St. Louis is the Gateway to the West — it’s got the famed arch and the official nickname, after all. This Midwestern metropolis is filled with diversity and culture and is a great place to visit for a weekend trip. There’s a lot to see, do, and eat in this bustling town. Bonus: it has also been said that the amount of free activities offered in St. Louis puts it at number two in the nation for budget-friendly places to visit. For your weekend trip inspiration, use this guide that offers tips to two St. Louis museums, suggestions on some of the city’s best outdoor sights, and foodie-friendly insights to some of the best restaurants in town. Let’s explore.
Not Your Ordinary Museum
The gift shop at the City Museum sells kneepads, and you’ll probably want to buy them. This is not a museum of high culture and things you can’t touch. On the contrary, this St. Louis gem could be categorized as a giant playground for both young and old. Prepare to climb, crawl, and explore on your hands and knees in this 600,000-square-foot funhouse that consists of repurposed architectural and industrial objects and was once the home of the International Shoe Company warehouse. Inside you’ll see salvaged architectural elements like chimneys and bridges, along with vehicles — real airplanes and school buses — and construction machines like cranes. All items have been repurposed to create interactive experiences that visitors won’t forget. Make your way through a giant jungle gym and a 10-story corkscrew slide, which starts in a man-made cave. Far from being just a children’s paradise, adults flock here too, which is why it’s open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Now, this is a traditional art museum, with — bonus — free entrance. The St. Louis Art Museum has contemporary paintings and sculptures, ancient art, armor and arms, and everything in between. The museum owns more than 33,000 works, so there’s always something more to see. It is located in Forest Park, one of the country’s largest urban parks at 1,293 acres. You’ll find a few other museums in the park, as well as the St. Louis Zoo, a golf course, skating rink, and The Muny, the largest outdoor musical theater venue in the country.
Gems ‘Round Town
You can’t visit St. Louis without visiting the Gateway Arch, at least if you’re a first timer. Did you know that you can actually climb up the 630-foot structure? From the inside, of course. The Gateway Arch is the tallest manmade monument in the U.S., and the four-minute enclosed tram ride takes you to an observation deck where you can see 30 miles on a good day.
In the heart of downtown St. Louis, the Citygarden is a great place to just wander and grab a bite to eat. Spanning two blocks, this city-owned site is a landscaping and art oasis, where you might find kids splashing about in the spray plaza, a waterpad with 102 computer-controlled spray jets and custom lighting. Look for sculptures by Keith Haring, Jim Dine, Fernand Leger, Mark di Suvero, and others.
Must Try Food
At the Soulard Farmer’s Market, you’ll find locals shopping for their evening salad and steak to grill, but you can get a bite at one of the many grab-and-go restaurants, bakeries, spice shops, and snack venues that are great stops even if you are a tourist. The market goes back to 1779, although its current Renaissance building location has been its home since 1929.
St. Louis is known for BBQ, so make sure to schedule at least one stop for some finger-licking ribs. The place to go is Pappy’s Smokehouse, even though they serve Memphis-style BBQ. They do sell out, so don’t leave this meal for the end of the day. You’ll find Pappy’s in mid-town.
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