Start your day with a lovingly made espresso drink at Kayak’s Coffee on the corner of Forest Park Parkway and Skinker Avenue. Sit among Washington University students and observe the outdoor themed décor at one of the staples of the local specialty coffee shop culture.
Tip: Ask for the featured espresso blend of the month.
Next head down the street to the giant green space in the center of St. Louis. Twice the size of New York’s Central Park, Forest Park is home to the local’s favorite spot for prom and wedding pictures, also known as the Grand Basin. In the summertime rent a paddleboat for $17/hr and get closer to the action. Moonlight paddle boat picnics are available Thursday evenings June-September. Or join the locals lounging on Art Hill to view the Grand Basin from above among picnickers and kite fliers. In the wintertime go ice skating at the outdoor Steinberg Skating Rink next to Jefferson Lake for $7 all day admission, $5 skate rental. Otherwise explore this massive park by car or on foot and you’ll be sure to stumble upon something unexpected.
Then move west to explore The Loop on foot. Start by refreshing yourself at Fitz’s Root Beer with a bottomless chilled mug at the bar for $3.29. From there you can watch the bottling process of their local sodas. Next walk down the street to Mission Taco for lunch. Make sure to stop along the way to meander through indie stores like Vintage Vinyl, Sunshine Daydream and Subterranean Books. Keep an eye on the stars of the St. Louis Walk of Fame on the sidewalk. When you arrive start with the Carne Asada Fries appetizer before ordering a mix of their individual tacos for about $3 each.
Tip: The brunch, lunch and dinner options at these restaurants can be extremely large. St. Louis is full of great food you don’t want to miss so make sure to split entrees so you can get to them all.
On the other side of Forest Park is the Central West End. Start at Cathedral Basilica making sure to get there before closing time at 5pm. This impressive church, filled with mosaics and housing a crypt, can seat up to 5,000 people. On your way to Maryland Avenue stop by the small peace garden on Taylor Avenue. Pass the World’s Largest Chess Piece and soak in the lively night atmosphere of Maryland Ave.
For dinner head to Charlie Gitto’s on The Hill, the Italian district of St. Louis. Gitto’s is rumored to be the birthplace of the St. Louis tradition known as toasted ravioli. You may even run into a Charlie Gitto himself.
Next head down to South Grand to finish your day with gelato. Squeezed between ethnic restaurants is Gelateria del Leone. Grab a jasmine tea with your gelato and head out back to the secluded outdoor patio or wander upstairs to sit in the homely living room style quarters.
St. Louisians takes their brunch seriously and you can experience this at Half n Half in Clayton. Order the Cho-Tonic to drink, a combination of tonic water cold brew coffee and orange peel, while not always on the menu the genial Midwestern employees will most likely make it for you anyway.
Next head down to the riverfront to see The Arch, the monument that gives St. Louis its nickname as “Gateway to the West”. The tallest arch in the world and the tallest man-made monument in the United States, it’s enough to gaze at the Arch from the outside. However, you can also head inside to learn more about Missouri history and westward expansion in the lower level museum or take a ride to the top in a small cart and gaze out at the city from above. The ride to the top is $10 for 16+, $5 for 15 and under.
For lunch head over to Crown Candy Kitchen, the quintessential Midwestern diner. Locals line up in a queue that sometimes wraps around the block to get their famous malt. Sit in a mini booth surrounded by vintage Coca-Cola signs and order one of many hearty sandwiches for $5-$9.
Move on the Anheuser Busch brewery to take a complimentary tour complete with Clydesdale stables and of course beer. Then head over to the similarly named Busch Stadium, home of the Cardinals, to see the heart of St. Louis culture. If you can’t catch a game make sure to at least check it out from the outside or take a tour. Next door is the new Ballpark Village, an area of bars with indoor and outdoor mega screens to view the games and even additional stadium seating.
Head over to the Soulard district for the evening starting with Pappy’s Smokehouse for dinner. Memphis style barbecue, Pappy’s serves many a returning local for around $10-$15 for a large-portioned dinner.
Dessert can be found down the street at Sweet Divine, featured on the Food Network show Cupcake Wars. Starting for as little as $1.50 (mini size) you can dive into a cookie-dough filled cupcake or try one of their dozens of other flavors.
Finish your evening with a live performance. In the summertime make a visit to The Muny in Forest Park, America’s largest outdoor musical theater. They offer free seats in the back as well as tickets that increase in price the closer you get to the stage. Or head back downtown to the Old Rock House for a concert in this intimate bar/music venue.
Getting There and Around
Lambert St. Louis International Airport is 12 miles northwest of downtown. You can get downtown via car, taxi, bus, metrolink or shuttle. If you arrive by Amtrak train the St. Louis station is located downtown.
Tip: St. Louis is a very spread out city composed of many unique neighborhoods that can be far apart. I would highly recommend renting a car for your stay as walking from place to place, even between metro stops, is not always short in distance or even safe depending on the time of night and your location. It’s a very car-friendly city with lots of parking options and driving is definitely the most efficient and safe way to get around.