People often compare St. Louis to its bigger cousin, Chicago. But we just don’t think that’s fair, and think the “Gateway to the West” is actually a hidden gem with its vibrant cultural scene and its wealth of free attractions. We know all big cities can get a bit touristy, so here’s our list of the best things to do a little bit off the beaten path.
1. St. Louis Zoo
Okay, so we admit this one isn’t too far off the beaten path, but who could pass up a free zoo? This zoo is recognized as one of the best in America for research and conservation, and has a whopping 6,600 animals and 15 major exhibits. Locals say be sure to see the big cats and the sea lion show; and plan to stay awhile, as it’s a huge zoo!
2. Visit the Loop: The Hipster Capital of St. Louis
The Delmar Loop got its name from a former streetcar loop in the area, but now it’s home to more than 154 restaurants, specialty shops, entertainment venues and art galleries. The Loop has been dubbed one of the top 10 streets in America, and if you visit this eclectic street, you’ll quickly learn why.
3. Get Your Church On at Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis
If you’re a history buff (or just enjoy killer architecture), this is the place for you. This cathedral was completed in 1914 and was designated a basilica in 1997 by Pope John Paul II. And while it’s gorgeous on the outside, the real showstopper is inside, where you’ll find one of the largest mosaic installations in the Western Hemisphere. Who knew, St. Louis?
4. Anheuser-Busch Brewery
We’ve got two words for you: Beer. Horses. Take one of many specialty tours of the historic brewery where Budweiser is made. Hop on the Day Fresh Tour for just $10 and enjoy some beer samples after paying a visit to Budweiser’s famous Clydesdales.
5. Do the Tourist Thing and Go Up in the Gateway Arch
Sometimes it’s fun to do the tourist thing, and the Arch is just super cool. It’s the world’s tallest arch and the tallest man-made object in the Western Hemisphere. Sit in a spaceage-like capsule that swings you like a Ferris wheel before you reach the observation area at the top.
6. Pub Crawl in Soulard
With plenty of bars and pubs, Soulard is known for its pub crawls. Walk among the living dead during Soulard’s annual Zombie Pub Crawl, or get your Mardi Gras pub crawl on during one of the biggest Mardi Gras parties in America.
7. See a Game in the New Busch Stadium
Busch Stadium is home to the St. Louis Cardinals, the city’s Major League Baseball team. The “new” stadium opened in 2006, but phase 1 of Ballpark Village opened in 2014. The three-story Ballpark Village boasts a hall of fame museum as well as the Cardinal Nation restaurant. With the iconic arch in the background, fans have some of the best ballpark views in the world.
8. Fuel Your Artsy Side at One of St. Louis’ Many Museums
If you don’t “get” modern art, head on over to the (free!) St. Louis Art Museum. Here you’ll see masterpieces from the likes of Matisse, Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh. Or visit St. Louis’ Contemporary Art Museum to experience new and modern art.