Having completed over 95 items on St. Louis Magazine’s 101 Things To Do in St. Louis plus a couple other things, I feel justified in creating a list of what I think are the 101 most worthwhile things to do in St. Louis.
Note: The links on each item go to the website of each site. If you want to read my commentary on completed Bucket List items: click here.
Without further ado, here is the list:
The Big 3:
1. Cardinals Opening Day– an unofficial public holiday in St. Louis. Get there early to see the Clydesdales and the fanfare.
2. Gateway Arch– go to the top, no excuses. Open during the construction. The new visitor center opens in July 2018 (hopefully).
3. Anheuser Busch Brewery Tour– Where Budweiser is made. They have a variety of tour options. The free tour must be reserved onsite and includes free beer samples. The Brewmaster tour ($35) 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– if you know St. Louis high schools then you know St. Louis.
5. Missouri History Museum– understand St. Louis’ rich history- the 250 exhibit is fantastic
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
Links are suggested walking routes on Google Maps
7. Downtown: Citygarden, Old Post Office, Wainwright Building, Federal Reserve, Wash Ave, Laclede’s Landing, blues clubs on Broadway
8. Central West End: cool restaurants, Chess Hall of Fame, Barnes-Jewish Hospital aka largest employer in STL, yuppie bars, big Halloween party
9. South Grand– Tower Grove park, Tower Grove Farmer’s Market, Jay’s International Foods, “ethnic” restaurants, great ice cream and gelato
10. Delmar Loop– Restaurants, Fitz’s, Tivoli theater, The Pageant concert venue, Pi Pizza, street performers, Chuck Berry statue, great people watching, Ice Carnival
11. The Grove– bars, good restaurants, cool murals
12. Cherokee Street– antique shops, Mexican restaurants, El Torito market, STL STyLe, hipster concert venues
13. Soulard (not during Mardi Gras): Farmer’s Market (Saturday is the best day), good bar scene, unique French architecture
14. The Ville/Greater Ville: The heart of North St. Louis, Homer G. Phillips hospital, Sumner High School, Fairground Park (check out the old bear pits), go with a buddy
15. Main Street St. Charles: cobblestone street, cool shops, historic buildings, Missouri’s first capitol building, Lewis and Clark campsite
Museums and Indoorsy Stuff
16. Scott Joplin House- check out the piano on the first floor
17. Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site– only home owned by the 18th President. Can bike here along Grant’s Trail. Across the street from Grant’s Farm.
18. Old Courthouse– famous as the starting place of the Dread Scott Case- the court here actually ruled in favor of the Scotts. Also check out the recently redesigned Keiner Plaza for a great view of the Arch.
19. Museum of the Dog– only displays art of dogs. You can bring your dog here. The museum is moving in mid-2018 so go now!
20. Compton Hill Water Tower and other water towers on Grand– there are only 7 left in the country. 3 are in St. Louis and all happen to be on the same street
21. Museum of Transportation– lots of rare trains and cars
22. Saratoga Lanes bowling alley- it’s upstairs
23. Lemp Mansion– haunted Bed and Breakfast. They serve lunch. Ghost tours on Monday nights.
24. National Blues Museum- This new museum is dedicated to the famed music genre and it’s effect on American culture.
Outdoorsy stuff in the Metro Area:
26. Malcolm Martin Park in East St. Louis for the postcard view of the city skyline
27. Confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers- meeting of continent’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 near the confluence tower.
28. Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO World Heritage Site)- Largest Native American mounds in the country. Great visitor center/museum.
29. Floodwall– A large mile-plus stretch of murals. Gets repainted every so often in an event called Paint Louis.
30. Lone Elk County Park/ World Bird Sanctuary– unique hour-long hike where you are almost guaranteed to see elk and bison. Bird sanctuary is across the street.
31. Hiking somewhere not named Castlewood State Park– Castlewood is nice but super 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- tours are run by the Army Corps of Engineers. Can call ahead to see if a boat is going to pass through.
33. Creve Couer Lake– go kayaking on the largest natural lake in Missouri
34. Laumiere Sculpture Park- beautiful sculpture park in the suburb of Kirkwood
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:
37. Day in the Ozarks: Elephant Rocks / Johnson’s Shut-ins– Bring swim trunks and hiking shoes. If you’ve done this, check out Taum Sauk Mountain, the highest point in Missouri. About 90 minutes-2 hours from St. Louis
38. Shaw Nature Reserve– take the wagon tour for full effect. About an hour from St. Louis.
39. Meramec Caverns– cool cave formations with just the right amount of Ozark tackiness. About an 75 minutes from St. Louis
40. Bald Eagle Watching in Clarksville, MO- the festival is in late-January, but the eagles are there all winter. Bring binoculars if you’re not there for the festival. About an hour from St. Louis
41. Great River Road/Pere Marquette State Park- (go in the fall), also check out the Piasa bird just past Alton. About an hour from St. Louis
42. Wine Country– Rent bikes in Defiance and go along the Katy Trail to Augusta 7 miles away. Fun fact: Missouri has the country’s first and oldest AVA or “wine region”. About an hour from St. Louis
43. Hidden Valley Ski Area– would recommend tubing over skiing here. About 45 minutes from St. Louis
44. Blues hockey game– Let’s Go Blues!!! Compared to other NHL franchises, the fans are loud. They have student nights- $25 tickets which includes a t-shirt or hat
45. Kirkwood-Webster Thanksgiving Day football game– oldest high school football rivalry in the country. The play at high noon on Thanksgiving Day. Tickets to the actual game are hard to find, but you can watch it on TV.
46. College Basketball game: SLU, 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! MIZ
48. SLU soccer game– one of the most storied teams in NCAA soccer
49. Minor League Baseball game– River City Rascals or Gateway Grizzlies. Look out for ridiculous giveaways between innings.
50. The Fabulous Fox Theater– the interior is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Has an identical twin in Detroit. If you can’t see a show there, they have a great tour.
51. The MUNY – See musicals during the summer. 1,500 free seats to every show
52. St. Louis Symphony at Powell Hall– Beautiful building in Grand Center. They occasionally screen classic movies with the symphony playing the soundtrack.
53. Jazz at the Bistro– awesome historic venue for live jazz. They serve food, too! Tickets often sell out a week or more in advance.
54. Loufest – 2-day music festival in Forest Park. Same owners as Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits.
55. Blues Cruise – on an old fashioned riverboat once a month during the summer and fall. Essentially a mobile version of the Blues clubs with fantastic views of the Arch and downtown STL. Go and you won’t be disappointed.
56. Soulard Mardi Gras– not the day to sleep in. Arrive at 11 for the parade.
57. Dogtown St. Patrick’s Day and 5-mile downtown run- There is also a parade downtown, but the Dogtown Parade is the most authentic. The run is held Downtown and is one of the most spirited and hilarious races you will ever see.
58. Fourth of July aka Fair St. Louis– single biggest event in St. Louis. There is a large free concert under the Arch. Past performers include Maroon 5, Trace Adkins, Poison. The Eads Bridge is closed to cars for the weekend. There is also an air show. Its crazy.
59. Forest Park Balloon Glow- See the balloons up close with the masses. Only 2 hours long. The balloon race the next day is also fun
60. Theater Scene: Some popular theaters include: The Black Rep, Stray Dog (my fave), Rep. Theater, New Jewish Theater, Dramatic License
61. Cathedral Basilica– In the Central West End. Reportedly the largest collection of mosaics in the country, perhaps the world. It’s stunningly beautiful.
62. Pink Sisters at Mount Grace Convent- hear them break their daily silence and sing the evening vespers at 5pm every day
63. Hindu temple– they are closed in the afternoon from 12-5.
64. Bellefontaine Cemetery– one of the most famous cemeteries in the USA. Most of the famous St. Louis families have real estate here.
65. Shrine of St. Joseph- The church is beautiful and praying at the Altar of Answered Prayers will apparently make you immune to cholera. Can’t hurt.
Kid-friendly, but fun for everyone:
66. City Museum– the greatest playground in the world. 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– watch out for the pygmy goats. Can combine with #53 Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site.
69. Missouri Botanical Gardens– one of the country’s premier botanical gardens. Great in all seasons. If you’re missing warm weather during the winter, head to the Climatron.
70. Circus Flora– homegrown 1-ring circus during the month of June. Haven’t been but I’m putting this one on the list based on recommendations
71. Faust Park in Chesterfield– Butterfly House and St. Louis Carousel.
72. Bob Kramer’s Marionettes- creating marionettes and performing for over 45 years! Hidden gem.
73. Apple picking at Eckert’s– 3 locations. Belleville is the original, but Millstadt has more attractions.
74. ThurtenE Carnival– yeah I’m a bit biased, but it has been around for over 100 years. Rides, student-built structures, and food.
75. Ted Drewes Frozen Custard– more than just an ice cream place, Ted Drewes is a St. Louis/Route 66 landmark. Eating their pre-packaged custard doesn’t count. Closed January to Valentine’s Day.
76. Bar-B-Que- Surprisingly, STL does not have a long history of BBQ, but it is now a top 5 BBQ city in the US. Pappy’s or Bogarts are the undisputed champs, but Sugarfire, Roper’s, PM BBQ and Adams are also good
77. Crown Candy Kitchen- 100 year-old soda fountain. Anchor of the Old North neighborhood.
78. The Hill– go anywhere for good Italian food. Gioia’s Deli recently was awarded a James Beard Award
79. Wednesday Lebanese lunch at St. Raymond’s Marionite Church – Francis Slay, the former mayor of St. Louis, is Lebanese and goes to this lunch.
80. Friday fish fry at St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church during Lent– fish fry with a Mexican twist.
81. Whittmond Hotel in Brussels, IL– take the Golden Eagle ferry from St. Charles, then enjoy a beautiful country drive through remote Calhoun County, Illinois. Restaurant is in historic hotel from 1840’s and serves Amish/German traditional fare family-style for cheap. Definitely an adventure.
82. Café Madeline at Palm Piper House– best Sunday brunch spot in STL. Reservations required.
83. Lulu Seafood/Asian Markets on Olive– authentic Chinese. Dim sum on weekends
84. Imo’s Pizza– multiple locations –if you like it, you are a true St. Louisan
85. Donut scene- For some reason, St. Louis has avoided the large donut chains and has kept a vibrant local scene. Favorites include: John Donut, World’s Fair, Donut-Drive In, Strange Donuts, Southtown
86. Fast Eddie’s Bon Air in Alton, Illinois- Legendary dive bar. Fantastic advertising. The Big Elwood steak kabob is delicious.
87. Ballpark Village- entertainment zone past left field. Dueling piano bar, country bar, Cardinals Hall of Fame (go during the daytime), and a large central area. Very fun on game days and for going out.
89. Line dancing at Wild Country or Electric Cowboy – best people watching in the entire metro area, Wednesdays are the busiest night
90. Microbreweries- Urban Chesnut, Schlafly, 4Hands, Civil Life, Square One, Perennial, Side Project (my favorite)…. 22 in all.
91. Mike Talayna’s Juke Box- A former strip club is now a bar with at least 100 disco balls and a DJ using an iPod shuffle from the year 2005. Go early for karaoke, but the real scene starts around midnight.
Off the Beaten Path:
93. Endangered Wolf Sanctuary in Tyson Research Center– call to arrange a tour
94. South Broadway Athletics Club (St. Louis Wrestling)– semi-professional wrestling once a month
95. Bonne Terre Mine underground SCUBA dive– One of National Geographic’s 10 Greatest Adventures in America. Because it’s underground, you can dive all year. About 75 minutes from St. Louis.
96. Purina Farms / Labadie– see dogs jump 25 feet into the water then go to a cool local market for an awesome half-day excursion. Can combine with Shaw Nature Reserve for a full-day adventure. About an hour from St. Louis
97. Lewis and Clark State Historic Site– In Illinois where Lewis and Clark started their journey. 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.
98. Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos– hand built by a Polish monk in the 1930’s. South of Eureka about 45 minutes from St. Louis.
99. Warm Springs Ranch in Booneville aka home of the baby Clydesdales. This is the white picket-fence farm featured in all the Budweiser Super Bowl commercials. Yeah its actually closer to Kansas City than St. Louis, but well worth the drive. Maybe stop in Fulton, Columbia, or Jefferson City to make it a full-day adventure. Call ahead for reservations. About 2 hours from St. Louis.
100. St. Genevieve– oldest town in Missouri. French colonial architecture. About 90 minutes from St. Louis.
101. Cementland- abandoned cement factory partially developed by the architect of the City Museum. Ask me for details/directions before going on this adventure.