Situated alongside the Mississippi River in the heartland of the United States is the city of St. Louis. Nicknamed the “Gateway to the West,” this town is famous for its iconic arch, world-class sports teams, and mouthwatering barbecue. A deep bench of celebrities is lucky enough to call this city home, including Andy Cohen, Nelly, and a trio of The Office ladies (Ellie Kemper, Jenna Fischer, and Phyllis Smith).
Regardless of your celebrity status, there’s plenty to do in “The Rome of the West,” including exploring waterfront parks, animal encounters, serious art, and a fantastic food/brewery scene. You’ll also find that St. Louis is relatively simple to get to being at the crossroads of I-55 and I-64. There’s also an international airport with some pretty inexpensive carriers that makes a weekend getaway simple to plan.
16. Nature Excursions
(image via Fredlyfish4)
In addition to the attractions we’ve already mentioned, St. Louis is surrounded by fabulous parks and excursions that every outdoorsy person should love. Only ninety minutes away, you can experience Elephant Rocks State Park and play on this natural playground of red granite boulders. Klondike Park features great cabins and camping and is located on the Katy Trail. It also features a white sand beach you can sink your toes in (no lie)!
If you’re looking for aerial adventures, head on out to Grafton Zipline at Aerie’s Resort and reward yourself with a nice chardonnay after your ride. If below ground is more your speed, then Cave Vineyards is thrilling because the wine barrels age in an actual cave! Don’t forget to visit Ste. Genevieve’s historic district—the oldest permanent European settlement in Missouri. There are also lakes, rivers, streams, and miles of trails to hike and experience.
15. Visit a Frank Lloyd Wright-Designed House
(image via Frank Lloyd Wright House Ebsworth Park)
There’s not one but two Frank Lloyd Wright-designed houses in St. Louis. Not many other cities in the country can say that. The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park (also known as the Kraus House) looks like an X that isn’t quite hinged at the center when looking at it from above. The crisscrossing parallelograms mean that there isn’t a right-angled corner in the house. Even the bed is a parallelogram (picture a sideways diamond).
The Theodore A. Pappas House was still used as a private residence as recently as 2018 until the owner died. Now open for public tours by appointment, the house is a “Usonian Automatic” design, FLW’s version of a modular home constructed by stacking concrete blocks without any mortar. The idea was a kind of “do-it-yourself” homebuilding. Even though it never really caught on as a trend, it’s still an interesting design to tour!
14. Live Shows & Music
(image via The Fabulous Fox Theatre)
St. Louis is a tour stop for a variety of acts every year where you have the opportunity to hear rock, jazz, blues, rap, classical, Irish, gypsy jazz, or swing on any given weekend. The 1860 Saloon is the standard for blues while the Fabulous Fox Theatre hosts famous comedians and famous touring artists including Erykah Badu. The Pageant has a reputation for hosting new and emerging artists as well as great tribute bands.
You can catch touring shows at The Muny, which is over 100 years old. This large outdoor amphitheater has hosted acts ranging from Chicago to The King and I to Shakespeare’s masterpieces. And Blueberry Hill (aptly named for the song) marries live music, food, and an extensive brew list together in one location.
13. Art Appreciation
(image via Saint Louis Art Museum)
With a collective of vibrant artists, St. Louis has plenty for any art lover to feast their eyes on. Check out Laumeier Sculpture Park, which engages the community through art in nature. The park is open daily and free to visitors, allowing you all the time you need to take in some pretty incredible trails and wonders.
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis is a one-of-a-kind work of art in both architecture and design.
Head on over to the St. Louis Art Museum, where you can bask in over 34,000 objects spanning over 5000 years of history. The Contemporary Art Museum features local and international artists and seasonal exhibits.
12. Eat Some St. Louis BBQ
(image via Pappy's Smokehouse)
So what’s the big deal with barbeque in St. Louis? St. Louis style is, of course, like no other. Their style is usually grilled rather than slow-cooked and absolutely slathered in a rich, sweet barbeque sauce sans liquid smoke. Ribs are a favorite here and have even been formalized by the USDA as “Pork Ribs, St Louis Style.” There are plenty of places serving your favorite rack.
The Pappy’s Smokehouse family of restaurants offer some of the best barbecue in STL and have created their own finger-licking good sauce. Adam’s Smokehouse (part of the same restaurant family) features delectable ribs slow-smoked and then glazed with apple butter and hit with a torch. Bogarts (also part of the Pappy family) is another top joint. The Shaved Duck is known for its incredible burnt ends and smothered fries with some pretty great sides to round out your meal. And last but not least, Salt + Smoke offers an incredible dining experience that promises great BBQ, bourbon, and beer. We suggest the pimento cheese toasted ravioli and trashed ribs.
11. Missouri Botanical Garden
(image via Missouri Botanical Garden)
Founded in 1859, the Missouri Botanical Garden is the oldest botanical garden in continuous operation in the United States and offers 79 acres of beautiful horticulture displays. The garden is an oasis in the city and features a magnificent Japanese strolling garden and one of the world’s largest collections of endangered flora. The ticket price is only $14, and the landscapes are truly something to behold—a fantastic backdrop for family or senior pictures! The garden also hosts workshops about gardening, plant conservation, and plant science as well as seasonal special events to delight the family.
10. Downtown Nightlife
(image via Ballpark Village STL)
St. Louis comes alive at night, and there are numerous places to take in, depending on your mood. Ballpark Village, as you might figure out, is located within walking distance of Busch Stadium, but you don’t need a baseball game to enjoy this landmark downtown. Featuring a dozen places to grab grub and a brew, it’s the perfect location for sports fanatics and the Cardinal faithful.
Laclede’s Landing, on the other hand, is located directly on the riverfront and includes a glimpse of the arch, no matter where you stand. With seven restaurants and four clubs, it’s easy to spend an evening down by the river.
Westport Plaza features an eclectic mix of clubs and restaurants that are guaranteed to delight you. Westport Social features indoor bocce ball, hoops, shuffleboard, snook ball, and private karaoke rooms.
9. Have an Animal Encounter
(image via Saint Louis Zoo)
If you love the animal world, then St. Louis has you covered. The Saint Louis Zoo, located in Forest Park, is one of the few FREE ZOOS in the United States and houses over 12,000 animals. While reservations are currently required, it costs nothing to make them and enjoy a day among new and old favorites.
Grant’s Farm, run by Anheuser-Busch, has free admission but charges for parking or specialty excursions. Lone Elk Park is a wildlife sanctuary located just outside of town that is free to the public and features great hiking trails, picnic areas, and views of animals such as bison, wild turkey, waterfowl, elk, and deer. One thing to note is that domestic animals are not allowed, so leave Fido home.
8. Take a Brewery Tour
(image via Urban Chestnut Brewing Company)
St. Louis is the home of over 20 breweries and thousands of beer styles, so it’s the perfect city for beer enthusiasts to drink their way through. The granddaddy of breweries, Anheuser-Busch, has a fantastic tour that includes the World-Renowned Clydesdales and Biergarten for the signature Budweiser brand that has been brewing since 1876.
There are also a host of other breweries in the area including 4 Hands Brewing Company, which offers different activities in addition to a tour. The Schlafly Tap Room is the largest, independently owned brewery in the state and features signature stouts and IPAs. Urban Chestnut Brewing features three different experiences at their locations, from pizza and smoked meats to oysters. Lastly, if you’re looking for an outdoor lawn and patio space, Well-Spent Brewery in Midtown offers premium craft with movies and trivia.
Tour prices range from $15-$40 depending on type and place.
7. Forest Park
(image via Forest Park Forever)
Forest Park was founded in 1986 to conserve, protect, maintain, and sustain Forest Park as one of America’s greatest urban public parks. The park’s 1,300 acres feature beautiful landscapes with wide-ranging ecosystems such as forests, lakes, and streams. There is also a path system that allows both leisurely walks and intensive training runs.
For those wanting more active options, explore the golf course and golf training youth center, planetarium, boathouse, tennis center, or any of the sports fields. The Missouri History Museum and the Zoo are both located in Forest Park. Whether you have one hour or all day, Forest Park is a great place to get away from the hustle of St. Louis right in the middle of the city.
Admission is free to the park. Rentals or activities have nominal fees.
6. Magic House
(image via The Magic House)
The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum features hundreds of interactive exhibits designed to engage children in a variety of hands-on, experiential fun to spark their imaginations. The Magic House enjoys partnerships with PBS and Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood. The museum also features a 7,000 square foot maker space where kids get hands-on workshop experience in design labs and studios. There are also places to tinker, invent, create, and explore. There are so many exhibits that your kids will be tuckered out at the end. Plan to spend the day and pace yourself to ensure your kids have a blast. Advanced tickets are required.
Admission is $12 for all ages over 1.
5. St. Louis Union Station
(image via St. Louis Union Station)
If you’re looking for an all-in-one location to focus your time, Union Station is the place for you. You can stay, play, and eat all without leaving the premises. Attractions include a Ferris wheel, aquarium, ropes course, mini-golf, award-winning restaurants, and comfortable rooms at the Hilton Union Station hotel. The hotel offers many packages to keep you engaged on the property while making your group as comfortable as possible. The aquarium frequently sells out quickly so advanced purchase is required. Busch Stadium, the Enterprise Center, and City Museum are right around the corner.
4. Six Flags
(image via Six Flags St. Louis)
Originally known as Six Flags over Mid-America, Six Flags St. Louis is an amusement park featuring many Looney Tunes and DC Comics characters come to life. Nine roller coasters of varying degrees of excitement reside here along with numerous thrill rides, family rides, and exclusive kids-only rides. The park also features live shows including a circus and magic performances every day. An adjoining water park, Hurricane Harbor, is open seasonally. Plan early and get your tickets early for a great discount.
3. City Museum
(image via City Museum)
If you’re in an exploratory frame of mind, nothing you’ve ever seen will come close to City Museum. Housed in and around the old International Shoe Company, Bob Cassilly had the vision to create a city within a city, repurposing the 600,000-square-foot site into a modern, ever-evolving attraction. Each floor showcases something unique, and the installations are mind-blowing. There are also slides hidden on all four floors—allowing kids and adults to have some fun. The rooftop overlooks the city and houses a large Ferris wheel, a full-size school bus, and splash pads.
2. Play Ball! (Well…Cheer Them On)
(image via St. Louis Cardinals)
If you’re into any type of professional sports, welcome to St. Louis. The city has an impressive roster of championship teams and no shortage of sports activities on the weekends. Having been named one of the Best Sports City by Sporting News, it’s easy to see why people flock to the city on weekends. Home to both the legendary St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Blues (baseball and hockey) with amazing facilities, just taking in a game at either is quite a treat. St. Louis is also bringing a new MLS soccer team (St. Louis City SC) in 2023. If you like horse racing, Fairmount Park is just a stone’s throw away across the river in Illinois and has live racing during the spring.
1. Gateway Arch
(image via Gateway Arch)
Let’s start with the most iconic symbol of St. Louis—the Gateway Arch. Construction was completed in 1965 and opened to the public in 1967. The stainless-steel arch is known as a weighted catenary arch and is the world’s tallest arch. The monument to the westward expansion of the United States has staggering physical statistics. It rises 630 feet in the air and is 630 feet across. The Arch is part of the National Park Service and includes a visitor center and observation area. The views are spectacular, but you need to ensure that you’re not acrophobic. The views and experience are well worth the ticket price.
Admission runs $12-$35.
As you can see, St. Louis has a lot to offer everyone. If you are looking for more things to do in the surrounding area, check out other weekend trips from nearby St. Louis.
These areas are perfect for a quick day trip or a long weekend getaway. Explore our favorite things to do or peruse some pre-built itineraries.