One of the most surprising cities on my Route 66 road trip last year was St. Louis, Missouri! I had no expectations and barely did my research since we were blowing through this town for one night. Well, I fell for St. Louis after 24 hours and promised myself a longer visit the next time I returned.
What is it about St. Louis? I couldn’t put my finger on it but it’s just so hip without trying too hard. The hospitality of the midwest gets me every time. The food, the people, the sites. Again, I left wishing I had more time to at least go on the Budweiser Tour, catch a St. Louis Cardinals game, take a row boat out in Forest Park and visit the St. Louis Art Museum. It’s a city where I think to myself, “I could live here.” That’s how much I love it.
Here are the things I did do and I highly recommend you check out this often underrated city:
St. Louis Union Station – If you’re in the area, this majestic space is definitely worth a peek. The food court and mall attached to it was looking a bit sad, but there is a cute little ‘lake’ where you can rent pedal boats and glide along under the old station roof where trains used to come in. The Hilton hotel inside the station is quite pretty too.
The St. Louis Zoo – The zoo is free admission and ranked one of the top zoos in America – which means there’s no excuse not to go! Locals say that it’s right up there with the San Diego Zoo. I mean look at all these adorable animals.
So I was wondering to myself, “A zoo is a zoo. How can it be so awesome?” Well, the exhibits are so well thought-out and the habitats are so natural and interesting to look at. You follow a path at the start of each ‘land’ and it leads you into the ‘jungle’ with native plants and wildlife. My favourite had to be the arctic-cold penguin exhibit, these cute critters were just hanging out and not behind a glass wall or anything!
The City Museum – You MUST do this! You cannot tell me you went on a trip to St. Louis without visiting The City Museum. It’s one of the BEST and most unique museum playgrounds I have ever been to and I’m an adult. It’s still awesome. Just to give you some insight – everything here is reclaimed and re-purposed for FUN. Whether that be the industrial treehouse/playground at the entrance or the salvaged school bus, ferris wheel and shoe chute-turned-slide on the roof of this old 10-storey shoe warehouse.
You will experience nothing else like this in your life and you can only experience it in St. Louis. The City Museum encourages you to explore and crawl through everything. Wear running shoes and possibly knee pads. It’s the sort of place where you ask, how did they get approved to do this? Is this sort of dangerous but also awesome? YES!
Toasted Ravioli – If you find yourself at a bar or restaurant and you spot Toasted Ravioli on the menu? Order it! It’s a signature St. Louis specialty and you will not be disappointed. It’s breaded and deep-fried ravioli with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top and served with a savoury marinara sauce for dipping. It’s addictive and very filling.
Pappy’s Smokehouse – Looking for some true & authentic St. Louis Barbecue? When I polled the locals, the one word that kept coming out of their mouth was Pappy’s. The ribs, slow smoked pork, chicken and brisket are done up Memphis-style. On the day I went, there was a line-up outside to get into the line-up inside. I waited about 30 minutes in line to order. Once I sat down, my food came within 5 minutes. If you look around at the packed house, you’ll see that it’s worth the wait. Make sure to grab a bottle of local soda by Fitz’s in St. Louis.
Mango Peruvian Cuisine – Came highly recommended by my concierge at the Hyatt Regency and she was SO right about this place. The food, the vibe and ambiance were exactly what I was looking for. Not stuffy and super casual. Start off with a pisco sour and go for the empanadas and tamales to start off this sharing plates tapas menu. Take some time to explore the revitalized Warehouse District where hip bars, restaurants and even a bowling alley line Washington Avenue.
Donut Shops! – If you LOVE donuts and I do…make sure to get thee to one of St. Louis’ delicious donut shops. Because this city loves its donuts too. I really loved the glazed donuts from World’s Fair Donuts and Donut Drive-In on Route 66.
Ted Drewes Frozen Custard – I’m happy to say I tried my first frozen custard here! A local gentleman introduced me to the ‘concrete’ frozen custard – it’s thick and tastes like hard soft serve ice cream + all sorts of delicious. He said chocolate chip was his favourite and he wasn’t wrong. The mix it in with chunks of itty-bitty chips. They know what they’re doing and have been churning out frozen custard since 1929.
Where To Stay – During my first visit to St. Louis I stayed at The Chase Park Plaza. This historic hotel is bursting with character is very close to the park and zoo. If you’re visiting in the summer, there’s a fantastic outdoor pool and a HUGE gym to keep active. I wrote a full-on review about my stay over here.
During my most recent visit, I decided to mix it up a bit and stay right in the heart of downtown St. Louis. I splurged on a room at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch and got an amazing corner unit facing well, The Arch. It’s totally worth it – especially if it’s your first visit to St. Louis. Book your hotel well in advance as the St. Louis Cardinals has a devoted fan-base and when they play, the whole city is sold-out!
Have you been to St. Louis? Did you like it? Any recommendations to share?