When trying to decide on my travel plans for the summer, I knew I wanted to focus on road trips and discovering new Midwest cities. Located only 5 1/2 hours from Southwest Michigan, and home to a National Park (another one of my travel goals), St. Louis made the perfect choice for a long, weekend getaway. The city is home to numerous attractions and the food scene was unlike anything I'd experienced before with culinary kudos to so many different cultures. Be sure to spend time checking out the city's various neighborhoods which each offer their own unique flare. And of course you can't forget bout the 630 foot arch which in the heart of downtown!
Keep reading to discover how we spent three days in The Gateway to the West.
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Where to Stay:
We chose to stay in an Airbnb in The Hill neighborhood also referred to as "Little Italy" (more on that below). Whenever I travel, I always plan to be out and exploring as much as possible so value and location are the two main factors I look for in a place to stay. This condo was the perfect home base for everything we had planned and only a short drive from downtown. It's also located near Tower Grove Park which is a great area to wander around and explore or visit the farmer's market on Saturday mornings.
Friday Night: Broadway Oyster Bar and The Grove
After checking in to our Airbnb we headed downtown to grab dinner at Broadway Oyster Bar. You can make a reservation ahead of time on Yelp to avoid a wait during peak times. Try to grab a seat on the patio if you can which features an eclectic mix of decor and a stage with live music every day of the week. And of course let's not forget about the food! Their seafood selection is out of this world. I tried the lobster poboy which features hearty chunks of breaded lobster and a creamy Sriracha voodoo sauce. You can't leave here without trying the oysters - I mean it's in the name after all. If you're like me and not brave enough to try them raw, I highly recommend the char-grilled oysters or the oysters Rockefeller which come topped with a spinach-bacon cream sauce and parmesan cheese and then baked.
After dinner we headed to The Grove to check out the local beer scene. We stopped at Urban Chestnut which has two locations in the city. The Grove Bierhall has an industrial-style vibe with picnic table seating indoors and a smaller outdoor patio. They also feature a full menu with European-inspired dishes if you come hungry. Their taps rotate on a regular basis but while I was there I tried the STL Zoo Bier which was a Kolsch style brew and very crisp and refreshing.
Bonus Mural Stop: The "Greetings from St. Louis" mural is the perfect photo op to let everyone know you've arrived! Located on the side of Garcia Properties (3537 S Kingshighway Blvd) you'll want to check it out after normal business hours to avoid any cars parked in front of it.
Saturday Morning: Tower Grove Farmer's Market and Gateway Arch
Strolling through the farmer's market is always one of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday morning. Tower Grove Farmer's Market is set up on the roundabout in the center of the park and open from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Come hungry and grab breakfast at one of the many food trucks - my favorite was the strawberry jam, peanut butter banana crepe from Holy Crepes. You'll also find fresh flowers, locally grown produce, an adorable popsicle truck, and so much more.
Next, we drove downtown to see Gateway Arch National Park. I recommend parking in one of the garages downtown which offer a flat fee of $6 for the entire day on the weekend. Avoid the temptation to head straight for the tallest man-made monument in the United States, and instead start your explorations at the Citygarden Sculpture Park. Then head toward the Old Courthouse for fantastic views of the Arch towering behind it. Once you arrive at the Arch spend time wandering around the park grounds taking in the architectural marvel from all angles. Unfortunately, during our visit the tram rides to the top and the museum were still closed due to COVID-19 so be sure to check the website ahead of time if you have your heart set on riding 630 feet to the top.
Saturday Afternoon: City Museum and The Sliced Pint
After we had our fill of the Arch we rented a few Bird scooters (these are located everywhere downtown and a great way to get around) and scooted over to City Museum which is the attraction I was most looking forward to on the trip. At the time of our trip you needed to have advance reservations and purchase tickets online. If you're not a history buff don't let the word museum turn you away. The City Museum is housed in a 10-story, 600,000 square-foot warehouse and is a mixture of a funhouse and giant playground created out of found and repurposed objects. Definitely plan to spend a least a couple hours here in order to see it all. Climb through a treehouse, slide down a 10-story slide, sit in the cockpit of an old aircraft - I'm not kidding you just need to experience this place for yourself! When we went, masks were required to be worn by employees and guests the whole time. There were staff at the top of all of the slides who sprayed your hands with sanitizer before you went down and there seemed to be a hand sanitizer station around every corner which we really appreciated. Some areas including the rooftop, giant ball pit, and a few of the slides and tunnels were still closed but there is still plenty to explore and overall we had an amazing visit.
After all that climbing and sliding we had worked up an appetite and headed next door to The Sliced Pint to dine on two other must-eat foods while visiting St. Louis. So many people told us we had to try toasted ravioli (or T-rav as the locals call it), which were created an became popular in the city, and now I know why. The breaded and deep fried ravioli can be found on many menus throughout the city and are typically served as an appetizer with marinara sauce - yum! If you're feeling really adventurous, you can also try the T-rav pizza at The Sliced Pint which has a layer of toasted ravioli as the pizza crust. We opted to try St. Louis style pizza which is known for it's thin, cracker-like crust and use of Provel cheese instead of mozzarella. This style pizza is also cut into squares or rectangles instead of wedges.
Bonus stop: On my list for next time is the rooftop pool and bar at the The Last Hotel located next door. Sip on a cocktail while cooling off in the wading pool with breathtaking views of the city skyline. Guests must be 21 to visit.
Saturday Evening: Union Station and The Hill
Located only a short walk from the City Museum, you'll find another amazing St. Louis attraction (well really multiple attractions in one) at St. Louis Union Station. If you're looking for a fun spot for the whole family this is your place. Take a 15-minute ride on The Wheel with views of the St. Louis skyline from 200 feet in the air in one of the climate controlled gondolas. Play a round of mini golf, climb a ropes course, or visit the aquarium. You can also cool off with an insta-worthy milkshake at the Soda Fountain. During our visit there was a hour and a half wait so consider putting your name on the list and then hitting up one of the attractions while you wait.
For dinner head back toward The Hill for some of the best Italian you'll find almost anywhere. There are a number of different restaurants to choose from in this neighborhood. We took the local's recommendations and dined at Favazza's and we were certainly not disappointed. They have a great outdoor patio space with a fountain, string lights and walls painted to look like an authentic Italian village. If you haven't got your toasted ravioli fix in yet you can order as an appetizer or try one of their mouth-watering pasta dishes. If you have time, stop by Missouri Baking Company for handmade Italian sweets and other European desserts.
Sunday Afternoon: St. Louis Zoo and Delmar Loop
We dropped the guys off at Eagle Springs Golf Course in the morning and were off to one of my favorite places - the zoo! Not only is the St. Louis Zoo home to over 17,000 animals throughout 90 acres, it's one of the few free zoos in the nation. Even though you don't have to pay to get in, you do have to make a free reservation online and can arrive any time within the hour window of your ticket. Masks are required during your visit and some of the attractions such as the penguin and puffin house need a timed ticket to access to control the amount of people. Feed the stingrays, watch a sea lion show, or simply wander through the extensive grounds and enjoy the animals. Plan to spend at least 3-4 hours here in order to see it all but you could easily make it an all day visit.
For lunch we headed to Delmar Loop which has been named one of the 10 best streets in America with more than 145 specialty shops, restaurants, and entertainment. We decided to check out Salt and Smoke for some traditional St. Louis BBQ. We all agreed this was the foodie highlight of our trip! My husband ordered the St. Louis style ribs which are meatier than baby back and presented in a rectangular shape. The meat was literally falling off the bone. I ordered a two meat plate with chicken and brisket and the best Mac and cheese I've ever eaten. There are a few different Salt and Smoke restaurants throughout the city but this is a can't miss meal for lunch or dinner.
Sunday Evening: The Grove and Top Golf
We were still so full from our late lunch that we decided to head to Tropical Liquers back in the Grove to cool off with some frozen drinks. They have the cutest outdoor patio with a colorful mural. Typically they offer colorful flights allowing you to try multiple drinks, but they were only providing single serve glasses during our visit.
For the evening we drove our to Chesterfield to take a swing at Top Golf. All of their bays have increased sanitation measures in place as well as dividers between other players. I recommend making a reservation in advance and once you arrive you can play as long as you want. We also ordered drinks and late night apps which are delivered directly to your bay. This is a great activity for all ages and you don't need to be a golf pro to have fun.
With a few of the places we wanted to visit still closed due to COVID-19, and there never being enough time in the day, I put together a list of my must dos for our next visit to St. Louis:
I love creating detailed travel guides to ensure you get the most out of your time. On this blog I'll be sharing some of my past trips in hopes that it helps you plan your next adventure. Pack your suitcase you never know where I'll be heading next!
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