From the iconic Gateway Arch to the Miniature Museum to a cafe where your drinks are served with Barbie heads hanging from above, St. Louis certainly has a lot to offer in the things-to-do department. This major Missouri city is nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River and has a blend of big-city life infused with old traditions. Its vibrant nightlife even tempted me to stay up past my bedtime, the food scene is booming, and if you are a museum traveler, there are plenty to choose from (plus, many of them are absolutely free!). What is going to be on your St. Louis bucket list?
St. Louis Bucket List:
18 Fun Things to Do in Missouri’s STL
1. ✦ Ride the 10-Story Spiral Slide at City Museum
I like any place with a bus hanging off the exterior of the rooftop and a big plane in the background (especially when you can climb all over it!). Located in downtown, City Museum invites you to view and appreciate the relics of the past that have been redesigned and repurposed.
The century-old warehouse contains a collection of repurposed architectural and industrial objects which are not only educational but extremely fun as well. You will find unexpected and quirky bridges, tunnels and things to climb, but the best part is gliding down the 10-story spiral slide! It’s quite a walk to the top of the spiral staircase, but you’ll get a thrilling ride all the way down!
2. ✦ Get a Famous Ted Drewes Frozen Custard
My mouth is watering just writing the title of this thing to do in St. Louis! Is there anything better than a perfect frozen treat? Well, take one bite of Ted Drewes Frozen Custard and you will find yourself at the crossroads. Ted Drewes is a family-owned company in St. Louis whose specialty is…you guessed it…frozen custard. Their original location on Route 66 serves up creamy deliciousness in a number of flavors. Whatever you order, please, please don’t miss tasting the Lemon Crumb. I literally was only going to take a little bite, but I devoured the entire cup in three minutes.
3. ✦ See Small Things at the Miniature Museum of Greater St. Louis
When I told my husband that a stop on the St. Louis things-to-do itinerary was the Miniature Museum, he rolled his eyes, but then he was the one who didn’t want to leave!
Even if you don’t have a thing for gorgeous dollhouses and tiny artwork, head over to Miniature Museum of Greater St. Louis. The double-story complex has permanent exhibits that include an array of dolls, dollhouses and vignettes, like a 50s soda shop and Victorian living room.
If you are up for a big bucket list challenge ask about their scavenger hunts that will have you running around looking for things like a pinto pony and Siamese cat. Make sure to have plenty of time!
4. ✦ Sip a Drink at Venice Café
What’s so special about Venice Cafe? Let me just say it’s really not about the drinks themselves as much as the ambiance. Ok, it’s all about the ambiance. It is unexpected, and it is fabulous. The funky watering hole’s decor is difficult to explain—think hanging Barbie doll heads meshed with ashtray mosaic walls and colorful mannequin parts. I know it’s hard to imagine that hodgepodge of bric-a-brac, that’s why you just need to go!
Beware that this is a cash-only joint, though they do have an ATM at the front door. How convenient.
5. ✦ Immerse Yourself in Nature at the Missouri Botanical Garden
The mission of the Missouri Botanical Garden is “to discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment in order to preserve and enrich life.” It definitely shines through from the Japanese Garden with lotus to the Tower Grove House in the Victorian District to the Bavarian Garden that focuses on sun-loving plants native to Germany and Central Europe. There’s plenty of beauty at the 79-acre garden, but one of the highlights is the Climatron, a geodesic dome filled with more than 2800 exotic flora!
6. ✦ Stroll through Citygarden
Picture a beautiful garden in the middle of the bustling St. Louis downtown embedded with art, and this isn’t your ordinary art. The two urban blocks that makeup Citygarden are loaded with more than a dozen creative pieces, that include ornamental fountains, water playgrounds and unique sculptures created by a variety of artists. My favorite was the large sculpture unzipping the grass, but my husband loved the giant Pinocchio. Oh, and did I mention that it’s free?
7. ✦ Ride the Tram to the Top of the Gateway Arch
The 630-foot Gateway Arch is the centerpiece of downtown St. Louis— backing up to the Mississippi River and overlooking the Old Courthouse. After you’re done ogling the world’s largest man-made monument from afar, be transported by tram to the top for a panoramic view that stretches for up to 30-miles.
The ride up in the little 5-person pod (that looks like something from the future) takes about 4 minutes (down only takes 3). From the top you can peek out of the thin rectangle windows to get the spectacular view below.
8. ✦ Drink a Fitz’s Root Beer Float
Fitz’s Rootbeer is a local tradition dating back to the late 40s when it first appeared at a St. Louis drive-in restaurant. Root beer was the perfect beverage to serve with a hamburger and side of fries—sounds good to me! Unfortunately, when the original eatery closed down in the 70s, the famous bubbly was discontinued, until the original recipe was revived in 1993. Now you can get the drink at Fitz’s on the Delmar Loop, which has a vintage bottling machine (that you can see in action at the restaurant!). You can’t miss sitting belly up to the bar for a good old-fashioned root beer float. But, it’s more than just root beer now. They’ve added plenty of other flavors too (like grape pop and raspberry cola), so you can venture out and get a Cherry Bomb or Green Monster. Be prepared, they are messy!
9. ✦ Tour Anheuser-Busch Brewery
Do you want to see where and how the King of Beers is made? That’s Budweiser for all you non-beer buffs. Anheuser-Busch Brewery is a historic beer-making complex that is more than just a brewhouse; it introduces you to the heritage and traditions behind the brand. They have plenty of tours to choose from, but their free one takes you on an unforgettable journey where you will find yourself learning about beers, the brewing process, the complex history behind it, and even meeting one of the famous Budweiser Clydesdales. Did I mention their tour includes samples? Cheers to that!
10. ✦ Explore the Moto Museum
A heaven for bikers, Moto Museum features a phenomenal collection of motorbikes spanning a century. The bikes are rare, vintage and obtained from private owners in more than 20 countries. Initially, this was a stop on the “Things to Do in St. Louis” itinerary specifically for my husband who loves motorbikes, but it was fun for me, too! From a 1925 Swedish Husqvarna to a modern Ducati, it’s interesting to see how motorcycles have changed over the past 100 years. And, it’s another free thing to do in the city!
11. ✦ Eat Toasted Ravioli on The Hill
We all know ravioli as tasty cheese or meat stuffed pasta pillows, but have you ever heard of a toasted ravioli? It’s what happens when you take the traditional dish and add it to the deep fryer. The raviolis come out crunchy, then are sprinkled with parmesan and served with a side of marinara.
Toasted raviolis were created in St. Louis, though it’s arguable exactly where. The most logical place is in The Hill district, a renowned Italian neighborhood filled with restaurants, bakeries and flag colored fire hydrants. Almost all the eateries will serve their versions of the dish, but the ones at Zia’s Restaurant, Guido’s and Mama’s on the Hill are known as three of the best.
12. ✦ Experience the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis
The green-tiled dome and bell towers of Cathedral Basilica are hard to miss (and you won’t want to!). Boasting a stunning Byzantine interior with Italian details and intricate mosaic artwork that covers the whole ceiling spanning about 83,000 square feet of area, the Roman Catholic church is one of the major attractions of the city.
You are welcome to attend Mass, but if you will not be, check their website to make sure your visit doesn’t coincide with Mass times, or you will not be able to tour the interior.
13. ✦ Spend the Afternoon at Forest Park
Bigger than New York’s Central Park, Forest Park sprawls over 1,300 acres and is a place where you can enjoy an escape from city life. There’s a little bit of everything there—recreational spots, cultural institutions, museums, a zoo and much more. You may first choose to stroll across the connecting bridge to the St Louis Science Center. The three-story complex has dinosaurs, a planetarium, an IMAX theatre and a plethora of exhibits. Next, you could stop by the St. Louis Art Museum housed in a magnificent beaux-arts palace. In the museum, you will come across artwork by famous artists including Picasso and Van Gogh.
To learn the fantastic tale of how St. Louis came into being, head over to Missouri History Museum. From polar bears to sea lions, the St. Louis Zoo is an awesome place to unwind with kids. The The Jewel Box, a historic art deco greenhouse, truly is the jewel of the forest. Hit it at the right time of day to get the perfect reflection on the pond in front.
14. ✦ See the Reptiles at Turtle Playground
If you are a turtle lover, then don’t miss a stop at this whimsical sculpture garden where you can climb all over the reptiles. At Turtle Playground, there are 7 turtles that are native to Missouri and ranging in all sizes. The large snapping turtle sculpture is 40 feet long! Plus, there are even seven turtle eggs and a snake that looks like it is taking a bite out of the overpass.
15. ✦ Play Chess at the World Chess Hall of Fame
Although I am by no means a chess aficionado, the World Chess Hall of Fame still impressed me. The specialty museum aims to educate visitors about the significance of chess through cultural exhibitions, artworks and historical artifacts all connected to the game of kings and queens. It has three levels dedicated to different kinds of chess boards, tournaments, art exhibits and giant touch screens which you can explore for free! But, the real fun is to have an actual chess battle at the Hall of Fame, whether it be at the giant chess board right out front or at one of their outdoor chess tables.
16. ✦ Make a Candle at Candle Fusion
You can be the scientist of your own candle at Candle Fusion. How fun is that? First choose your favorite smells from their wall of scents (they have aromas like old books, cake batter and green apple!). Then pick the vessel for your candle and bring it to the experimentation bar. Do a little mixology testing with your top scents until you find the perfect blend of up to four. And voila, about two hours later you have your masterpiece.
The experience was a perfect date afternoon with my husband! We worked together to create a candle with a mix of bourbon, cake batter, Georgia peach and brown sugar. It was the best Missouri souvenir!
17. ✦ Hang out on The Loop
If there is one neighborhood that I wouldn’t mind being stuck in for a long while, then it is the Delmar Loop without a doubt. With more than 140 stores, eateries, cafes, and art galleries raveled in music and high spirits, the street is full of vim and vigor where one can never feel bored.
Labeled as one of the 10 greatest streets in America, The Loop is a place you can easily spend the whole day. Wander through the quirky art galleries, indulge in barbecues and ravioli, attend the crazy Ice Carnival Festival in January, hum along to the catchy beat and stroll the St. Louis Walk of Fame. When you get tired of walking, hop on the Loop Trolley to take a tour. As the sun goes down, head over to Moonrise Hotel for some rest and to ogle the boutique hotel’s main feature: the world’s largest man-made rotating moon on top.
18. ✦ Take a Day Trip to Historic St. Charles
If you have some time, take a short day trip to the neighboring St. Charles Historic District (about a 30 minute drive from the city center). Lying beside the Missouri River, the city is oozing with historical charm, beautiful buildings, cute boutiques and sites that take you back in time.
Start at the Lewis & Clark Boat House and continue along South Main Street popping into the more than 100 shops, and even the state’s modest first capitol building. Be sure to make a pitstop for a barbecue lunch at Salt + Smoke!
You can see my top picks for the city in this article: St. Charles Bucket List: 9 Things to Do in Missouri’s Historic Town
As you can see, St. Louis is the perfect combination of fun adventures, historical sites, museums (lots that are free!) and entertaining things to do. It offers a variety of activities and beautiful landmarks that makes it a perfect getaway for kids and adults alike
Essential Tips for Visiting St. Louis
Getting There: The Lambert International Airport is a major hub and most airlines will fly into it. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner,, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination. From the airport to the city center, you can use the MetroLink which costs $4 from the airport and will take about 35 minutes to the city center. You can also purchase a return ticket for $2.50 for your trip back to the airport. Or you can take a shuttle, take a taxi or an Uber or Lyft.
Where to Stay in St. Louis: It’s best to stay near the city center, public transportation or the area that you will be spending the most time in. The Last Hotel is a great choice in Downtown St. Louis (this is where I stayed and loved!).
For something on the less expensive side, try The Best Western which is a 20 minute drive from the Gateway Arch. For a hotel with a little more unique and extravagant, book a room at the Angad Arts Hotel who has artfully designed guest rooms in red, blue, yellow or green (you choose!). Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to Airbnb that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Getting Around: Renting a car in St. Louis is the best if you’d like to explore the city and its surrounding areas, and RentalCars.com has some great deals. If you are not renting a car, there are plenty of options. The MetroLink is easy to use and will connect you to the top attractions. Bird Scooters are also available for rental all over the city (and they are fun!). Taxis, Lyft and Uber are also widely available.
City Transportation Passes: The One-Day Adventure Pass is an all-in-one transit card offering rides on multiple forms of transportation (bus and MetroLink, Downtown Trolley and Forest Park Explorer) for $7.50 per day. You can purchase a One-Day Adventure Pass at a Metro Ticket Vending Machine at any MetroLink station, or you can purchase a pass online on their website.
Insurance: It’s always a good idea to travel fully insured so you are protected in case of trip cancellations or medical emergencies. You can check out pricing at Travelex Insurance.