Touristy places can get a bad rep. Yes, they’re busy, but they’re popular for a reason: These not-to-be-missed stops are often fun, different, and offer a taste of the city. In St. Louis, many locals take advantage of these spots. Here are some of the places and activities all tourists—and locals—should visit.
As the country’s tallest monument and the most recognizable in the city, the Gateway Arch is a must-see spot. More than just an impressive architectural feat, visitors can take in the newly renovated museum at the bottom to learn about its creation, as well as the role the city played in westward expansion from the perspectives of Native Americans, pioneers, and explorers. Once you’ve gotten your dose of culture, head to the trams, which will take you up 630 feet (192 meters) for some of the best views the city offers. Be sure to get photos from both sides: the riverfront view and the western-facing view over the city. On windy days, don’t worry if you feel the arch swaying—it’s by design.
This free zoo is consistently ranked among the top five in the country. It’s such a wonderful outing that even locals visit often. Stop by The Wild to see polar bears, penguins, apes, and more; stroll through the massive 1904 Flight Cage; see the reptiles and amphibians at the Herpetarium on Historic Hill; hang out poolside with the sea lions at Lakeside Crossing; feed and pet the goats in the Children’s Zoo—and that barely scratches the surface. Live music enthusiasts should also check out the Jungle Boogie concert series every Friday during the summer. Admission is free, as are the kids’ activities on offer, and grownups can enjoy craft beer, wine, snacks, and more at the nearby bar.
There’s a reason Budweiser products are on nearly every tap in the city—St. Louis is home to Anheuser-Busch, the ubiquitous brew Adolphus Busch crafted in 1876. Although they merged with InBev in 2008, the historic brewery is still active and a huge part of St. Louis’ past and present. Take the brewery tour to learn about the brand, its history in the city, and the brewing process; visit the famous Clydesdale horses; and then choose a few free samples from the 18 beers on draught offered at the end. Kids under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
When you learn about all of the attractions found at Forest Park, it’s no longer surprising that it’s larger than New York’s Central Park. In addition to the zoo, stop by the Saint Louis Art Museum to take in the sculpture garden and the more than 33,000 works inside that cross time and cultures. Then, before heading to the Saint Louis Science Center to visit the mechanical dinosaurs and take in an OMNIMAX movie, make a quick stop at The Jewel Box greenhouse to view hundreds of beautiful flowers. Grab some food at the Boathouse and then tour the park via pedal boat in Post-Dispatch Lake. In the summer, take in a musical at The Muny, or on a snowy winter day, go sledding down Art Hill.
To truly understand downtown’s City Museum, you must experience it for yourself. The building and everything in it has been recycled, reclaimed, and transformed into jungle gyms, exhibits, and rides for your amusement. Climb the three-story treehouse, marvel at the resident circus, view the massive aquarium, spelunk in the enchanted caves, and then head to the roof to ride the Ferris wheel.
In this city, being a St. Louis Cardinals fan is as essential as breathing. For a true taste of St. Louis’ spirit, hospitality, and enthusiasm, head to Busch Stadium, grab a Budweiser and some Ted Drewes, and watch the Cards play. If you must root for the opposing team, never fear; the mood here always remains friendly, and the atmosphere is so fun that the sweltering heat and suffocating humidity will cease to be any more than minor annoyances. After the game, head out of the stadium and into Ballpark Village for food, drinks, and fun.