Ladies and gentlemen, adventurers and explorers, welcome to the Gateway to the West, St. Louis! Today, we’re going beyond the iconic Arch and delving into the lesser-known but equally thrilling gems of this vibrant city. Ready? Let’s go!
#1. The City Museum: Your Inner Child’s Dreamland
First up on our extraordinary journey is the remarkable City Museum, a place where your imagination isn’t just welcomed – it’s required! Housed in the 600,000 square-foot former International Shoe Company, this ever-changing, immersive wonderland is a world apart from your traditional museum.
Enter the doors of this fun factory and be prepared to be wowed. The museum’s eclectic collection isn’t composed of stuffy exhibits placed behind glass. Instead, you’ll discover a labyrinth of surrealistic pavilions, all constructed from uniquely repurposed objects.
What’s that you ask? Is that a real airplane hanging from the ceiling? Why yes, yes it is! And those two towering cranes and salvaged bridge turned into slides and climbers? They’re all part of the Museum’s whimsical ‘MonstroCity’ outdoor playground.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. Venture a little deeper, and you’ll discover the enchanted caves, a mind-boggling maze of artificial caves stretching over several floors, just waiting for you to explore. Then, there’s the hypnotizing 10-story slide that used to be a shoe chute. A ride down this will have your heart racing and your laughter echoing through the halls.
And we can’t forget about the rooftop. This sky-high playground boasts a Ferris wheel that offers a bird’s eye view of the city, a prairie garden, a pond and even a school bus that precariously dangles off the edge of the building. Yes, you read that right! Don’t worry though, it’s perfectly safe, and the view from the bus is nothing short of exhilarating.
The City Museum is more than just a collection of play areas. It’s a place where the fantastical becomes reality, where every corner holds a new adventure, and where adults and children alike can let loose and dive headfirst into a world of pure imagination. Every visit holds something new to discover, making it a playground for the child in all of us.
In the City Museum, “ordinary” is a word that’s left at the door. So, buckle up, adventurers! In this place of wonder, the only thing you can expect is a whole lot of fun and excitement. So, are you ready to discover your inner child and let them run wild? If so, the City Museum is waiting for you!
#2. The Fabulous Fox Theater: A Nostalgic Nook
Next on our journey is the magnificent Fabulous Fox Theater, a historic performing arts venue that is nothing short of a cultural crown jewel in the heart of St. Louis. A visit to the Fox isn’t just about the performances; it’s about stepping back in time and immersing yourself in an atmosphere that’s as captivating as the shows it hosts.
With its grand opening way back in 1929, the Fox Theater initially served as a movie palace during the golden age of Hollywood. Today, it’s a beacon of the performing arts, playing host to a spectacular array of Broadway extravaganzas, electric concerts, and community events. The energy here is palpable, vibrating through the opulent lobby, resonating in the grand auditorium, and humming in the air itself.
And let’s talk about that interior, shall we? The moment you step inside, you’ll be swept off your feet by the sheer grandeur. Every inch of the Fox Theater is a testament to craftsmanship and exquisite attention to detail. The stunning blend of Byzantine, Indian, and Art Deco influences create an ambience that is at once lavish and inviting. From the plush red velvet seating to the ornate gold accents, it’s a feast for the eyes.
The centerpiece is undoubtedly the auditorium itself. The magnificent space, complete with a star-speckled ceiling, gives the illusion of being in an open-air Arabian courtyard under a night sky. As the lights dim and the performances begin, the theater transforms into a magical world where stories come alive, and everyday life is left at the door.
But the magic doesn’t stop there. How about a visit to the Peacock Alley? This opulent lounge, with its dramatic lighting and peacock-themed decor, is the perfect spot for a pre-show drink. And if you’re there during the holiday season, you’re in for a real treat with the Fox’s annual yuletide decorations.
The Fabulous Fox Theater isn’t just a theater; it’s a journey into a world of elegance, history, and sensational performances. It’s a place where the past and present dance together in harmony, creating an experience that’s as timeless as it is entertaining. So, put on your finest attire, and get ready to be dazzled by the unforgettable experience that is the Fabulous Fox Theater. Curtain’s up!
#3. The Hill: Taste of Italy in the Midwest
Get ready, foodies and culture vultures! Our next destination is a delightful slice of Italy right in the heart of the Midwest. Welcome to The Hill, St. Louis’s vibrant Italian neighborhood, where the aroma of fresh baked bread mingles with the sweet notes of tomato and basil, and a sense of community is as hearty as a plate of Nonna’s homemade spaghetti.
Step into The Hill, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported straight to a bustling district in Rome or a charming village in Tuscany. This neighborhood is a testament to the Italian immigrants who settled here, bringing their rich culture, traditions, and, of course, their mouth-watering cuisine.
Speaking of cuisine, if you’re a fan of Italian food (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?), The Hill is your culinary paradise. From family-run bakeries with cannoli that will make you swoon, to the numerous award-winning Italian restaurants serving up everything from classic spaghetti and meatballs to unique regional dishes, there’s something to satiate every palate.
A must-visit is the legendary Gioia’s Deli, home to the famous hot salami sandwich, a staple since 1918. And let’s not forget about St. Louis’s unique toasted ravioli, a delicious innovation reputedly invented right here on The Hill.
But The Hill is more than just a food lover’s haven; it’s a vibrant community steeped in heritage. Walk around and you’ll see bocce courts, where locals engage in friendly matches of this traditional Italian game. Visit St. Ambrose Catholic Church, the heart of the community, with its beautiful Italian Romanesque architecture.
The neighborhood is also home to some famous St. Louisans. Baseball greats Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola grew up here, and you’ll find tributes to these local heroes throughout the neighborhood.
Don’t miss out on the colorful markets either. They’re the perfect place to pick up fresh produce, Italian cheeses, and perhaps some gourmet ingredients for your attempt at recreating the delectable dishes you’ve sampled.
The Hill, with its authentic cuisine, rich history, and welcoming community, is more than just a neighborhood. It’s a living, breathing celebration of Italian culture and a testament to the city’s diverse heritage. So, pop into a local trattoria, raise a glass of Chianti, and join the locals in saying “Salute!” to the good life on The Hill. Bellissimo, indeed!
#4. Bellefontaine Cemetery: A Stroll Through History
Are you ready for a walk on the serene side? Buckle up, history buffs, because our next stop is a little offbeat, but utterly fascinating. It’s time for a stroll through the Bellefontaine Cemetery, a place where history comes alive and the stories of St. Louis’s past are etched in stone.
The Bellefontaine Cemetery isn’t your average burial ground. This vast, 314-acre garden cemetery, established in 1849, is a tranquil oasis, filled with beautifully landscaped grounds, reflective ponds, and countless species of trees and flowers. But its real appeal lies in the stories of the individuals who have found their final resting place here.
Take a leisurely walk through the winding paths, and you’ll come across the grave sites of some of St. Louis’s most notable figures. Beer baron Adolphus Busch, co-founder of the Anheuser-Busch brewery, lies here, as does the famous outlaw Jesse James, and the explorer William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Each tombstone, each monument, tells a story of a life lived and a contribution made to the rich tapestry of St. Louis’s history.
The cemetery is also an architectural wonderland, boasting a collection of impressive mausoleums, statues, and monuments. Take a moment to marvel at the Wainwright Tomb, a masterpiece designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan, or the stunning whispering arch at the entrance gate.
Despite its status as a place of remembrance, Bellefontaine is far from somber. It’s a peaceful, surprisingly beautiful place where one can reflect on the city’s rich past and the individuals who shaped it.
Bellefontaine Cemetery also hosts various tours and events, enabling visitors to delve deeper into the history and natural beauty of the grounds. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or just a curious traveler, a visit to Bellefontaine Cemetery offers a unique perspective on the city and its past.
So, why not swap the hustle and bustle of the city for a tranquil walk through history? The Bellefontaine Cemetery is a testament to St. Louis’s rich heritage, a serene sanctuary where the past and present converge in the most unexpected of ways. And remember, every step you take is a step through history. Now, isn’t that something?
#5. Grants Farm: Animals, History, and Free Beer!
Hop on, adventurers! Our next stop is a total treat for animal lovers, history buffs, and beer enthusiasts alike. Welcome to Grant’s Farm, the ancestral home of the Busch family, where you’ll experience a unique blend of natural wonders, rich history, and beer-tasting fun.
Nestled on 281 acres and named after Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States who once worked the land, Grant’s Farm is a treasure trove of attractions. Home to over 100 species of animals, the farm provides a chance to get up close and personal with a variety of furry and feathered friends. Whether it’s feeding the friendly goats, marveling at the elegance of the deer, or catching a glimpse of the majestic bison, there’s an animal encounter for everyone here.
The centerpiece of the farm is the beautiful Bauernhof courtyard, a throwback to the 19th-century Busch family estate. Here, you can explore stables filled with vintage carriages and photos that offer a glimpse into the family’s history. And, let’s not forget about the serene koi fish ponds and the enchanting singing bird cage.
For those who appreciate the sudsy side of life, Grant’s Farm is also a beer lover’s paradise. As the ancestral home of the Busch family, co-founders of the Anheuser-Busch brewery, it’s no surprise that beer holds a special place here. Adults can enjoy free samples of Anheuser-Busch products in the Hospitality Room. Now, how many places offer you history, wildlife, and free beer all in one spot?
And the fun doesn’t stop there. The Farm also offers a variety of shows and rides. Watch in awe as trained animal professionals put on a spectacular bird show or hop onto a camel for a unique riding experience.
Grant’s Farm isn’t just an attraction; it’s a multi-sensory experience that merges history, nature, and the art of brewing. It’s a place where you can marvel at the wonders of the animal kingdom, walk through pages of history, and end the day with a cold beer in hand. So, put on your explorer hat, bring along your sense of fun, and get ready to make some amazing memories at Grant’s Farm! Cheers to that!
#6. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum: An Artistic Adventure
Calling all art enthusiasts! Grab your berets and prepare to embark on an artistic adventure at our next stop – the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. This cultural gem, steeped in history and bursting with creativity, is the oldest art museum west of the Mississippi and a cornerstone of the St. Louis arts scene.
Nestled within the campus of Washington University, the Kemper Art Museum is a beacon of modern and contemporary art. With a collection that spans the 19th to the 21st centuries, the museum is a testament to the transformative power of art and the diverse voices that shape it.
As you wander through the galleries, you’ll come face to face with masterpieces from some of the world’s most renowned artists. Ever wanted to get up close to a Picasso? You can do it here. Want to lose yourself in the swirling colors of a Jackson Pollock? Step right up. From the bold, geometric shapes of Piet Mondrian to the evocative portraits of Kehinde Wiley, the museum is a kaleidoscope of styles and periods.
But the Kemper Art Museum isn’t just about the ‘big names.’ It also champions emerging artists and innovative exhibitions, making it a dynamic space that reflects the ever-evolving world of contemporary art.
The museum’s architecture is a work of art in itself. The sleek, modern building, designed by Fumihiko Maki, stands as a fitting home for the creative treasures within. And let’s not forget about the outdoor sculpture garden, where art and nature converge in harmonious beauty.
The best part? Admission to the Kemper Art Museum is entirely free, making it accessible to all who wish to explore the transformative power of art. So, whether you’re a seasoned art connoisseur or a curious newbie, the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum offers a captivating journey through the world of modern and contemporary art.
So, put on your most artistic outfit, channel your inner Picasso, and get ready to immerse yourself in an artistic adventure that’s as stimulating as it is inspiring. After all, art is not what you see, but what you make others see. And the Kemper Art Museum is the perfect place to open your eyes to the beauty of creative expression.
#7. The Magic House: A Touch of Whimsy
Get ready to unleash your inner child because our next stop is bursting with playful curiosity and a touch of whimsy. Welcome to The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum, a place where imagination reigns supreme, and every corner offers a new world to explore.
The Magic House isn’t your typical museum. Housed in a grand Victorian mansion, it’s a place where learning and fun go hand in hand. The moment you step through the doors, you’re transported to a wonderland of interactive exhibits designed to ignite the imagination and inspire a love of learning.
While it’s intended for kids, let’s be real – adults will find it hard to resist the charm of The Magic House. Ever wanted to make a 3D painting or compose a piece of music? You can do it here. Have a hankering to try your hand at carpentry or test your skills as a vet? Go for it! And don’t forget to make a stop at the Electromagnetic Generator to experience the hair-raising magic of static electricity!
The Magic House is home to several innovative exhibits, each designed to spark curiosity and creativity. Whether you’re scaling the three-storied “Jack and the Beanstalk” climbing structure, exploring the “Children’s Village” with its pint-sized grocery store and car repair shop, or creating a masterpiece in the Art Studio, there’s never a dull moment.
The Magic House also boasts an enchanting outdoor garden area where kids can splash, climb, and dig to their heart’s content. It’s the perfect place to let off some steam while learning about the natural world.
But what truly sets The Magic House apart is its commitment to inclusivity. The museum offers sensory-friendly hours for children with special needs, ensuring that all little explorers can enjoy a magical experience.
So, whether you’re a kid, or a kid at heart, The Magic House is sure to captivate your imagination and make you see the world with a sense of wonder. So kick off your grown-up shoes, put on your thinking cap, and get ready to embrace a day of whimsical fun and learning. After all, in the words of Roald Dahl, “those who don’t believe in magic will never find it,” and The Magic House is brimming with it!
#8. Cherokee Antique Row: A Collector’s Paradise
Hold onto your hats, treasure hunters, because our next stop is a nostalgia-drenched delight! Welcome to Cherokee Antique Row, a six-block district that’s a veritable paradise for collectors, vintage lovers, and anyone who appreciates the charm of yesteryears.
Located in the heart of St. Louis, Cherokee Antique Row is a vibrant community of over 30 independent shops, each one unique and packed to the rafters with vintage finds. As you stroll down the charming, brick-lined streets, you’ll encounter a smorgasbord of treasures waiting to be discovered.
Fancy finding a mid-century modern chair to complete your living room? Or how about a vinyl record of that obscure band you loved in high school? Maybe you’re on the hunt for a rare first edition book, or a vintage dress that screams retro chic? Whatever your heart desires, chances are you’ll find it here.
But Cherokee Antique Row isn’t just about the things you can buy. It’s about the thrill of the hunt, the joy of discovering something unexpected, and the stories that each item carries with it. Each shop is a mini museum, filled with items that have lived a life and have a tale to tell.
The Row isn’t just for vintage buffs, though. It’s also home to a vibrant array of restaurants, cafes, and art galleries. Why not refuel with a cup of locally roasted coffee, enjoy a delicious meal at one of the many eateries, or soak up some local culture at a gallery?
And let’s not forget about the community events. From the yearly Cherokee-Lemp History Walk to the Antique Row Cookie Spree, there’s always something happening that brings the community together and celebrates the unique charm of this historic district.
So, ready to take a trip down memory lane? Grab your comfy shoes, channel your inner antique hunter, and get ready to unearth some hidden gems at Cherokee Antique Row. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or just love the thrill of a good find, a day spent exploring this charming district is a day well spent. Happy hunting!
#9. The Missouri Botanical Garden: A Green Oasis
We’re leaving the bustling city streets behind for our next destination, as we step into a green oasis that feels like another world. Welcome to the Missouri Botanical Garden, a 79-acre Eden right in the heart of St. Louis, where you can surround yourself with the beauty and tranquility of nature.
As one of the oldest botanical institutions in the country, the Missouri Botanical Garden is a horticultural haven, home to a diverse collection of flora from every corner of the globe. As you wander through the beautifully manicured landscapes, you’ll encounter everything from towering tropical trees to delicate orchids, all thriving in a meticulously maintained environment.
One of the must-visit spots is the serene Japanese Garden. Covering 14 acres, it’s one of the largest of its kind in North America. Meander along the winding paths, sit for a spell by the peaceful lake, and let the cascading waterfalls wash your stress away. It’s a slice of Zen right in the heart of the city!
Then, prepare to be dazzled by the Climatron geodesic dome, a marvel of modern architecture that houses a lush, tropical rainforest. Walking into the Climatron is like stepping into a different world, filled with exotic plants, colorful flowers, and the soothing sounds of a tropical jungle.
But the garden isn’t just about pretty plants. It’s also a hub of scientific research and conservation, dedicated to preserving plant diversity and educating visitors about the importance of our natural world. From the state-of-the-art Plant Science Center to the interactive Children’s Garden, there’s always something new to learn.
And let’s not forget the seasonal events! From the springtime Orchid Show to the magical winter Garden Glow, the Missouri Botanical Garden knows how to put on a show that will leave you enchanted.
So, take a break from the hustle and bustle, breathe in the fresh air, and let the Missouri Botanical Garden transport you to a world of botanical beauty. Whether you’re a nature lover, a science buff, or just looking for a peaceful retreat, this green oasis is sure to leave you feeling refreshed and inspired.
#10. The Loop: A Cultural Hotspot
Last but certainly not least, we’re rounding off our whirlwind tour of St. Louis with a visit to The Loop, a cultural hotspot that’s bursting with energy and creativity. Get ready to soak up some local flavor, because The Loop is a melting pot of the diverse, vibrant, and innovative spirit that makes St. Louis such an exciting place to explore.
Named one of the “10 Great Streets in America,” The Loop is a six-block stretch that pulses with life at all hours. This buzzing neighborhood has something for everyone, whether you’re a foodie, a music lover, a shopaholic, or a history buff.
Start your visit by taking a stroll down the St. Louis Walk of Fame. This homage to the city’s rich cultural heritage celebrates the famous St. Louisans who’ve made significant contributions to our cultural legacy. From Tina Turner’s soulful rhythm to T.S. Eliot’s poetic prowess, it’s a walk through history that’s sure to inspire.
But The Loop isn’t just about looking back – it’s a vibrant hub of modern culture too. With its lively music scene, you’ll find venues offering everything from rock and blues to jazz and hip-hop. And if live performances are your thing, be sure to check out The Pageant, consistently ranked one of the top concert venues in the world.
Of course, all that exploring is bound to work up an appetite. Thankfully, The Loop is a gastronomic wonderland, offering a world of flavors just waiting to be discovered. From cozy cafes to international cuisine, the food scene here is as diverse and eclectic as the neighborhood itself.
And let’s not forget about the shopping! The Loop is home to an array of unique, independent boutiques where you can hunt for vintage clothes, vinyl records, artisan goods, and so much more. It’s a shopper’s paradise that celebrates the unique and the unusual.
There you have it – ten hidden gems that make St. Louis a city full of surprises. From playful museums and historical sites to culinary delights and stunning gardens, St. Louis is a city that keeps on giving. So pack your bags, bring along your sense of adventure, and get ready to uncover the unexpected in the Gateway to the West! Remember, there’s no wrong turn here, only detours into delightful discovery. Happy exploring, fellow adventurers!