr, St. Louis, MO 63112, USA
Forest Park is to St. Louis what Central Park is to New York—but it’s even bigger in size. Opened in 1876 and host of the 1904 World’s Fair, the 1,300-acre green space serves as a scenic backdrop to the city, featuring everything from waterways and wildlife to historic homes and monuments. With 13 million visitors annually, the park sees loads of locals and tourists, who spend their leisure days here walking, picnicking, and exploring the five major cultural institutions on-site (including the Missouri History Museum, The Muny amphitheater, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Saint Louis Science Center, and the Saint Louis Zoo). There’s also a tennis center, a revered golf course, and, come winter, a skating rink, plus places where you can rent paddleboats, canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards for a fine day on the water.
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