By Kristine Hansen | Photos courtesy St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission
If, on your last St. Louis jaunt, you only saw photos of Clydesdales on Anheuser-Busch’s brewery tour or squeezed into the tiny elevator ascending to the top of the Gateway Arch, it’s time to return. In recent years, Missouri’s second-largest city has embraced its urban roots with new boutique hotels, celeb-chef-run restaurants and attractions you definitely won’t find anywhere else.
Last July the Gateway Arch (the world’s tallest man-made monument) debuted green space along the banks of the Mississippi River, based on the late architect Eero Saarinen’s designs,
that connects the attraction by foot to downtown St. Louis. (Before, you had to cross a highway.) Now you can bicycle, walk or jog. Another recent update is a new museum name and concept: 46,000 square feet added to the former Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and the Museum of Westward Expansion, now called Gateway Arch National Park and Museum at the Gateway Arch.
Like most metro areas, St. Louis is a city of neighborhoods. That means there are distinct personalities in each. Troll for antiques—from vintage dresses at Ace of Hearts Vintage or Cherry Bomb Vintage to architectural salvage at Riverside Architectural Antiques—along six blocks of Cherokee Street, St. Louis’ official Antique Row. Bites on the street include cupcakes at Whisk: A Sustainable Bakeshop or a soup-and-sandwich combo at The Mud House, where vintage typewriters and original art comprise the décor.
Another bustling neighborhood is the Delmar Loop in University City, home to vinyl-record shops and fusion-ethnic eats such as Seoul Taco, plus live-music spots like Blueberry Hill, showcasing local and visiting blues musicians. For a taste of St. Louis’ signature toasted ravioli (breaded and deep-fried to deliciousness), head to The Hill, which is the city’s Italian neighborhood. Mama’s on the Hill is an institution, having been in business since the 1940s. Another must-eat while in St. Louis is its gooey butter cake, not difficult to find on dessert menus or at bakeries.
If you love Wisconsin craft beers and ciders—but are curious about what the rest of the Midwest is doing—a new arrival is Brick River Cider’s tasting room, open since the fall of 2018. Another ground- breaking brewery is Schafly, which operates a tap room within an historic building. Sample through the sudsy lineup—from Northeast IPA to Chocolate Stout—on your visit.
And while there’s nothing to knock about the world-class art (from hand- woven Turkish rugs among the finest in the world, to works by Pablo Picasso and Chuck Close) at the Saint Louis Art Museum (plus admission is free), City Museum is definitely off the beaten path. Open since 1997, and based on the ingenious ideas of founder Bob Cassilly, salvaged products from around the country— such as a Chicago bank’s two 3,000-pound vault doors—are reimagined into playful fun for all ages. Yes, you really can climb into that treehouse or walk into a retired jet.
If weather during your St. Louis trip is sunny, check out the city’s two sculpture gardens. Citygarden is right downtown and adjacent to the glass-walled café location for Kaldi’s (a coffee roaster), featuring works by sculptors who include Keith Haring and Mark di Suvero. Twenty minutes by car from downtown lies Laumeier Sculpture Park, home to around 70 works that you’ll want to whip out your smartphone for. Bring your hiking shoes because the trails take you into picturesque woods. Both sculpture parks are free to access.
Washington Avenue downtown used to be the shoe manufacturing hub. This spring, the 142- room The Last Hotel opens within the former International Shoe Co.
warehouse. Rooms feature tiled walk-in showers and original barrel ceilings. Saint Louis Fashion Fund, a fashion incubator next door, attracts budding designers from around the country.
Tucked into Angad Arts Hotel—a unique property where each of the 146 rooms’ colors are designed to tap into certain moods—is St. Louis’ first David Burke restaurant. Inventive dishes at Grand Tavern range from Burke’s signature “bacon on a mini clothesline” to BBQ brisket with truffle mac and cheese “toast.”
To view more Midwest destinations, read our City Sojourns.