ST. LOUIS TRAVEL GUIDE
Visiting St. Louis this year or looking for a new city to explore? Read further for my budget friendly St. Louis Travel Guide! Discover what St. Louis has to offer with things to do, and tasty restaurants all under $20 each. Click on the underlined headlines for direct links for all activities.
I planned a quick weekend trip to St. Louis in April 2021. This was my second time visiting St. Louis but the first time really didn't count. My family was from Michigan to visit Kansas for a family reunion, and we decided to try and see the Gateway Arch. Nonetheless, it was way too busy and the lines were SO long and it was SO hot. So we left. Now that I am closer to the south, STL had been on my radar for a while - plus one of my college friends was born and raised there so I had to get see what all the fuss was about! Since STL is only 4-5 hours away from Memphis, I thought it'd be a cool weekend trip to explore and see something new. My friend Marquice, who I met through a final job interview round held in Puerto Rico, traveled with me. All I have to say is - the people you travel with can make or break the trip, and I'm so excited to travel with her again this fall internationally. Oh yeah😎.
In all honesty, St Louis wasn't my favorite city but I might give it one more chance. I had hella bad luck on this trip and it seemed like everything went completely WRONG. I first started off the trip with a big fat speeding citation where I eventually have to appear in Missouri court....yikes. Then some of our reservations we made ahead of time did not reflect correctly based on the updated hours of operation. Double yikes.
WHERE TO STAY
To get the full local experience, consider booking an Airbnb. I absolutely loved ours! It had rustic farmhouse decor and best of all, had a wonderful location. The Airbnb was right in the heart of the historic Soulard district. We were only 5 minutes away from downtown and a max of 20-30 minutes away from St. Charles. Great host communication, comfy beds, cute decor, and our stay was only $223 for the weekend - major win!
UPDATE OCTOBER 2021: It appears that the rustic farmhouse was sold and doesn't take listings anymore. This could change at any time but when I tried to return to rebook it wasn't available! Oh no! But no worries I booked a second stay that I can recommend as well here. When I stayed in St. Louis for a second time it was in Tower Grove East which features a lot of historic homes and practically 10 minutes from everything downtown. It was super family friendly with plenty of space, games, and two living rooms, and also budget friendly for our quick weekend stay.
Soulard: Soulard is STL's first established neighborhood. With historical french influences, you can find a buzzing blues scene, bars with live music, and plenty of eateries. From pizzerias to southern cuisine, and even fresh seafood you'll enjoy what Soulard has to offer. Make sure to check out the Soulard Farmers Market, or better yet, visit the annual Mardi Gras parade (covid pending) which is super popular for the locals!
St Charles: This area is the northwestern suburb of St. Louis and welcomes everyone to enjoy their charming historical downtown. Walk along the brick roads and sidewalks to see boutique shops, events, concert series, and locally owned restaurants. This was my favorite part to explore because of the cute charm and shops! Plus, the candle fusion studio (read below!) is located in St. Charles making it 10x more worth the exploration.
The Grove: This neighborhood is buzzworthy and known for their array of international restaurants, craft beer, soul food, black-owned shops, and top tier ice cream joints. I visited here on my second trip and absolutely loved it so I had to come back and add this to my guide!
Delmar Loop: Delmar boulevard is lined with eclectic bars, restaurants, and lounges. So if you're looking for entertainment and hubs of Korean and Mexican food or tasty barbeque - the Delmar loop is for you!
You can't visit St. Louis without seeing the Gateway Arch. From $12-16 cram yourself inside the small eggshell tram to the top of the arch and float 63 stories high into the St. Louis sky! The Arch has millions of visitors each year to visit the 630 ft tall monument. It's made of 43,000 tons of concrete and steel and was literally created to bring more tourists to the midwest. Your tour will first begin with the underground museum as you explore Native American history, and pioneers that developed one of the oldest cities. Then you'll have an interactive animation experience to teach you about the history of the Arch before riding the tram to the top.
We were lucky to grab photos in front of the arch with no one to ruin them. I mean it was perfect timing! As soon as we were ready to go inside there was a huge flux of people that arrived. It's usually impossible to get a photo alone in front of the arch. It's also right across the street from the Old Courthouse, and has a huge grass area great for picnics, biking, walking, or enjoying the hot sun.
Bring out your inner child and fun spirit to explore the unexpected. Heavy on the word unexpected. The City Musem is housed in a 100 year old warehouse in downtown STL, but everything inside is made of repurposed or recycled materials. From playgrounds and ball pits, to tunnels and castles, and even a rooftop ferris wheel ride, the City Museum has everything for a full day of FUN. I definitely was caught off gaurd when we walked in as we saw children and adults crawling from the floors, inbetween small cracks and tunnels, or kids running up 7 stories of stairs to wind down the slides. I definitely have to go back just to see every nook and cranny this place has to offer. Tickets start at $16.
If you don't know me, or haven't guessed yet - I absolutely love candles. I mean, my black owned business list is covered in candle companies. When I ran across this business on the web, I nearly screamed. At the Candle Fusion studio you can pour your very own customizable scent. The studio first walks you through smelling a variety of smells from rain, coffee, caramel, to green apple. After you write down your favorite scents, you choose 3 of your top choices to concoct your own delicious smelling fragrance. Pour, stir, and wa-la! your candle is ready to set. Prices start at $16 to create candles, wax melts, or room fragrance sprays. Your candle has to set for atleast 2-4 hours so I suggest exploring St. Charles by grabbing a bite to eat at Salt + Smoke or shopping at the unique shops!
If you love history and learning about past civilizations, the Cahokia Mounds are the remnants of a massive prehistoric native civilization. It's located a little outside the city in Illinois. Not to mention that admission is completely free (donations are accepted) to see the 100 mounds and 2,200 acre area. Grab a Groupon for $12 for an audio guided tour.
STIL 630 is a locally owned whiskey brewery in downtown St. Louis. We snagged a Groupon and absolutely loved this tour. The owner is funny, welcoming, and excited to show his brewery to locals and tourists. The tour included 3 whiskey tastings which ranged from classic to even coffee. We just finished bottomless mimosas at the Wheelhouse and then headed to STIL so we were definitely through at that point. I highly recommend this inexpensive tour as a true gem for your trip to St. Louis. Once you buy your Groupon, you can select your reservation on their website and redeem the code to lock in your date and time. I was glad to add a bottle of whiskey and their candles to my home!
Row row row your boat, gently down the stream. Enjoy the weather and the great outdoors by renting a kayak, paddleboard, canoe, or bikes down at the boathouse. Prices start at $15 depending on the activity you want.
ST. LOUIS RESTAURANTS
Grace Meat + Three
On my second round of visiting STL, I stopped by this local chain restaurant in STL. And Oh my goodness gracious it was so delicious. This is a counter service restaurant where you choose your own seating and they offer delicious Southern American food and wonderful hospitality. I mean the chicken is juicy, ribs just fall off the bone, the baked beans are sugary barbecue sweetness, and the cornbread (I'm a bread fanatic) was to die for. The desserts alone looked so scrumptious I just had to stop by. I recommend visiting the location on Manchester Ave as it is located in The Grove neighborhood. Plenty of international and black owned restauarant options and bars in this neighborhood with colorful lights to ignite your night!
Steve's is a black owned hot dog restaurant with a myriad of funky toppings to add to your dog. It first started as its own hot dog stand and soon became famous for its different flavorful combinations. They are loaded!
Chocolate infused cocktails? Sign me up! These desserts and cocktails were simply de-li-cious. We both ordered two different desserts and cocktails so we could try a variety. My desserts was completely scrumptious. The raspberry drizzle was paired perfectly with the cinnamon ice cream. The dimly lit decor is cute and welcoming with both indoor and outdoor seating options. During COVID the POP and Bailey's Bar were combined to cut costs so technically you can stay a while! POP is a champagne bar with some of the best champagne selections in the city. Get lit off of champagne flutes and chocolate cocktails.
To. Die. For. This restaurant alone would make me drive the four hours back to STL. For $15-20 you'll enjoy a great meal, wonderful cusotmer service, and leave with your bellies completely full. I ordered the appetizer rib plate - and the meat just completely fell off the bone. My friend and I ordered the bestie plate which included 2 meat choices, 2 sides, and bread. We were definitely stuffed. There are several locations in the city but I suggest going to the St. Charles location so you can walk it off on the brick sidewalks.
Photo courtesy of Feast Magazine:
Don't you love when you find rolled up money in your jean pockets? That's how it was when we stumbled upon Bella Vino Wine Bar. We were walking the streets of St. Charles looking for a quick bite to eat or something to sip on and bam - there it was. We tried their wine flight of three for $28 and appetizers like fried calamari strips and spinach dip. Scrumptions and amazing customer service. Their wine was absolutely delicious!
360 Rooftop Bar
Get a 360 view of the city by visiting one of STL’s favorite rooftop bars. This bar is located at the top of a hotel so it may be confusing at first to get in. We found street parking but there was a parking lot right across the street.
Clementine's is known as the sexiest ice cream in STL. Spice up your cones with booze infused ice cream flavors. Purrrfection my friends. I love a good creamery and although I didn't get to try the booze infused flavors (nut allergy - boo!) my friend said it was fantastic! Try their maple bourbon flavor or my personal favorite was the ooey gooey butter cake. Yummy in my tummy.
STL is known for frozen custard. If you don't know what custard is, its very similar to ice cream but made with eggs instead of cream and sugar. It's a little denser and then is kept at warmer temperatures than ice cream. Add Drew's to your dessert list so you can try an STL favorite!
Other Dessert Spots
- Maximize your time by leaving early on Friday and leaving later in the evening on Sunday to get the most out of your weekend trip.
- Save more money by exploring famous streets, districts, and neighborhoods. This is an easy way to see the city, have small snacks or desserts, and walk around together!
- The weather is sunny and hot majority of the year starting in the Spring.
- Avoid leaving valuables in your car.
- Parking was easy to find and pay through your phone. In some areas we did have to drive around the corner to find parking, but street parking was definitely available downtown.
I hope this travel guide entices you to visit some of these places in St. Louis for your next midwest adventure. Are you a St. Louis native and want to add more must do's to this list? Comment below or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org!