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Things To Do In St. Louis
Things To Do In St. Louis
Welcome to St. Louis! Whether you are a St. Louis native or are thinking about visiting or even moving to Saint Louis, I hope that you find this guide and review of things to do in St. Louis helpful, informative and most of all fun!
As in any big city, you can spend an entire life time here and still not take advantage of all of the things that St. Louis has to offer. And while we have taken care to be as comprehensive as possible, there is no way that we can include everything that there is to do in St. Louis. That said, if you would like to make a suggestion, please feel free to write us a note.
Roughly speaking, this guide is going to move from east to west, starting at the St. Louis riverfront and ending with the wineries located in Hermann and Sainte Genevieve. At that point, we will look at the other half of St. Louis which is located on the east side or for those not familiar (including a great many St. Louisians who live on the Missouri side of the Mississippi) the Illinois side of the Mississippi river.
I hope that you find this guide interesting and pass it along to your friends and family.
The St. Louis Riverfront
St. Louis may not be the largest American city but it does have one of the coolest skylines. When you approach St. Louis from the east, you drop down from a ridge line and into the Great American Bottoms (more on the Great American Bottoms later) where you first see the St. Louis skyline rise.
As you get closer the Gateway Arch becomes more and more prominent and you can see why it has become almost synonymous with St. Louis. It's gleaming stainless steel skin glistens in the sun and shimmers as it's illuminated at night. A little known secret is that the best place to view the St. Louis 4th of July fireworks is actually from the east side!
Anyway, the Arch and the St. Louis Riverfront offers a ton of things to do from actually going up in the arch to taking a ride on an excursion riverboat. I understand, but do not know for sure, that there is a helicopter ride available. I took a helicopter ride over downtown a few summers ago and it was one of the coolest things that I have ever done. Flying over the old Busch Stadium and seeing the sea of red underneath us was quite a sight!
The Betty Thatcher and the Tom Sawyer riverboats offer Blues cruises from June to October. I haven't been on one, but have heard that they are great. The bands are some of the best local blues bands and there is a cash bar available as well. Booze and blues? Sounds fun to me!
Last year on the riverfront Celebrate St. Louis had a series of concerts called Live on the Levee. I checked their website and there was nothing posted for this year, but I wrote them and will update ValueListre.com when I hear back.
Up from the riverfront are the Arch grounds. They are made up of approximately 90 acres of manicured grounds and include the old cathedral and well as the old courthouse (where the historical Dred Scott trial took place). A slightly more academic website about the arch, it's grounds, the Old Cathedral and the Old Courthouse is located at http://www.nps.gov/jeff/about.html.
One time period that I avoid the St. Louis riverfront at all costs is during the Fair St. Louis. Once billed as America's Largest Fourth Of July celebration, I haven't been impressed for years! To me, it's basically a county fair on steroids. Yes, the air shows are fun and the fireworks are awesome, but both can be better viewed from the east side where you won't have to deal with the hundreds of thousands of people wandering around bumping into one another and over paying for beer and bad food. That said, they might surprise me and bring in some musical acts this year that have had at least some kind of relevance within the past 20 years. I kind of doubt it though. I did check their website and it turns out that the Celebrate St. Louis people have teamed up with them and will be having concerts on the riverfront on the weekends after the fourth. You can check out their website at http://www.fairstl.org/.
North of the Arch is Lacledes Landing. Formally a warehouse district where the old steamboats used to unload their cargos of cotton, tobacco and other goods, it now is an entertainment district. While the architecture is impressive, for the most part I don't know too many locals who go down to the landing. For the most part the crowds are made up of kids (under 25 or so) and tourists. The one exception to this is the Big Muddy Blues Festival on September 2nd and 3rd. The website is http://www.bigmuddyblues.com/index.htm. As of today, the schedule hasn't been announced, but I will update valuelistre.com when they do.
Also located at the landing is the President Casino . The President Casino is located on the old Admiral riverboat. I can't say that I'm crazy about the President Casino, but if that was the only way to save the Admiral, then I guess that I'm okay with it. As far as casinos go, it's small, but convenient.
Activities In The Hood
Contrary to what a lot of people believe, there actually is a lot to do in North St. Louis city. That is other than buy crack and pick up hookers. One of the most recent additions is the St. Louis Riverfront Bicycle Trail. I have yet to ride it, but understand that it is actually pretty cool. It is part of a network of trails that connects to one another. You can rent a bicycle or bring your own. From the arch you can ride north to the Old Chain Of Rocks bridge, actually a part of the historic route 66 highway. After crossing the bridge, you can ride up a trail that eventually drops you off in Alton, IL and the Great River Road. More on Alton and the Great River Road later in this article.
North St. Louis city also offers a host of other attractions including the famous Crown Candy Kitchen. Crown Candy is a great place to have lunch and to enjoy genuine confections that are hand made on the premises. My favorite is a Cherry Malt. My one bit of advice regarding Crown Candy, other than to fast for the rest of the day, is to time your visit after 1:30pm. It's a small place and during lunch tends to fill up and stay that way!
Also located in North St. Louis City are the Scott Joplin House and St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. St. Stanislaus Kostka Church is currently in a major pissing battle with the St. Louis Archdiocese. While I don't have a dog in this fight, it seems to me that it's basically a case of the St. Louis Archdiocese trying to make a money grab for something that the folks over at St. Stanislaus have worked to build. I could be wrong, but that's how I see it!
North St. Louis also has a ton of cool buildings that feature a lot of architectural detail and with the way that the city over-all seems to be coming back, I think that North St. Louis city could become the next hot rehab area. Definitely a place to keep your eyes on.
Go West Young Man
Westward from the riverfront you head into the downtown area of St. Louis. Once forlorn and pretty much left for dead, the St. Louis Downtown has worked it's way back to not only respectability, but to a certain level of hipness. The attractions and things to do in downtown St. Louis are almost too many to mention. You have the St. Louis Baseball Cardinals and the new Busch Stadium, the Savis Center (home of the St. Louis Blues, the St. Louis University Billikens, The St. Louis Steamers professional indoor soccer team and the River City Rage indoor football team, as well as various concerts and other events), the Edward D. Jones Dome (home of the St. Louis Rams professional football team), America's Center Convention Center, The Washington Avenue Loft District, St. Louis Union Station and much, much more.
I won't bore you by going over every single one of these attractions. If you're interested, click on the link and surf to your hearts content. I will, however, touch on a few of these things.
If you're going to be in St. Louis during baseball season, it's well worth checking out a game, if you can get a ticket. With the new Busch Stadium opening this year, my understanding of it is that almost all of the tickets have already been sold. That said, if things are similar to what they have been in the past, my favorite way of getting good tickets is to take a stroll around the stadium immediately prior to the game. Not that I encourage scalping or the patronage of these entrepreneurial souls, but I have gotten some really good tickets this way. If you take your chances, you have a pretty good chance of getting a great seat at less than the face value. One note on this, it is considered illegal and with the new way that they scan the tickets, you do run the chance that someone used the ticket, then passed it back out through the fence. With the new stadium, I'll update you on how this works this year!
Anyway, St. Louis is a baseball town. The energy and atmosphere at a Cardinals game is pretty hard to match. Plus, it's a part of baseball history every time that they play. If you think about all of the various sports franchises out there, there are only a few that have a legacy equal to the Cardinals and of them, the Yankees have a former Cardinal as manager and the Red Sox suck!
Speaking of sucking, the Blues this year have really stunk the place up. Even still, if you've never been to a professional Hockey game, it's worth while checking out. The atmosphere is great and while they are having a down year this year, you've got to hand it to the Blues. They hold the record for all sports franchises for the number of consecutive playoff appearances.
As far as going to a Rams game, I've been and this might sound weird to say, but I actually enjoy watching them on tv better than in person. Maybe it's because beers at home don't cost me $8.00?
The loft district used to be St. Louis' garment row. With that industry going overseas, over 3.3 billion dollars has been invested in residential redevelopment in the downtown area. A large part of this redevelopment has transpired along and around Washington Avenue. For somebody visiting, the area features a large and varied number of clubs and bars. So, if you're up for dressing to impress, check out the clubs and let me know what you think.
Also located on Washington, is the City Museum. I'm ashame to say that even though I lived on Washington, that I've never made it down to take a tour. I've heard nothing but rave review, but haven't seemed to be able to make the time. If you decide to check it out, call me and maybe I'll join you?
Union Station is worth a visit, if for no other reason than to check out the architecture. It's a very cool building. As far as it being a shopping mall, I'm not a mall sort of guy. One of my favorite things to do is to sit in one of the leather chairs at the bar in the Grand Hall, have a gin and tonic and a cigar and soak in the ambiance. Very cool! Be sure to check out the whispering archways. Again, very cool!
Keep An Eye On South City
South of Downtown is the area generally known as South city. Roughly speaking, South city is the area south of downtown to the city limits, west of downtown to the city limits and south of highway 40 (alright, Interstate 64, but if you want to pass for a local, call it Highway 4rty). Two of the oldest and most successful redevelopment areas in the city are the Soulard neighborhood (Home to the World Headquarters of ValueList Real Estate Services, Purina Mills, and Anheuser Busch, not bad for one neighborhood, huh? Well, except for the ValueList part) and Lafayette Square (home of the oldest municipal park in west of the Mississippi)
The Soulard area got it's name from the Soulard Farmer's Market which was built in 1838, not the year 1779 which many people believe. If you ever get the chance to go to the market on a Saturday morning when the weather is warm, you'll be amazed. It's a wild sensory experience. From the smells of the spice shop and some of the patrons to the barking of the vendors and the puppies in the pet shop, you will be enthralled. The produce tends to be very fresh, but be careful what the vendor puts in your bag. Hope you're hungry!
Other things to do in Soulard include bar hopping and eating. It seems that there is a bar or a restaurant/bar on just about every corner in the neighborhood. The Soulard Mardi Gras is said to be the second biggest Mardi Gras celebration in the country. Whether it is or not, it's still one hell of a party! Leave your modesty behind and come down and get your fair share of the beads!
Lafayette Square is the neighborhood that built up around Lafayette Park. As mentioned above, Lafayette Park is the oldest Municipal Park west of the Mississippi. My personal opinion is that it is one of the coolest city parks anywhere. The atmosphere reminds me of a Dicken's novel, especially on a blustery winter day. While the residents can sometimes be a bit uppity (including sending out an email threatening to tazer people parking in "their" neighborhood during the Soulard Mardi Gras), there are a host of nice restaurants, including my favorite, Park Chop Suey. Nothing better than a Shrimp St. Paul, A diet Vess Cola and sitting in the park on a warm afternoon! If they only had a Quik Trip, the neighborhood would be complete!
The "Hill" Neigborhood
"Don't Be Confused!" The Hill is St. Louis' Itallian neighborhood. The food is awesome, from a sandwich made behind a deli counter to a sit down meal at one of the neighborhood's fine gormet Italian restaurant. I don't know if you can have a bad meal on the hill. I personally recommend Cunetto's House of Pasta and for lunch, Rigazzi's.
This Is Why They Call It Grand!
On the east side of Tower Grove Park is Grand Avenue. Just south of the park is the area known as Grand South Grand. It's got some neat shops and a wide variety of restaurants. Be sure to try a meatloaf omlet at the City diner.
After your omlet, you can head north on Grand to Grand Center. Grand Center is an entertainment mecca. It features nearly 30 visual and performing arts organizations and hosts over 1500 cultural events each year. Powell Symphoney Hall is home to The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, one of the country's premiere symphoney orchestras.
Across the street from Powell is the Fabulous Fox Theatre. I remember when I was a kid growing up in Laclede Town, we used to walk up to the Fox and see Bruce Lee and his five kung fu flicks or Blackula or something similiar. This was before it was completely renovated. I saw the Jazz Crusaders play there and they turned off their amps so that they could play the room acoustically. Very Cool!
Also in Grand Center is the Sheldon Concert Hall, the Contempary Art Museum of St. Louis and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts. The Pulitzer building is worth a drive by, even if you don't get a chance to go in.
The Continental Life building is a pretty cool story. Apparently, a few years after it was built, bank robbers tunneled into the vault and cleaned it out. Eventually the bank and the life insurance company went belly up and the building was pretty much abandoned. Due to the fact that it had asbestos throughout and the cost of demolition was prohibitive, the building survived and has recently been renovated into luxury apartments. Again, worth a drive by.
Other cultural institutions that are located in the Grand Center are; Dance St. Louis, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, the Grandel Theatre, the St. Louis Black Repertory Company and Jazz at the Bistro. The coolest movie theatre that I've ever been to is located just off of Grand on Lindel and is called the Moolah Theatre and Lounge. The screen is HUGE and they serve cocktails! The building is an architecural gem.
The Central West End And Forest Park
Heading West on Lindel Boulevard from Grand Center you enter into the area known as the Central West End. The CWE is a one of the more cosmopolitan neighborhoods in St. Louis and while not as densely populated as Greenwich Village in New York, kind of has that favor. It has a lot of shops and restaurants including one of my favorites, Balaban's.
One of my all time favorite restaurrants here in St. Louis is unfortunately going to be closing soon. Rossinos is located on Sarah Street in the basement of an apartment building. The ceilings are low and the building's piping and conduits are visable, but believe it or not, that adds to the charm of the place. From what I hear, the long time owner is going to retire. Why someone doesn't jump in and take the reins, I'll never know.
While in the Central West End be sure to drive by the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. Even if you're not Catholic, it's worth stopping in and taking a look. And don't worry, the walls didn't come tumbling down when I did, so you should be safe visiting the place!
Also be sure to check out the Chase Park Plaza Hotel. It has recently been completely renovated and has several bars and restaurants in it, as well as a movie theatre and health club. The hotel overlooks Forest Park and definately reminds me of one of the hotels overlooking Central Park in Manhatten. The only bummer is that they still don't do the Wrestling at the Chase.
Forest Park in St. Louis is one of those places where you can spend an entire day, a weekend or even more and not see all that there is to see. It was created in 1876, consists of 1371 acres (500 acres bigger than New York City's Central Park) and is home to several of the St. Louis' cultural institutions. In 1904 it was the home of the World's Fair and the 1904 Olympics. According to modern lore, Forest Park was the birthplace of the ice cream cone, the hot dog and iced tea. It's pretty much accepted that the ice cream cone was truly invented here, but the iced tea thing isn't true, it had been around the south for years. As far as the hot dog goes, I'm still checking that one out. What is probably true is that the hot dog wasn't invented here, but the hot dog bun was!
Hot dogs and ice cream aside, Forest Park really is cool. While there check out the St. Louis Zoo and if you have kids, buck up and take the train ride! Admission is free (can't beat that) and from what I hear, the St. Louis Zoo is one of the best zoos in the country. My favorite is the polar bear exhibit, though Big Cat Country is pretty facinating.
The St. Louis Science Center is a place near and dear to my heart. One of my best friends growing up worked at the Planetarium and let's just suffice it to say that hanging out under the stars on the roof with a good buzz on was a very cool thing to be able to do when you're 16 years old! The Planetarium has since grown into the St. Louis Science Center and is a great place to take the kids or just to hang out. They have an Omnimax cinema and if you haven't been to one of these, then drop what you're doing and get on over there! I can only hope that they show the Fighter Jet Movie again, talk about a rush!
The Missouri Historical Society is also located in Forest Park and the admission is also free. They have recently added a new addition to the Missouri History Museum and the reviews are good. I personally haven't been there yet, so feel free to check it out and to let me know what you think!
The Muny is America's largest and oldest outdoor musical theatre. The season runs from June 19th through August 13th. If you get there early enough, several rolls of seats in the back are set aside as freebies. Be sure to bring your binoculars though.
The St. Louis Art Museum is considered to be among the world's municiple art museums. It is located on Art Hill and if you happen to be in St. Louis after it has snowed, this is THE place to go sledding. Bundle up and watch out for the lake at the bottom of the hill!
The Jewel box, a 50 foot tall art deco greenhouse that is listed on the National Regrister of Historic places. It has recently been refurbished and hosts a variety of flower shows each year.
There are also numerous hiking and biking trails in the park, as well as a newly renovated golf course. A Forest Park walking tour is also available and the audio can be downloaded via the internet or picked up at the visitors center listed on the link.
As mentioned before, Forest Park is big! At 1371 acres (+/-) Forest Park actually serves as a bit of wilderness smack dab in the middle of a large urban area. As such, it provides habitat for both local and transitory creatures. To take advantage of the learning opportunities that the park presents the Forest Park Teacher's Acadamy offers a program to teach teachers to utilize the park as a tool of teaching. This program is called The Voyage of Learning and is taught by various experts from around the region.
Before we move on to other St. Louis attractions, let me let you in on a secret. You don't have to pay to park to go to the zoo! Except for the busiest days, you can almost always find a parking spot somewhere around the zoo. I've always had the best luck on the road between the zoo and the art museum. Good luck and have fun in Forest Park!
West of Forest Park is the city of Clayton Missouri. Clayton is the county seat for St. Louis County, not to be confused with St. Louis City which is not a part of St. Louis County, but rather a county unto itself. As the county seat of a large urban county, Clayton is the home of a great number of law firms and regional and national headquarters of many large companies.
With all the money that runs through Clayton, there are over 50 restaurants inside the Clayton city limits for folks to spend that money at. My favorites are CJ Muggs and Barrister's, though I have to admit that I haven't been to very many of the restaurants in Clayton in quite some time. Cardwell's is still a place to be seen at and Teja's Grill and Cantina is has a pretty good happy hour and is easy to find if you want somebody to meet you in Clayton.
One of the things that I like best about Clayton is that they have nice parks. Oak Knoll park is a very pleasant, centrally located place to meet someone for a picnic lunch or just to find some shade on a hot summer's day. Shaw Park is Clayton's biggest municipal park and a host of facilities, including volley ball courts, softball fields, walking trails and much more. It is probably best known for Parties in the Park. The parties are held the second Wednesday of each month between May and September and feature live music by a host of great local bands. Admission is free and while the yuppie scum can get pretty thick (it is Clayton afterall), people are generally pretty friendly and the people watching is great! After and before the party, Cardwell's and Tejas (mentioned above) are the places to be.
Clayton is also home of the Taste of Clayton, a charity event is held the first Sunday in June and showcases many of Claytons restaurants.
On June 24th and 25th Clayton will host the St. Louis Jazz and Heritage Festival which this year features Denice Thimes, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Dr. John on Friday afternoon and evening and George Duke with Stanley Clark, Lizz Wright and St. Louis' own David Sanborn on Saturday afternoon and evening. Tickets go on sale April 1st on their website.
On September 8th, 9th and 10th the St. Louis Art Fair, generally considered to be one of the 5 best outside art festivals in the country, will be held in the Clayton Business district. Admission is free and in addition to the various art exihibits, food and beverages will be available from a host of vendors. Entertainment will be available on the main stage, the jazz stage, the poetry stage, the performing arts stage and from various street performances throughout the day.
Another free concert series that takes place in Clayton is the Musical Nights In Oak Knoll Park series. It takes place on the fouth Sunday of each month from May through September from 5:00pm to 7:00 pm in Oak Knoll Park. Be sure to bring your own lawn seats and/or blankets.
So, with it's central location, host of restaurants, festivals and events Clayton is a tourist mecca in it's own right. Be sure to check it out!
Central St. Louis County consists of a number of small municipalities including Brentwood, Clayton, Ladue, Maplewood, Richmond Heights, Webster Groves and University City (UCity). Each of these towns has it's own individual history and personality.
We've already talked about Clayton, so we'll move on to Ladue. Ladue is a very wealthy, first ring suburb of St. Louis. I kind of liken it to it being St. Louis' Beverly Hills. Don't speed or do anything else outside of the law in Ladue, because the cops are probably pretty bored and looking for someone to put away!
Brentwood is a somewhat less affluent version of Ladue and far the life of me, I can't think of a single thing to do in Brentwood other than go shopping at one of their strip malls. Richmond Heights claim to fame is that it is the home of the St. Louis Galleria shopping mall.
Webster Groves has a few more claims to fame which we'll go into later!
This post is a work in progress. If you notice any mistakes are typos, please feel free to drop me a line. If you know of an attraction or activity that should be added, again, please let me know.
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