Having lived in St. Louis for 4 years, completed over 95 items on St. Louis Magazine’s 101 Things To Do in St. Louis from 2013, and visited at least 2 dozen times in the past decade, I feel justified in creating a list of what I think are the 101 most worthwhile things to do in St. Louis.
Note: Click on the title of each item for more information. If you want to read about my own experience visiting St. Louis landmarks, click here.
Without further ado, here is the list:
The Big 3:
1. Cardinals Baseball Game– The pride and joy of St. Louis. Opening day is an unofficial public holiday and is a must-do for any resident. Get there early to see the Clydesdales and the fanfare.
2. Gateway Arch– Symbol of the city and one of the most iconic structures in the United States. It was designed by Aero Saarinen as a monument to the western expansion of the US. Now a National Park. Going to the top is a must, but tickets should be purchased ahead of time during school holidays.
3. Anheuser Busch Brewery Tour– This is where Budweiser is made. They have a variety of tour options. The free tour must be reserved onsite and includes beer samples. The Brewmaster tour lets you sample directly from a finishing tank on the production floor. The Beer School ($15) is a 45 minute guided tasting of various AB products.
4. Know St. Louis high schools and where they are located– St. Louis is weirdly obsessed with high schools. The most stereotypical St. Louis question one can ask is “what high school did you go to?” Understanding the high schools and their reputations are essential items to understanding St. Louis.
5. Missouri History Museum– This FREE museum in Forest Park showcases St. Louis’ rich history. The permanent collection has many artifacts from the 1904 World’s Fair.
6. Know who plays for the Cardinals and have a sense of how well the team is doing– surprisingly useful information. Great talking point when meeting a random St. Louisan.
Neighborhoods To Check Out (click each item for a Google Maps walking tour route)
7. Downtown– Central business district and oldest part of the city. Many city landmarks are here including 2 of the “Big Three”.
8. Central West End- The main yuppie neighborhood. Restaurants, bars, and the enormous Barnes Jewish Hospital complex. Most of St. Louis’s development in the last decade has occurred here and to the east.
9. South Grand- The leafiest neighborhood in St. Louis is home to the city’s second most famous park and numerous “ethnic” restaurants
10. Delmar Loop- Popular stretch near Washington Univeristy. Mostly leans towards a college crowd, but there are a few long-term anchors such as Blueberry Hill and The Pageant that attract a wide range of people
11. The Grove- Retail and bar street that, among other things, is home to St. Louis’s LGBT scene.
12. Cherokee Street- St. Louis’s most alternative area that also has the highest concentration of Hispanic businesses
13. Soulard- Historic French neighborhood best known for its farmers´ market and annual Mardi Gras. It is a popular going out spot for fratty 20-somethings.
14. The Ville/Greater Ville- The heart of North St. Louis and the city’s Black culture. The neighborhood has a number of historic sites, but they are not well marked. Make sure to check out Homer G. Phillips hospital, Sumner High School, the Shelly House, and Fairground Park (which still has the old bear pits from an old zoo). Crime rates are still high here, so go with a buddy.
15. Main Street St. Charles- The historic first capital of Missouri is just a few minutes past Lambert Airport. Main Street is now a popular bar and restaurant district for the redneck-leaning exurban crowd.
16. Washington Univeristy in St. Louis (Wash U)- This is where I went to college. The campus is objectively one of the prettiest in the country and contains numerous museums. Places of interest include the Olin Library (and its copy of the Declaration of Independence), the Kemper Art Museum, and the iconic Brookings Quadrangle. The basement of Rudolph Hall contains numerous rare minerals.
Museums and Indoorsy Stuff
17. St. Louis Art Museum- St. Louis’s main art museum in Forest Park. The building was built for the 1904 World’s Fair. Given the age and prestige of the institution, the museum´s collection is strong. Even better, its FREE!
18. Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site– “Whitehaven” was the only home owned by the famous general and US President. The site is now managed by the National Park Service. You can combine this with Grant’s Farm right across the street
19. Old Courthouse– Iconic historic downtown courthouse best known as the starting place of the Dread Scott Case. The court here actually ruled in favor of the Scotts. The site is run by the National Park Service.
20. Griot Museum of Black History– Limited hours but the museum has a very in-depth overview of the long and rich contributions of Black St. Louisans.
21. Compton Hill Water Tower and other water towers on Grand- There are only seven historic water towers left in the United States. Three are in St. Louis and they all happen to be on the same street. Compton Hill offers regular tours.
22. National Museum of Transportation– Contains many historic trains and cars. Located just southwest of the city.
23. Scott Joplin House State Historic Site- Home of the famous ragtime pianist. Now run as a Missouri State Park. Make sure to check out the self-playing piano on the first floor
24. Lemp Mansion– Historic home of a brewing family that became haunted after 3 suicides. Today, the mansion is a bed & breakfast and restaurant. There are ghost tours on most Monday nights.
Outdoorsy stuff in the Metro Area:
25. Forest Park – One of the finest urban parks in the United States. Contains multiple museums, two golf courses, the Zoo, and more! The most iconic part of the park is Art Hill which has the statue of St. Louis, namesake of the city.
26. Malcolm Martin Park- To get the iconic postcard view of the Gateway Arch and the St. Louis skyline, visit this park in East St. Louis. It almost never runs, but the park also has the Gateway Geyser, the world’s third-tallest fountain
27. Confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers- St. Louis was founded due to its proximity to the confluence of North America´s two longest rivers. There are a couple places to view the Confluence. The most famous place-where you can touch the water from both rivers- is called the Ted and Pat Jones Confluence Point. The nicest viewpoint though is actually from Missouri Bottoms Conservation Area. You can also view it from Illinois at the Confluence Tower
28. Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO World Heritage Site)- Once the largest and most influential city of the Mississippian culture which lived between 1050-1300. Today the site consists of earthen mounds including Monk´s Mound, the largest in North America. To better understand the true importance of the site, visit the museum.
29. Castlewood State Park- St. Louis’s most famous and popular hiking spot. The most popular trail is the 3.1 mile River Scene Loop Trail
30. Lone Elk County Park/ World Bird Sanctuary– Unique hour-long hike around a lake where you are almost guaranteed to see elk. Elsewhere in the park is a car-only section with bison. Across the street is the impressive World Bird Sanctuary
31. Hiking somewhere not named Castlewood State Park- Castlewood is nice but is also crowded. Try Weldon Spring, West Tyson, Cliff Cave, or Babler. If you’ve made it this far down the list, you’ve probably already hiked at Castlewood anyways.
32. Melvin Price Locks and Dam- The Army Corps of Engineers runs tours of this lock and dam system on the Mississippi River tours. While not necessary, you can call ahead to see if a boat is going to pass through.
33. Creve Couer Lake- Missouri’s largest natural lake is in the western suburbs. In the summer, you can rent kayaks.
34. Laumiere Sculpture Park- Beautiful sculpture park in the suburb of Kirkwood (which is also a nice town to stroll)
35. Old Chain of Rocks Bridge– Where Route 66 crosses the Mississippi River. For a little extra fun, go explore Chouteau Island on the Illinois side. Alternatively, you can bike here from Downtown via the North Riverfront Trail.
Outdoorsy stuff a bit further away:
36. Float trip on the Meramec River – For the uninitiated, a float trip involves sitting in a raft of inner tube and floating down a river, ideally with friends and a cold beverage in each hand. If Missouri had a state sport, this would be it. There are many places to float, but the closest spot to St. Louis is the Meramec River. Renting tubes from an outfitter also includes a one-way shuttle ride as the start/end points are different. About 1 hour southwest from St. Louis
37. Day in the Ozarks: Elephant Rocks / Johnson’s Shut-ins- Most of the southern half of Missouri is a hilly region known as the Ozarks. Two popular sites that happen to be both near St. Louis and close to each other are Elephant Rocks State Park and Johnson´s Shut-Ins State Park, a popular swimming spot. Taum Sauk Mountain, the highest point in Missouri which is also nearby. About 1.5-2 hours south from St. Louis
38. Shaw Nature Reserve– Managed by the Missouri Botanical Gardens, this nature reserve preserves numerous Missouri landscapes. The most efficient way to see everything is on the wagon tour. About 1 hour southwest from St. Louis.
39. Meramec Caverns- If you have driven southwest of St. Louis, you have most certainly seen their billboards. That said, the amazing cave formations paired with just the right amount of Ozark tackiness makes for an enjoyable half-day excursion. About a 1.25 hours southwest from St. Louis
40. Bald Eagle Watching in Clarksville, MO- Bald Eagles nest here along the Mississippi River during the winter. While the eagles can be seen all winter, the town of Clarksville has a festival in late January with plenty of enthusiastic volunteers armed with telescopes pointed right at the birds. About 1 hour north from St. Louis
41. Great River Road/Pere Marquette State Park- The region’s best fall colors are thought to be in this Illinois State Park close to the Mississippi River. The road there parallels the river and is particularly scenic. About 1 hour north from St. Louis
42. Wine Country- German immigrants brought wine to Missouri in the 1800´s. In the 1980´s the region was the first AVA in the country. While there are many places to visit, a great day trip is to rent bikes in Defiance and go along the Katy Trail to Augusta 7 miles away. Along the way, there are 4 wineries you can visit. About 45 minutes west of St. Louis
43. Hidden Valley Ski Area– St. Louis is not a skiing destination by any standard, but if you want to get your fix, there is a small hill in the western suburb of Wildwood. Total vertical is 320 feet. They also have tubing. About 30 minutes west of St. Louis
44. Blues NHL hockey game– St. Louis’s second-most popular team. However, after winning the Stanley Cup in 2019, the city has really rallied behind the team. Look out for the power play dance, which might be the dumbest tradition in American pro sports.
45. Kirkwood-Webster Thanksgiving Day football game– This is the oldest high school football rivalry in the country. The play at high noon on Thanksgiving Day and watching it is a local tradition. Tickets to the actual game are hard to find, but you can watch it on TV. Did I mention that St. Louis is obsessed with their high schools?
46. College Basketball game: There are many opportunities to see college basketball in St. Louis. Saint Louis University (SLU) is the local team but you can also see the annual Bragging Rights game between Mizzou/Illinois or the Missouri Valley Conference Championships aka Arch Madness.
47. Mizzou football game– See an SEC football game in a fun college town. Mizzou is also the birthplace of Homecoming. M-I-Z!
48. SLU soccer game– SLU´s men’s soccer team has won 10 NCAA championships, the most of any school. Even though the team is not as dominant as it once was, the crowds are still among the largest of any school.
49. St. Louis Battlehawks XFL game- With the NFL´s Rams back in LA, the XFL has taken over the Dome and the crowds are electric. St. Louis is definitely still a football town, but who knows if the league will survive.
50. St. Louis City SC MLS game- St. Louis is the soccer capital of America. It is only fitting that they now have an MLS team.
51. The Fabulous Fox Theater– Jaw-droppingly beautiful theater originally built as a movie palace. Both touring Broadway shows and musicians perform here. If you can’t see a show there, they have a great tour.
52. The MUNY – A 100-year old St. Louis tradition. This outdoor theater hosts a series of musicals and plays over the summer. Seats 11,000 but 1,500 seats to every show are free.
53. St. Louis Symphony Orchestra– The second-oldest symphony orchestra in the United States plays primarily in Powell Hall at Grand Center. They occasionally screen classic movies with the symphony playing the soundtrack.
54. Jazz St. Louis– The city’s main (only?) jazz club. They serve food, too! Tickets often sell out a week or more in advance, so plan ahead!
55. Blues Cruise – Once a month in the summer and fall, you can board an old fashioned riverboat for a night of dancing and the ultimate views of the Arch and downtown STL. Go and you won’t be disappointed.
56. Theater Scene- The city has a surprisingly good circuit of small theaters. Some of the most popular include: The Black Rep, The Stray Dog (my fave), The Repertory Theater, The New Jewish Theater and Dramatic License
57. Circus Flora– Homegrown 1-ring circus open only during the month of June.
58. Soulard Mardi Gras– The second largest Mardi Gras in the US. The Saturday party draws crowds of over 300,000. Arrive at 11 for the parade. Stay for the party and the beads.
59. St. Patrick’s Day- St. Louis has not one but two St. Patrick’s Day parades. The most authentic takes place on March 17th in the Irish neighborhood of Dogtown. A larger parade takes place downtown on the Saturday closest to March 17. Before the downtown parade, there is a 5-mile run that draws a large and spirited crowed.
60. ThurtenE Carnival– 100+ year-old student-run carnival at Wash U occurring in mid-April. I helped run this as an undergrad and its appearance on St. Louis Magazine’s list was the catalyst for me to start this blog, which began as a St. Louis bucket list. Look out for the student-built booths.
61. Fourth of July aka Fair St. Louis– The biggest event in the city. Everybody gathers at the Arch for a free concert and firework show. Past performers include Maroon 5, Trace Adkins, and Poison. The Eads Bridge is closed to cars for the weekend.
62. Forest Park Balloon Glow- Forest Park hosts a balloon race in late August, but the night before you can see all the balloons up close and lit up. The event only lasts 2 hours and draws a large crowd, so plan accordingly.
61. Cathedral Basilica– Having lived in Spain, I can confirm that this church is as beautiful as a European cathedral. The interior is covered in 41.5 million mosaic pieces, making it the largest mosaic collection outside of Russia.
62. Pink Sisters at Mount Grace Convent- A group of nuns lives separated from the world, living in complete silence except for at 5pm when they sing the evening vespers. Despite being at the edge of North St. Louis’s historically most dangerous neighborhood, the convent provides security so don’t be afraid to go.
63. Hindu temple- The only Hindu temple in the region is located in the western suburb of Manchester. Note: they are closed in the afternoon from 12-5.
64. Bellefontaine Cemetery– One of the most famous cemeteries in the USA containing the graves of prominent St. Louisans and St. Louis families. The list of notable burials is too long to name here but includes Eberhart Anheuser, Adolphus Busch, William Clark (of Lewis & Clark), multiple governors of Missouri, the namesake of nearly every building at Wash U and Rush Limbaugh.
65. Shrine of St. Joseph- This beautiful downtown St. Louis church contains the Altar of Answered Prayers will apparently make you immune to cholera. Can’t hurt!
Kid-Friendly, but fun for everyone:
66. City Museum– Not a museum but rather an industrial indoor playground that is probably the coolest place you will ever visit. If the weather is good, do pay for the roof. Don’t ask questions, just go!
67. St. Louis Zoo– Fun fact: Zoo is the most used word in online dating profiles in Missouri. That’s probably because the Zoo is awesome and its free!!!
68. Grant’s Farm- Combination of petting zoo and German beer garden on the grounds of the Busch family home. watch out for the pygmy goats. FREE! Can combine with the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site right across the street.
69. Missouri Botanical Gardens– 150+ year old botanical garden and one of the most esteemed institutions in St. Louis. Best in the warmer months, but if you’re missing tropical weather during the winter and can’t afford to fly to Brazil, head to the Climatron where the temperature is kept at a steamy 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
71. Faust Park in Chesterfield- Two attractions here. The Butterfly House is run by the Missouri Botanical Gardens and contains more than 2,000 butterflies. The St. Louis Carousel was built in the 1920´s and has 60 hand-carved animals.
72. Union Station Aquarium and Ferris Wheel- The historic Union Station has undergone a renovation recently and is the hot place to be. See stingrays and ride a ferris wheel in a 5 minute span. What more can you want?
73. Apple picking at Eckert’s– Small chain of farms in the Illinois farm towns. Belleville is the original, while Millstadt has more attractions. Apple picking season runs mid-August till October.
75. Ted Drewes Frozen Custard- More than just a frozen custard stand, Ted Drewes is a St. Louis and Route 66 icon. In 2022, it was awarded best ice cream in the world by an Irish marketing agency. The main location is on Chippewa Street and is open nearly year-round. A second (actually older) location on Grand is only open in the summer. They also serve pre-packaged custard all over the city, but texture is different from the real thing and I would not recommend it.
76. Bar-B-Que- Despite not having a distinctive style of bbq (St. Louis style ribs simply describes how they are cut), St. Louis´s bbq scene is considered to top 5 in the US. The undisputed champ is the Pappy´s family of restaurants (Pappy´s, Bogart´s, and Dalie´s). Sugarfire is another popular local chain (original location is in Olivette) that has locations from Colorado to Florida. My personal favorite is Adam´s Smokehouse, which has both delicious bbq including apple butter-glazed ribs, the friendliest staff, great energy and no lines.
77. Crown Candy Kitchen- Iconic 100+ year-old soda fountain located in the Old North St. Louis neighborhood. While the neighborhood has undergone many changes, Crown Candy has remained. They are best known for their milkshakes and BLT sandwich.
78. The Hill- Iconic Italian neighborhood with good Italian food abounding. For lunch, the James Beard Award-winning Gioia’s Deli serves sandwiches. For dinner, there are many options but favorites include Zia´s, Charlie Gitto´s and Anthonino´s (which is known for the city’s best toasted ravioli).
79. Wednesday Lebanese lunch at St. Raymond’s Marionite Church – The Wednesday lunch at this Lebanese church is not only delicious and exceedingly cheap but is also a power-lunch spot for St. Louis politicians and Purina executives.
80. Friday fish fry at St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church during Lent– Given the strong Catholic history of the city, it should be no surprise that Friday fish fries are very popular. The most famous of these is the Mexican fish fry at St. Cecilia’s church in Carondelet. Expect to wait at least an hour, but on the bright side, you can drink margaritas in line.
81. Soulard Farmers Market- Open since the 1840´s, this is the oldest public market west of the Mississippi. The market is open Wednesday-Saturday, but both the crowds and number of vendors grow as the week goes on, therefore making Saturday the optimal day to visit.
82. Imo’s Pizza– Local chain of “St. Louis-style pizza” which features square slices and a unique cheese blend called provel. Most people hate it, but if you like the pizza, then you are a true St. Louisan
83. Donut scene- For some reason, St. Louis has avoided the large donut chains and has kept a vibrant local scene. Favorites include: John´s Donut, World’s Fair, Donut-Drive In and Old Town Donuts
84. Gooey Butter Cake- This dessert is as delicious and unhealthy as it sounds. You can find it almost any bakery, but Park Avenue Coffee on Lafayette Square sells over 100 different varieties.
85. Wittmond Hotel in Brussels, IL- Up for an adventure? Take the Golden Eagle ferry from St. Charles, then enjoy a beautiful country drive through remote Calhoun County, Illinois. The restaurant is in a historic hotel built in the 1840’s and serves Amish/German traditional fare family-style for cheap.
86. Fast Eddie’s Bon Air in Alton, Illinois- Legendary enormous dive bar in remote Alton, Illinois that gets absolutely slammed at seemingly all times. They claim to be the #1 volume bar in the entire United States. If you listen to the radio, you have heard their ads. The $1.99 Big Elwood steak kabob is delicious.
87. Armory STL- Former armory turned millennial’s drinking paradise with cornhole, see-saws live music, a slide and a whopping 6 acres of indoor space
88. Ballpark Village- Entertainment zone located adjacent to Busch Stadium. The central area has a giant TV showing baseball and often live music. Surrounding it are bars, restaurants and the Cardinals Hall of Fame. The fan favorite is the PBR Country Bar and its mechanical bull. Very fun on game days and on weekend nights.
89. Paddy O’s during/after a Cardinals postseason win – Despite the addition of Ballpark Village, Paddy O´s is the quintessential Cardinals bar and gets a raucous crowd during the postseason.
90. The Grove bar scene- St. Louis’s “alternative” bar street has gay bars, straight bars and good food of many cuisines. There is truly something for everybody. My favorite bar here is Handlebar, which gets an alternative crowd and dancing. Once I got pranked by a date and ended up at a fundraiser for the Church of Satan. For a late night snack, Gramophone has superb sandwiches.
91. Microbreweries- St. Louis’s strong legacy of brewing extends beyond Anheuser Busch. There are more than 20 microbreweries in the region. The most popular are Urban Chestnut, Schlafly, and 4Hands. My personal favorite is Side Project in Maplewood which has highest rated beer in the world on Untappd in 2022.
92. Soulard bar scene- Irish bars Molly’s and McGurk´s anchor a very strong scene on weekend nights. The crowd skews towards the yuppie, young 20´s crowd.
93. Venice Café – A most eccentrically decorated bar with live shows most nights
Off the Beaten Path:
94. Endangered Wolf Center in Tyson Research Center- Tours last 90 minutes and can now be booked online.
95. South Broadway Athletics Club (St. Louis Wrestling)- Semi-professional wrestling shows occur about once a month at this historic boxing and wrestling club. Very St. Louis.
96. Bonne Terre Mine underground SCUBA dive- Dive in an enormous abandoned lead mine that has now flooded. Despite being underground, there are no special certifications needed to dive here. Dives are all guided. About 1.25 hours south of St. Louis.
97. Purina Farms / Labadie– Purina, the pet food company, operates a FREE petting zoo, corporate museum, and dog agility arena. Dog shows – which include water jumps – occur twice a day. Then go to a cool local market for an awesome half-day excursion. Combine with Shaw Nature Reserve for a full-day adventure. About 1 hour southwest from St. Louis
98. Lewis and Clark State Historic Site- This is where Lewis and Clark started their legendary journey. The State Park includes a museum and the nearby Confluence Tower (well worth the extra $5). Best to go during the warmer months. About 30 minutes from St. Louis in Illinois.
99. Warm Springs Ranch- This is the white picket-fence farm featured in all the Budweiser Super Bowl commercials.The famous Budweiser clydesdale horses are bred here. Call ahead for reservations. About 2 hours west of St. Louis.
100. St. Genevieve- The oldest town in Missouri contains French colonial homes now run by the National Park Service. About 1.5 hours south of St. Louis.
101. Cementland- Abandoned cement factory partially developed by Bob Cassilly, architect of the City Museum. Technically off-limits to the public so ask me for details/directions before going.