St. Louis, Missouri is known as “the gateway to the west”. Once upon a time, the city was one of the major economic and cultural centers of the United States, akin to New York City or Los Angeles today. Though its reign has since ended, this underappreciated place remains a fascinating destination to visit. With excellent food and art scenes and beautiful historic architecture, St. Louis may not be high on most people’s travel lists, but travelers will always be very pleasantly surprised by how much St. Louis has to offer. And with one of the lowest costs of living in the US and many free or low-cost attractions, St. Louis is a very affordable place to visit. Therefore, spending one day here certainly seems like a great idea, and we have a whole itinerary for you to help you plan your trip. Keep reading!
What’s the best time to visit St. Louis?
In terms of weather, the best time to visit St. Louis is in early fall from August to September or in early spring from March to April. These times of the year have hands down the most pleasant weather. During the summer months St. Louis can get extremely humid and during winter, fall, and early spring it can get quite cold here, although not as bad as many other cities.
In terms of events in the city, you will definitely want to visit Mardi Gras, but a large chunk of the most enjoyable events take place in summer – Circus Flora, the Whitaker Jazz Festival, the Brewers Heritage Festival and many more. Oh, and the 4th of July celebrations are pretty spectacular, too!
A few facts about St. Louis
● St. Louis was the first city in the United States to host modern Olympics – this happened way back in 1904.
● St. Louis was also the host of the 1904 world’s fair during which many new inventions, scientific discoveries, and new types of food, many of which we can’t live without today, were introduced to a large audience for the first time. These included:
○ Outdoor electricity
○ The private automobile
○ The x-ray machine
○ The wireless telephone
○ The icecream cone
○ Dr. Pepper
○ Ice tea
○ The peanut butter machine
● Other notable things invented or first promoted in St. Louis include the first kindergarten in the United States (1873), the first gas station (1905), the first successful parachute jump from a moving airplane (1912), TUMS (1928), 7Up (1929), and the first interstate highway (1956).
● The Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis is the largest beer-producing plant in the United States and offers free tours!
● St. Louis has more free tourist attractions than any city in the US except Washington D.C
● The St. Louis Zoo tops many lists of the best Zoos in the United States. Plus it’s free!!
One Day in St. Louis Itinerary
You are about to experience one of the great American cities! St. Louis has it all – from food and music to history and culture. But having one day to visit may pose a challenge, so here’s a list of the most important sights to visit while in town. Follow it and enjoy your stay!
Start your day off with a “Slinger” for breakfast
Right off the bat, we have something unique to put into this itinerary. A slinger is a local St. Louis dish that consists of hash browns topped with meat, chili, and a fried egg. Vegetarian and vegan Slingers are also available at most restaurants. Some of the best slingers in the City can be found at Rooster, Mud House, and EGG.
Head down to Forest Park
Forest Park is the largest city park in the United States, and that fact alone makes it worthy of a visit. Simply, a stroll through the wonderful greenery is an amazing way to start your day in St. Louis. However, coming here is also the best way to experience the city because most of St. Louis’ museums and the zoo are located within Forest Park. Best of all – many of these things are free!
Visit the St. Louis Zoo
As mentioned, the St. Louis Zoo is regarded as one of the best in the country. This is an especially good choice if you’re visiting in spring or fall. 500 different species and almost 14,000 different animals find their home here, so you will have a lot of exploring to do, that’s for sure. You can enter the zoo for free, although some parts will require you to purchase a ticket.
Check out the St. Louis Art Museum
A great choice all year round, the St. Louis Art Museum is located in a beautiful historic building on a hill originally built for the 1904 world’s fair and overlooking a beautiful lagoon with fountains. The museum’s collection includes fascinating pieces by Van Gogh, Picasso, Beckmann, Matisse, El Greco, Monet, and Gauguin among many others. As a matter of fact, the Beckmann collection is the world’s largest and includes Beckman’s famous Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery. Definitely, a must while in town!
Go to The Loop for lunch
Food is incredibly important in St. Louis, but there is one place you absolutely should visit while in tow. Blueberry Hill in the Delmar Loop is not just a restaurant and bar but a local cultural institution. It was actually a favorite performance venue of late St. Louis native Chuck Berry. The walls are adorned with quirky and weird collectibles and pictures of the countless celebrities who have visited. It really makes the whole dining experience here very special.
But the Loop also has a lot more to offer. This is one of the best areas for shopping in the city, and you can see the St. Louis Walk of Fame. In short, a great place to just take it easy and enjoy your day in St. Louis.
Check out the City Museum
Once you’re done enjoying the loop, head downtown to the City Museum, one of St. Louis’ greatest and most unique attractions. This is not your run-of-the-mill museum, though – instead, it’s a giant adult playground housed in a former shoe factory (the very one Tennessee Williams once worked at).
Created by an eccentric local artist Bob Cassilly, the City Museum is filled with massive idiosyncratic sculptures that were designed to be climbed on. It also occasionally hosts concerts, art exhibitions and other events. A visit to the City Museum will definitely make your visit to St. Louis quite memorable.
Climb the Gateway Arch
Close to the City Museum is the Gateway Arch, probably the most impressive symbol of St. Louis you’ll see during your day here. This construction is more than 600 feet tall and you are free to come and marvel at it from the ground, but for a small fee, you can get a ride to the top and enjoy a spectacular view.
Furthermore, the Museum of Westward Expansion and the Gateway Arch Visitors Center are also a part of the complex, and these two institutions complete the whole experience splendidly. Very much worth your time!
Have dinner in Central West End
Central West End is one of St. Louis’ most beautiful neighborhoods and a wonderful place to finish your day. There are many great restaurants to choose from here, but you can also enjoy some of the best shopping experiences in the city. If you have some extra time to kill. If that doesn’t interest you, you may want to check out The World Chess Hall of Fame.
As far as the restaurants are concerned, Brasserie by Niche is a French restaurant, perfect for a fancy night out, whereas The Scottish Arms is a more relaxed pub with great drinks. There are plenty more great places to eat here, though, so take a stroll and see what you like.
Enjoy some evening music
You really should close out your night with a visit to Powell Hall to see The St. Louis Symphony or The Muny to see a live musical. If you visit during the fall, winter, or spring, the St. Louis Symphony’s season will still be very much active. The symphonyis internationally renowned as one of the finest in the world, attracting some of the world’s greatest classical musicians as guest artists. It’s also one of only a handful of Symphony orchestras in the United States made up entirely of full-time musicians.
If you are visiting in summer, though, The Muny is a must. It is the world’s oldest and largest outdoor theater dedicated to performing Broadway musicals. A coveted gig among theater actors, the Muny regularly attracts Tony Award winners and Broadway veterans to perform in their shows. These two institutions most certainly represent the very best of the city’s art scene.
Where to stay in St. Louis, Missouri?
Four Seasons St. Louis
999 North 2nd Street, Downtown St. Louis, Saint Louis, MO 63102
For the ultimate luxury in this city, choose Four Seasons St. Louis! This five-star beauty boasts a rooftop pool with a spectacular view and the rooftop bar provides you with a spectacular view of the Gateway Arch. The rooms come with marble bathrooms, plus there is an excellent spa available on the premises, too. You will also be very close to the downtown area, so it will be easy to explore the city whenever you want. It really doesn’t get much better than this!
The Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta St. Louis
212 North Kingshighway Boulevard, Saint Louis, MO 63108
If you are looking for something fancy then The Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta St.Louis is hands down the way to go. Located in the heart of the Central West End, one of St. Louis’ most architecturally beautiful neighborhoods, this historic hotel is regarded by many locals as the city’s finest. With a beautiful heated outdoor pool and even a fireplace, you can be sure you will enjoy a very relaxing stay here. And with three restaurants and five movie theaters, there will be plenty to keep you entertained.
Drury Plaza St. Louis at the Arch
2 South 4th Street, Downtown St. Louis, Saint Louis, MO 63102
When it comes to hotels offering great value, Drury Plaza St. Louis at the Arch is really hard to beat. Not only is this hotel located right in the city center, next to the famous Gateway Arch, but you can also enjoy the beautiful interior here, as well as a wonderful pool and a gym. The rooms are very well equipped and comfortable, and the staff are exceptionally friendly and helpful. In short, this hotel has everything you need for a wonderful stay, and you will love every second in this place!
Hampton Inn & Suites St. Louis Forest Park
5650 Oakland Avenue, Saint Louis, MO 63110
If you’ve read our itinerary, you know that there is a lot to do in Forest Park, which is why Hampton Inn & Suites St. Louis is a great place to book a room. Not only will you be close to numerous St. Louis attractions, but you will also enjoy an excellent hotel. They have great amenities here such as the indoor pool and the fitness center. Many of the attractions we mention in our itinerary are very close by, so you can experience some of the best places this city has to offer without having to travel far!
Day trips from St. Louis
Expect to fall in love with the city when you get here – you will most certainly want to spend more than one day in St. Louis. If this turns out to be possible, you may want to look into organizing a day trip to some of the most popular destinations close to the city. Here are some of the most popular options.
This charming small town located about 20 miles from St. Louis is a beautiful place to make a short detour. Known for its historic mansions and Antique shops, Alton also happens to be the hometown of Robert Wadlow the tallest Person to ever live. The Alton city museum has on display many of Wadlow’s oversized positions.
Meramec Caverns, IL
This beautiful 4.6-mile-long cave complex is located outside St. Louis in the town of Sullivan, Missouri. Merrimac Caverns are also known for their association with the famous gangster Jesse James who once hid out inside the cave as well as for being a stop on the underground railroad housing escaped slaves. Fun fact – the bumper sticker was first invented in 1935 in Missouri to promote Meramec Caverns.
If you’re a wine lover, a day trip from St. Louis to Hermann will be a perfect adventure. This lovely little town is about an hour and a half away from the center of St. Louis and full of wineries that serve great food and lovely local shops. A great way to relax far from the hustle and bustle of a big city. Also, the town boasts rich German heritage, plus it’s right on the Missouri River, so there are definitely many reasons for a visit.
Extra tips for visiting St. Louis:
● There are three local delicacies that no trip to St. Louis would be complete without trying. These are St. Louis Style Pizza, Toasted Ravioli, and Gooey butter cake. Imo’s Pizza is seen by locals as synonymous with St. Louis style pizza and toasted ravioli with multiple locations around the city. Goey Louie bakery is a favorite of many locals for Goey Butter Cake.
● Unless you are going to visit the City Museum, the Arch or the Old Courthouse, you would do well to stay away from downtown. It’s not that it’s dangerous, it’s quite safe, but there is frankly not much to do other than the three attractions mentioned.
Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.
Gabe Pearson is a recent college graduate of Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri where he double majored in History and Philosophy with a minor in Cultural Anthropology. He is obsessed with travel and has currently visited seven countries and counting. He is an aspiring travel writer, who currently works as an English language teacher in Beijing, China, teaching Adult students. He is passionate about literature, writing, the arts, food, and all things travel. Gabe hopes to travel the world teaching English and writing.