In the classic musical, Meet Me In St. Louis, Judy Garland plays Esther, one of four daughters in a family excitedly anticipating the upcoming 1904 World's Fair. Since then, the Gateway Arch – not even a twinkle in architect Eero Saarinen’s eye at that time – has become the symbol of St. Louis.
Yet, there are so many other places to visit in this vibrant city. Here are the ones that would likely inspire Esther to repeat her famous last line of the Oscar-nominated film: "I can't believe it. Right here where we live. Right here in St. Louis."
Budweiser Clydesdales — Photo courtesy of Anheuser-Busch
One of the most popular brewery tours in the country, this behind-the-scenes look at how some of your favorite beers are made is a blast. You'll get a sense of the company's history and the technology that's helped it grow into the world's largest brewer. Plus, you'll get to taste the goods.
You can also check out the three National Historic Landmarks, enjoy a meal in the Biergarten and spend some time “ooh”-ing and “ah”-ing over the gorgeous Budweiser Clydesdales. Visit their stables and, if you’re lucky, you just might see them getting groomed or playing out in the grass.
2. City Museum
City Museum — Photo courtesy of City Museum
Calling this amazing space simply a museum doesn’t even begin to describe all the fascinating objects – many of them salvaged from well-known landmarks – that you can see, climb, touch and crawl through.
Step into the school bus hanging precariously off the roof, take a ride on the Ferris Wheel while you’re up there, then head back down via the 10-story slide. With treehouses, real airplanes, the world’s largest pencil and dozens of other treasures you have to experience for yourself, this extraordinary place is a must-visit for all ages.
3. Ted Drewes
Ted Drewes frozen custard — Photo courtesy of Missouri Division of Tourism
Sure, you can get your kicks on Route 66 but you can also get a Ted Drewes “concrete." Thick and creamy and served in a signature yellow cup with both a spoon and a straw, this frozen vanilla custard has been a St. Louis staple for more than 80 years.
Custom mix in everything from lime to marshmallow but definitely try one of the specialties, like the Hawaiian (pineapple, macadamia nuts, coconut and bananas) or the Dottie (light chocolate, macadamia nuts and mint).
4. Missouri Botanical Garden
Missouri Botanical Garden — Photo courtesy of Andrea Androuais
Founded in 1859, this is the oldest Botanical Garden in the United States and it's been designated a Historic National Landmark. It’s also a beautiful spot to relax and take in the scenery.
In addition to more than 50,000 plants, it contains stunning glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly, one of the largest Japanese gardens in North America, and The Climatron, the first geodesic dome to be used as a conservatory.
5. Missouri History Museum
Missouri History Museum — Photo courtesy of Missouri History Museum
If history was presented in school as creatively as it’s presented here, we would all be so much smarter. Exhibits are always well-curated, invitingly interactive and just plain fun.
6. EAT Saint Louis Food Tours
EAT St. Louis Food Tour — Photo courtesy of EAT St. Louis Food Tours
What better way to get a taste of The Hill, a neighborhood famous for its authentic Italian cuisine, than on a food tour?
Local founder and chief guide Pete Manzo, a.k.a. “The Sausage King,” shares his vast knowledge of the area’s rich history as you sample St. Louis pizza at Guido’s, the Italian Stallion sandwich at J. Viviano & Sons, cured meats at Volpi Salumeria, toasted ravioli at Mama Toscano’s, cannoli at Amighetti’s and gelato at Gelato Di Riso – arguably the best gelato outside of Rome.
7. St. Charles
Main Street, St. Charles — Photo courtesy of Greater St. Charles Missouri Convention and Visitors Bureau
Drive a half hour outside of St. Louis and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. This charming community located on the banks of the Missouri River has been, as its city motto claims, “historically awesome since 1769.” Walk along the ten brick-paved blocks of Main Street, lined with more than 125 unique shops, museums and restaurants, then pose for a photo at the Lewis & Clark statue.
Come in December for a traditional holiday celebration, filled with characters, candy canes and collectible cards, and treat yourself to a five-star stay at Boone’s Colonial Inn.
8. River City Casino & Hotel
River City Casino — Photo courtesy of River City Casino
Overlooking the mighty Mississippi, this stunning seven-story hotel is renowned for its impeccable service and rooms featuring little luxuries like rain showerheads and vanishing mirror TVs. It also boasts a world-class casino, top-name entertainment and a variety of dining options including the 1904 Steakhouse – a nod to the 1904 World Fair – and the Great Food Exposition buffet.
Pork ribs at Boundary — Photo courtesy of Boundary
St. Louis has become a real foodie town with so many great choices, you may have to eat an extra meal or two. Head to Hendricks BBQ for signature St. Louis ribs or Café Osage for a true farm-to-table experience. Lunch at Panorama at the Saint Louis Art Museum is as pretty as it is tasty, and any meal at Tavolo V in the Delmar Loop is a treat for the senses.
Stop at the King Cat Club at Ameristar Casino Resort for unique cocktails and appetizers, then end the evening with dinner at Boundary, which offers a modern interpretation of comfort food that takes the classics to a whole new, sophisticated level.
10. Gateway Arch Riverboat Cruises
Gateway Arch Riverboat Cruise — Photo courtesy of Gateway Arch Riverboat Cruises
Okay, you can’t visit St. Louis without at least admiring the Gateway Arch, and the best view can be found on a riverboat cruise along the Mississippi River. The Becky Thatcher and the Tom Sawyer are replica 19th-century paddle-wheel riverboats that were brought to St. Louis in 1964 so people could get a close-up preview of the Arch as it was being constructed.
Today, they offer a perfect look at the modern city skyline as well as a nostalgic glimpse into the past.