My Guide to St. Louis

St. Louis is an amazing city. I think a lot of people don’t realize that (I sure didn’t when we first moved here 16 years ago!). If you’re from St. Louis, you may be so used to the city that you’ve forgotten what makes it great. If you’ve never been here, you may have seen St. Louis’ name pop up on city crime lists, and be scared to visit. Or you may think it’s just flyover country; too small to be cool, and not worth your time.

But St. Louis is an interesting, vibrant city with a unique history. I challenge you to learn more about this town, visit someplace new in the city, or visit the metro area for the first time, and let yourself fall in love with the city that I choose to call home.

What makes St. Louis great?

St. Louis has art. Lots of art, all around. For the city’s 250th birthday, there was a massive public art project in the form of Cakeway to the West…something that would rival anything a big city like New York or Chicago has done. We also have a great (free!) art museum in Forest Park, plus many other galleries sprinkled about town. One of the best sculpture parks in the world is located just west of the city. And art fairs, including one that is regularly ranked as one of the best in the country, can be found throughout the area at different times of the year.

St. Louis has parks. Lots of parks. Small parks here and there, sculpture parks, playgrounds, spray grounds, and a little place called Forest Park, the park that was home to the 1904 World’s Fair and is bigger than New York’s Central Park. If you want to get out and play, or just get out and relax, you don’t have to go far to do so!

St. Louis has sports. Of course, the Cardinals are king, but we have the St. Louis Blues hockey team (yay!). We have two Frontier League baseball teams, as well, and Division II soccer has come to St. Louis! College sports are also popular here, and we even have a cricket league!

St. Louis has schools. Schools cover St. Louis, whether the famed Ittner elementary schools (many of which are now abandoned), private schools, universities, and seminaries. You can learn just about anything here, and you’re in good company….Washington University has students from around the globe!

St. Louis has hospitals. People need hospitals, for happy occasions like childbirths, and sad occasions like accidents, and for every kind of occasion, routine and not-so-routine in between. St. Louis has some great hospitals…teaching hospitals, nationally ranked hospitals, smaller, but well-loved hospitals…and of course, at those hospitals you can find doctors in just about any speciality you can imagine. Should you need medical care, you’re in good hand in St. Louis.

St. Louis has great family attractions (and many of them are free)! Forest Park is a great place to find some of them…the zoo, the Science Center, and the Missouri History Museum. But, there are also places like the City Museum, Grant’s Farm, and Eckert’s Orchards, not to mention the fantastic Magic House in Kirkwood.

St. Louis has 79 unique neighborhoods, plus many suburbs. Each neighborhood and suburb has its own unique story. You can learn about ethnic groups (and their amazing cuisine!) in places like The Hill and the Bevo Mill neighborhood, you can learn local history in places like Dogtown and The Ville. And the people in these places will proudly tell you where they went to high school!

St. Louis has the Delmar Loop. It’s not downtown, but it bustles like a downtown area. There are numerous options for dining and entertainment, festivals, and public art projects, all thanks to a vision Joe Edwards, the “Duke of Delmar” had a few decades back. You can even stroll down the St. Louis Walk of Fame and the Loop Planet Walk along Delmar! It was named one of the “10 Great Streets in America,” and even a quick visit will show you why.

St. Louis has beer! Of course, everyone’s first thought is Annheuser-Busch, but there are so many breweries here. Schlafly, Perennial, Urban Chestnut…they’re all brewing unique beverages that reflect their individual goals! Many of them have tours and tasting rooms or bierhalls, so a visit can turn into not just a chance to fill up a growler, but a full event. And St. Louis has been named the best “bar city” in America, which is at least in part due to the great beer options here.

St. Louis has festivals. There are so many festivals in and around St. Louis all throughout the year…there’s something to appeal to everyone! Whether it’s a craft beer festival, the St. Louis Scottish Games, the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Chinese Culture Days and Japanese Festival, Legends and Lanterns in Historic St. Charles, Oktoberfest in many locations, The Great Forest Park Balloon Race, (which includes an amazing balloon glow the night before!) the Horseradish Festival in Collinsville, Greek Fest (downtown or in West County), or Fair St. Louis, there is always something happening in St. Louis!

St. Louis has monuments. The country’s tallest monument, the Gateway Arch, is easy to spot. But there are also monuments to explorers and presidents and even a French king! Not all of them are without controversy, like the recently removed Confederate monument in Forest Park. Take some time and look around, and see what has been immortalized in the city.

St. Louis has architecture. Some of the beautiful architecture of this city has already been lost to time and the wrecking ball. But much of it still stands, and you need only to slow down, look up, and enjoy the brick-built beauty of the city. We even have our own “Painted Ladies” in the Lafayette Square area!

St. Louis has Christmas. A whole book has been written about Christmas in St. Louis, because it’s such an amazing time of year in the city. From historical displays at the Old Courthouse, to amazing light displays at Tilles Park and the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, a German Christmas market on the town square in Belleville, and festivals like the day-long Christmas on The Hill, or the season-long Christmas Traditions in St. Charles, St. Louis does Christmas right!

St. Louis has history. Some of the earliest American history can be found in the St. Louis area at Cahokia Mounds. Did you know that in nearby (but unrelated to the Mounds) Cahokia, you can find a Revolutionary War Memorial, dedicated to George Rogers Clark’s Illinois campaign? There are Civil War veterans buried on both sides of the river, and many historic cemeteries of all kinds throughout the region. St. Louis’ history and the country’s history are so tied together, from the colonial age to the space age, that you can’t really separate them…and why would you want to?

St. Louis has food. There is great food in St. Louis, whether you’re looking for an amazing burger (Hint: Go to Seamus McDaniel’s), a local favorite like toasted ravioli, amazing BBQ, or a four-course dinner. There are great neighborhood restaurants, a whole neighborhood known for its restaurants (The Hill…some of the best Italian food you’ll find anywhere!), upscale and trendy places, and great frozen custard at Ted Drewes. But St. Louis also has great Farmer’s Markets, like the one in Soulard which dates back to 1779, where you can purchase local food to prepare yourself. There are also great orchards where you can pick your own fruit and even vegetables if you’re longing for a “day in the country!”

St. Louis has shopping. Outlet malls, strip malls (including the longest in America!), upscale malls, regular malls…but that’s just the beginning. There are also cool local shops (including those on “America’s Longest Main Street” in nearby Belleville), great grocery stores, and popular destination places, like The Lego Store and the long-awaited and highly-anticipated IKEA store! If shopping is your thing, St. Louis is a great place to be.

St. Louis has rivers… Too many rivers, for those of us that hate bridges. But the rivers around here (including the Mississippi and Missouri, but also the Meramec, Illinois and Kaskaskia, to name a few), have a whole life of their own. Barges and boats, fishermen, people running, hiking, and biking by the river’s edge, and great wildlife in abundance. The rivers are an important part of St. Louis’ history, as well as its present and future…there’s even a tower built by the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, where you can get a bird’s-eye view of the mighty waters!

St. Louis has culture. If you’re looking for culture, the St. Louis area has plenty to offer, from the St. Louis Symphony at Powell Hall and a ballet company that calls the Touhill Performing Arts Center home, to  theaters large and small, as well as outdoor and drive-in, to the Botanical Garden and its offerings from around the world. There are ethnic festivals celebrating the homelands of the varied residents of the city, and even ethnic architecture, built as a tribute to a far away country.

St. Louis has music. There are so many musical offerings in St. Louis, from the St. Louis Symphony, to the Bach Society of St. Louis, to famous pop artists that have concerts at various venues around town, from small (The Pageant) to large (Scottrade Center). Did you know the second oldest continually operating orchestra in the U.S. (the Belleville Philharmonic Society), is in the Metro-East? If you can’t find a musical event to suit your tastes in St. Louis, you’re just not looking very hard!

St. Louis has churches. There are many “first west of the Mississippi” churches in the St. Louis area, and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod was born here. Just about any denomination or religion you can think of is represented in a congregation large or small, and a variety of architectural styles are also found at the various houses of worship around town. The Cathedral Basilica even hosts one of the largest mosaic collections in the world!

St. Louis has seasons. Our winters may be relatively mild, but we do have four distinct seasons in St. Louis, and there are different things to appreciate about each, whether it’s a beautiful snow-covered scene in the winter, a field of flowers in the spring, the bright days of summer, or the majestic colors of autumn…we’ve got it all covered! And, if you must, we’ve even got the construction season, too, usually found on the area’s many bridges!

St. Louis has people. Obvious, right. But there’s just something about the people who live in the Midwest, whether the town is big or small, that’s just nice. Even with all the different ethnic backgrounds represented here, you still get that lovely Midwest feeling…saying hi to folks on the street, appreciating doors being held for you, community gatherings of all kinds.

Is St. Louis perfect? Of course not…no place is. But the imperfection is part of the story, and I can’t imagine wanting to call any other place home!

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