It wasn’t until I moved away that I truly had a grasp on what makes St. Louis unique. After living there for many years, St. Louis had become the standard by which I judged other places. It was my “normal.” However, enough time has passed that I’ve been able to gain a little more perspective.
I visited my old hometown over Thanksgiving, and my view of the city has become much more nuanced than it has been in the past. Living there as a teen, I thought St. Louis was a little boring…yet safe, comfortable, and familiar. It wasn’t until I moved away that I began to really appreciate some of the city’s more unique qualities. I started to miss the outstanding Italian fare, the free and surprisingly impressive Saint Louis Art Museum, and the sports-obsessed citizens who support their hometown teams with zeal.
St. Louis is sometimes dismissed as an unappealing Midwestern travel destination. Maybe it has something to do with St. Louis’ reputation as a dangerous city. Or maybe it’s the rather dreary winters. The bottom line is that the city doesn’t garner the attention it deserves as a centrally located, budget-friendly destination.
Looking to visit St. Louis? Unsure of where to begin your journey? Here are five things you just can’t miss:
1. Saint Louis Art Museum: “Dedicated to art and free to all.” This museum lives up to the words carved across its exterior. From ancient Egypt to American Minimalism, the Saint Louis Art Museum offers a comprehensive look at the history of art, one that makes me wish we had a proper art museum here in Las Vegas. With a new wing that opened over the summer, the museum is worth a visit (or re-visit if you haven’t been lately).
2. Gateway Arch: Hard to miss, this modern mix between large-scale sculpture, architecture, and engineering is the quintessential symbol of St. Louis. Take an elevator ride to the top and peek out the small windows or just admire the Arch from ground level. Either way, this is an absolute must-visit.
3. Toasted Ravioli: Yes, really. I know that I just listed an appetizer here alongside famous works of art and an iconic marvel of engineering. But you haven’t really had toasted ravioli until you’ve tried it in St. Louis. While you’re at it, try some of the city’s insanely good and authentic Italian cuisine or its delicious thin-crust pizza. (But don’t be fooled: St. Louis isn’t all about Italian food. You’ll also find Thai, Indian, Mexican, BBQ, and just about every other type of cuisine you could possibly want.)
4. Local Beer: Sure, St. Louis is known as being the home of Budweiser, but there are some great smaller breweries here too. Schlafly is a local favorite, while Morgan Street Brewery is a fun spot to visit on Laclede’s Landing. If you venture outside of St. Louis towards central and western Missouri, you’ll find many bars that serve Boulevard beers, which are brewed on the other side of the state in Kansas City.
5. Saint Louis Zoo (“Wild Lights” holiday fun takes place on select nights through late December): Like the art museum, the Saint Louis Zoo offers free admission on most days. However, for the special holiday festivities, the zoo charges a $5 entrance fee. It’s well-worth the cost of admission though, featuring twinkly lights and special holiday displays, crafts for the kids, and a chance to bundle up and explore the zoo after dark.