Visitors to St. Louis are greeted by the sight of the Gateway Arch, an icon that offers glorious views of the city, but on ground level there are a number of other attractions and museums that set the city apart. Forest Park is the sprawling jewel of St. Louis, and has a zoo, art museum, history museum, and miles of natural beauty.
Nature and animal lovers can also check out Grant’s Farm, home to more than 100 species or they can wander through the calming, Missouri Botanical Garden, which also hosts a number of unique shows and special events. Those who want to unwind with a good pint should check out a tour at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour (and beer garden), or get a cold one and a hot dog at the Busch Stadium, the home of the St. Louis Cardinals.
For stunning architecture, a visit to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis is in order, where the beautiful mosaics are sure to amaze travelers. Aviation enthusiasts and those looking to get off-the-beaten path will find an under-the-radar gem just outside the city: the Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum
We have sorted through the city’s wide variety of offerings and present this list of favorite attractions in the St. Louis area.
Historic Aircraft Resoration Museum.
While aviation history in St. Louis has been synonymous with Charles Lindbergh, aviation enthusiasts looking to dig deeper should stop by this under-the-radar museum just outside the city. Surrounded by cornfields and a pick-your-own farm, Creve Couer’s Airport museum may be the city’s best kept secret. The airport houses four hangers that contain a total of 49 vintage aircraft, including a seriously impressive collection of open-cockpit Wacos– and more are being restored each day. Visitors can also climb inside the massive, Antonov An-2 (a Russian single-engine biplane). This non-profit museum is located about 20 minutes outside the city. (314-434-3368).
Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tours.
Anheuser-Busch was founded in St. Louis in 1852, and now the brewery has grown to one of the world’s largest (and one of the most well known). Tour the company’s world headquarters in the historic brew house (dating back to 1891) and observe the process of making, processing and packaging beer. Complimentary samples are available in the hospitality room at the conclusion of the tour.
Missouri History Museum.
Missouri’s past comes to life at this museum, whose exhibits include information about the Louisiana Purchase, the Olympics, Charles Lindbergh’s flight suit and artifacts from the 1904 World’s Fair. Other displays educate visitors on the African-American contribution to state culture and the city’s response to the 1849 fire. Exhibits are always changing, and the museum currently hosts guided tours that take visitors around the city with transportation and snacks included.
Missouri Botanical Garden.
The locals know the Missouri Botanical Garden as Shaw’s Garden. This magnificent spot features North America’s largest traditional Japanese garden, a Victorian garden (with walk-through maze), the William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening, and the Climatron Complex, an award-winning geodesic dome and rainforest conservatory. The structure was built to simulate seven different climates and houses rare tropical plants and flowers, towering palm trees, and beautiful streams and waterfalls. If you can time your visit during the “Garden Glow” or other evening light shows, it is a spectacular experience. They also host a Japanese festival and Chinese Cultural Education days. (314-577-5100).
Saint Louis Zoo.
More than 6,000 animals live in natural habitat areas constructed to resemble bluffs, pampas, lakes, and woods. Visit the Children’s Zoo, “Big Cat Country,” with lions, tigers, jaguars and leopards, or the “Penguin and Puffin Coast.” Ride the Zooline Railroad around the park’s beautifully landscaped grounds. There’s also a bird house and gardens, and primate house with apes, monkeys, and lemurs, as well as a chimpanzee and orangutans refuge. Take in a show or special attraction like the sea lion high-diving act, a stingray petting tank, or the 4-D motion simulator show with wildlife-themed programs. A number of concessions are available throughout the zoo. (314-781-0900).
This farm once belonged to Ulysses S. Grant and was bought by the Busch family almost a hundred years ago. Today, the estate, compliments of Anheuser-Busch, is a wildlife preserve that is home to more than 900 animals. Travel in an open-air coach past Mirror Lake to Grant’s Cabin, constructed by Grant in 1856. Ride past Deer Park and view bison, elk, antelope, zebras, llamas and ostriches. See the famous Clydesdales in their pastures next to the stables. Enjoy entertaining, educational shows at the Tier Garten Amphitheater. You can also visit the petting area and hand-feed the smaller animals. Admission is free; parking fees range from $10 to $30. (314-843-1700).
Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.
This century old Neo-Romanesque basilica is known for the spectacular mosaics that grace its interior. The church rivals that of many European icons, and although it doesn’t have as much history, it is in excellent condition. The saga that spans Creation to the Final Judgment is depicted in exquisite detail on the interior of the church’s domes. Other depictions include the life of the church’s patron, King Louis IX of France, and the growth of the Catholic Church. Visit the church’s Mosaic Museum as well as the Cathedral Shop. Guided tours are open during weekdays. Call ahead if you’re planning on a self-guided tour on the weekends since it is a popular time for weddings. (314-373-8200, 314-373-8240).
The Gateway Arch is St. Louis’s most notable landmark, and is 630 feet high (63 stories). A large plaza with terrazzo floors, a fountain, and a gift shop are located in the entrance area, along with the Museum of Westward Expansion and the Arch Odyssey Theatre, which shows films about the construction of the arch.
Home of the St. Louis Cardinals professional baseball team, this downtown stadium opened in the 1960’s and features a Gateway Arch motif that is replicated more than 90 times on the exterior. The stadium tour starts at the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame/St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum across the street, where you may also purchase tickets.
Located in the heart of St. Louis, Forest Park encompasses nearly 1,400 acres of land. The St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis Science Center and Planetarium, History Museum, Zoo, Jewel Box, and Muny Theater are a few of the many attractions located here. During the warmer months, concerts an movies are shown on the art lawn (in front of the museum).