Located on the Mississippi River in Missouri, St. Louis is best known for its 630-foot Gateway Arch but in addition to the iconic attraction the city offers many other great things to do. Visit the St. Louis Art Museum, eat at great restaurants, stroll through the parks, listen to a performance by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, visit the Missouri History Museum and explore the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. Best things to do in St. Louis, Missouri with kids include the Magic House Children's Museum, Grant’s Farm, City Garden, the zoo and the Saint Louis Science Center. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
1. Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri
© Saint Louis Art Museum
The Saint Louis Art Museum is located in Forest Park in the magnificent Fine Arts building, which finished construction in 1904 for the World's Fair. The museum had a modest beginning in 1879 and featured an assortment of electrotype reproductions and plaster casts.
Today, it holds an extensive collection of 33,000 works of art that span five millennia and come from all continents. The collections on display are constantly changing and the museum often showcases special exhibits. The Saint Louis Art Museum continues to expand its collections – the recent addition was a gift from the late C.C. Johnson Spink and Edith "Edie" Spink, and it consists of 25 works of renowned American artists and 200 magnificent ancient Asian art pieces.
If the weather is nice, combine your visit to the museum with a picnic in the lush Forest Park. The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the best things to do in St. Louis, Missouri.
1 Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri, Phone: 314-721-0072
2. Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
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At 630 feet tall, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis is visible from anywhere in the city, and it is the highest man-built monument in the US. It is a symbol of St. Louis and a reminder of its role as the point through which early settlers traveled to move on towards the West.
The arch is an architectural marvel and fabulous point from which you can see the city and its surroundings. It will take you four minutes to get up the arch in an enclosed tram. Once you reach the Observation Deck, you can take advantage of excellent views that expand 30 miles in all directions as long as you visit on a clear day. If you look west, you can see St. Louis landmarks such as the Edward Jones Dome, Busch Stadium, Old Courthouse, and the Ballpark Village.
If you look east, you can see the mighty Mississippi River and five of its bridges. The Gateway Arch is one of the top St. Louis attractions. You can stay on the Observation Deck as long as you want, and when you finish, take the tram back down the other leg of the Arch.
Old Courthouse at 11 N. 4th Street, St. Louis, Missouri, Phone: 877-982-1410
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3. EAT Saint Louis Food Tours, St. Louis, Missouri
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As you walk through Saint Luis Hill neighborhood, the smells of garlic, cooked tomatoes, baked breads, cheerful Italian voices, and the atmosphere of a happy village will leave you feeling excited and eager to see more. At the moment, Taste of the Hill is the only tour EAT Saint Louis Food Tours offers, but they are doing such a fantastic job that even locals are joining them to experience the engaging tour for themselves.
Tour guides will take you on a three-hour exploration of quaint mom-and-pop pizzerias, pasta shops, salami makers, and butchers. You will get to taste their goodies and talk to them about the city, its history, and the way of life of the Italian immigrants who have been living in this area for generations. You won’t be able to taste everything on this tour, so be sure to come back; they are always friendly on the Hill. Phone: 314-399-9328
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4.The Magic House Children's Museum, St. Louis, Missouri
© The Magic House Children's Museum
The Magic House Children’s Museum is dedicated to educating children, and it provides the kind of educational experience kids love. Most of the 100 or so activities are interactive and hands-on. Kids have 55,000 square feet of space where they can play. The stately Victorian mansion where the museum is located has three floors, and the building has undergone significant expansions since the Museum’s opening in 1979.
Some of the most popular activities are the Van de Graaff generator, which creates static electricity, making your hair stand up when you touch it; the Jack and the Beanstalk three-floors-high climber; and the Oval Office, Legislative Chamber, and the Courtroom where kids can engage in imaginative play. They can also work as vets, bank tellers, or librarians in the Children Village, among other activities.
If you are looking for fun things to do in St. Louis, Missouri with kids, don't miss this unique attraction. The Magic House is very popular, and more than half a million people visit it every year.
516 S. Kirkwood Rd, St. Louis, Missouri, Phone: 314-822-8900
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5.City Museum, St. Louis, Missouri
© City Museum
City Museum is a surprising museum in St. Louis that showcases the city’s discarded parts. Here you’ll find old school busses, abandoned planes, bank vaults, chimneys and just about anything else you can imagine. Put all that in the 600,000 square-foot abandoned Shoe Company, add genius Bob Cassilly to serve as the mastermind behind everything, and you end up with the world’s largest playhouse, funhouse, and pavilion of surrealist art that is also an architectural marvel. The building is also breathtakingly beautiful, and you can spend days just looking at everything in total awe.
Alternatively, you can crawl through fake caves, quaint cubbyholes, slide down floor chutes that plummet ten stories down the building, drive a school bus that is hanging over the edge of the museum, or climb to the top of a 20-foot-tall metal praying mantis. If your kids have been exceptionally well behaved, rent it out for a truly thrilling birthday party.
750 North 16th Street, St. Louis, Missouri, Phone: 314-231-2489
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6.World Chess Hall of Fame, St. Louis, Missouri
© World Chess Hall of Fame
The World Chess Hall of Fame is a nonprofit institution that features world-class exhibitions that explore the relationship between chess, history, art, and culture. The Hall of Fame is located in St. Louis, Missouri in its Central West End neighborhood. It was founded in 1984 by the United States Chess Trust, a part of the US Chess Federation. The Chess Hall of Fame is the only museum of its kind, offering a range of programs that explore the connection between art and chess. There are currently 52 members in the U.S. Hall of Fame, and some of the well-known names are Bobby Fischer, Larry Evans, John W. Collins, Benjamin Franklin, Sammy Reshevsky, George Koltanowski, Paul Morphy, and Arnold Denker. The World Hall of Fame has 19 members, including José Raúl Capablanca, Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, and Boris Spassky. The mission of the World Chess Hall of Fame is to educate and inform visitors, players, fans, and scholars about the game of chess and its cultural importance.
4652 Maryland Ave, St. Louis, MO 63108, Phone: 314-367-9243
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7.Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri
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Located on Grand Drive in the western part of St. Louis, Forest Park is a large public park that opened in 1876. Covering an area of 1,371 acres, the park has hosted important events such as the 1904 Summer Olympics and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. Today, the park is the home of several popular attractions like the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Art Museum, the St. Louis Science Cente, and the St. Louis Zoo.
The park has recently been restored to improve the landscaping of various lakes, meadows, ponds, streams, and trees. The park has also restored its prairie and wetlands areas, resulting in an increase in the number of birds and other wildlife.
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8.The Caramel House, St. Louis, Missouri
© The Caramel House
Looking for the perfect caramel can be a bit of a challenge; you want it to be deliciously sweet and chewy, and it should melt in your mouth without sticking to your teeth. Fortunately, Janet Ansehl Shulman has not only successfully created the perfect caramel, but she has also incorporated some fabulous flavors to her recipe, and as a result, The Caramel House was born. Her caramels are all hand-made and hand-packaged in recyclable material.
If you want to see how she makes these sinful little treats, come by her store on Olive Boulevard. You can also find them at many stores all over the country, and you can even order them online. Check her website to find out what new flavors she has recently added. How about some crunchy pretzels covered in lightly salted caramel infused with beer or salted caramel with chili? Whatever you choose, The Caramel House will not disappoint.
9639 Olive Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri, Phone: 314-707-5777
9.Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park
Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park is the largest park within the St. Louis County park system, encompassing a total of 2,145 acres. Located in Missouri’s Maryland Heights area, the park offers something for just about everyone. During warmer weather, visitors can spend the day exploring the park by bicycle or head out on the water by renting a paddleboard, kayak, or canoe. The 3.8-mile asphalt loop trail surrounding the lake offers some beautiful views and is ideal for bikers, runners, walkers, and even rollerbladers. Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park also features spray fountain play areas, playgrounds, and more
13725 Marine Ave, St. Louis, MO 63146, 314-615-4386
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10.Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO
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The Missouri Botanical Garden is an acclaimed arboretum in St. Louis. Known formally as Shaw's Garden after Henry Shaw, founder of the first Garden, the Missouri Botanical Garden is the nation's oldest botanical garden and a National Historic Landmark. Founded in 1859, the garden was established to discover and share knowledge about plants and the environment in which they live to preserve and enrich life. Missouri Botanical Garden features a variety of different gardens, including indoor conservatories and demonstration, formal and international gardens, and magnificent horticultural displays.
4344 Shaw Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63110
11.Grant's Farm, St. Louis, Missouri
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Grant’s Farm, a fun family attraction outside of St. Louis, is a 281-acre farm that serves as the home of the Busch family. They continue to maintain the farm, making it accessible to thousands of visitors every year. The farm got its name from Ulysses S. Grant, former US President, who lived and worked on the farm before the Civil War. It is a lovely place steeped in history, and it houses many well-preserved historic pieces.
However, the most popular attraction is the animals, both domestic and wild, that the Busch family has gathered from around the world. The farm is currently a refuge for more than 900 animals from 100 species. Some, like deer and bison, roam free. Others, like goats, parakeets, and camels, live in more protected areas. There are also tortoises, monkeys, wallabies, ducks, lemurs, swans, elephants, and so much more. When you get tired, take a break at the lovely courtyard in front of the Tier Garten or farmstead and have a bite to eat.
10501 Gravois Rd, St. Louis, Missouri, Phone: 314-843-1700
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12.St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
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The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1880 and is the second-oldest in the country after the New York Philharmonic. Its current home is the Powel Hall, a 2,683-seat theatre in downtown St. Louis. Besides giving regular performances at the Powel Hall, the St. Luis Symphony Orchestra also serves as the resident orchestra for the Opera Theatre of St. Louis.
Considered one of the best symphony orchestras in the country, the St. Louis Symphony has toured Japan and Europe, performs frequently at Carnegie Hall, records CDs, and has won seven Grammy Awards. Every year, the orchestra’s musicians give hundreds of free performances in schools, community centers, churches, and other places as part of the Community Partnership Program.
718 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, Missouri, Phone: 314-534-1700
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St. Louis City Garden is a magical urban oasis – an unexpected yet successful hybrid of a botanic garden, a sculpture garden, and a public park. Spread across three acres of land on two city blocks between Eighth and Tenth Streets, the garden is a wonderful place for contemplation, art appreciation, a quick lunch, or a stroll between the sculptures and trees. There are twenty-four pieces of very large-scale contemporary sculptures by well-known national and international artists.
These sculptures share the space with 235 trees and thousands of shrubs, perennials, grasses, wildflowers and bulbs. All plants are native to the area. One of the most popular features of the City Garden is an enormous 14-foot long Video Wall. Giant limestone blocks that serve as steps and a seating area surround the wall, which serves as a screen for movies, art videos, and, at times, a Cardinals game.
801 Market St, St. Louis, Missouri, Phone: 314-241-3337
14.Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum
© Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum
The Cardinals Hall of Fame is located in Ballpark Village, and it celebrates 100 years of the team’s history through numerous photos, artifacts, trophies, and videos. The museum has almost 15,000 artifacts and more than 80,000 photographs, and only the National Baseball Hall of Fame has a larger collection of baseball memorabilia. The museum is divided into several sections. The first section describes “The Cardinal Way,” which is Cardinal George Kissell’s philosophy of playing baseball. There is also an accompanying video.
Other sections of the museum are devoted to specific players and teams from the era of Sportsman’s Park, during which the Cardinals won World Series in 1965. Busch Stadium II, the location where they first won the 1967 Fall Classic and later, in 1968, a National League Championship, is also highlighted. The museum also contains hundreds of bats, uniforms, gloves, and other types of baseball memorabilia. The Cardinals’ World Series trophies are on display in the rotunda, and you can see plaques for the Cardinals Hall of Famers at the end of the tour.
More things to do in St. Louis MO: 25 Must-Try Romantic Restaurants in St. Louis.
15.Campbell House Museum, St. Louis, Missouri
© Campbell House Museum
Located on Locust Street, the Campbell House Museum is a restored and preserved 1850s townhouse that displays paintings, 19th century furnishings, and the family’s personal documents and objects. It has been placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, and it was designated a City of St. Louis Landmark.
The house underwent several restorations after it was given to the city in the 1940s, and the last renovation in 2005 attempted to show the house as it was in 1885 photographs. Guided tours of the museum last about one hour, and events such as walking tours and lectures are presented by the museum.
1508 Locust Street, St. Louis, Missouri, Phone: 314-421-0325
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16.Things to Do in St. Louis, Missouri: St. Louis Zoo
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The St. Louis Zoo, located at One Government Drive, was established when the city bought the Smithsonian Institution’s Fair Flight Cage displayed at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. It expanded over the years to become one of the leading zoos, and it is known for its conservation, education, and research efforts.
The zoo is made up of zones such as Lakeside Crossing with its Sea Lion Sound and Stingrays at Caribbean Cove, Red Rocks with Big Cat Country and Antelope Area, the Discovery Corner with the Emerson’s Children’s Zoo and Monsanto Insectarium, among others. The Emerson Zooline Railroad is a 20 minute narrated tour that takes visitors around the most popular attractions.
One Government Drive, St. Louis, Missouri, Phone: 314-781-0900
17.Saint Louis Science Center, St. Louis, Missouri
© Saint Louis Science Center
Located on Oakland Avenue at the southeastern corner of Forest Park, the St Louis Science Center is a planetarium and science museum that features engaging hands-on activities. The Center began as a planetarium in 1963 and today, with more than 750 exhibits in its 300,000 square foot facility, it is one of the largest science centers in the U.S.
It is also one of the most visited science centers and has been rated as one of the top five in the country. The Center has an IMAX dome theater, and the main building has exhibits on areas such as chemistry, earth science, emerging technology, life sciences, and others. The Taylor Community Science Resource Center is part of the Center’s educational program.
5050 Oakland Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri, Phone: 314-289-4400
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18.Things to Do in St. Louis, Missouri: Missouri History Museum
© Missouri History Museum
The Missouri History Museum was founded in 1866 and is located on Lindell Boulevard on the north side of Forest Park. Operated by the Missouri Historical Society, it is a history museum housed in the Jefferson Memorial Building, which was constructed in 1913. Its collections include national artifacts and items of local and state interest.
Some of the items are from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904, and there are artifacts related to the Lewis and Clark Expedition as well as Charles Lindbergh and his historic flight on the Spirit of St. Louis. The museum offers educational programs to schools and the community, and it also has a library and research center.
5700 Lindell Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri, Phone: 314-746-4599
19.Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri
© Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum
Located on Brookings Drive at the northwest corner of Forest Park, the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum is a fine arts center. Founded in 1881 as the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts, the museum is located on the campus of Washington University and is found within the university’s Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts.
The oldest art museum west of the Mississippi, the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum has a large collection of antiquities including Byzantine, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman works, along with a significant collection of American and European paintings from the 19th through the 21st centuries. The museum’s current home, built in 2006 and designed by Fumihiko Maki, consists of four exhibition spaces.
1 Brookings Drive, St. Louis, Missouri, Phone: 314-935-4523
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20.Things to Do Near Me: Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, Missouri
© Pulitzer Arts Foundation
The Pulitzer Arts Foundation is an art museum and cultural center located on Washington Boulevard. Housed in a building designed by Tadao Ando, the museum opened in 2001 to exhibit works from the private collection of Emily and Joseph Pulitzer Jr. This opening included works by renowned artists such as Lichtenstein, Monet, Picasso, and Warhol.
Since then, the museum’s exhibitions have featured works of art from outside the private collection, and they have included examples of Buddhist Art, minimalist art, Old Masters, and many more. The museum also offers a variety of programs like architectural tours, lectures, poetry readings, and musical performances by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.
3716 Washington Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri, Phone: 314-754-1850
21.Things to Do in St. Louis, Missouri: Jefferson Barracks Historic Park
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Located on North Road south of downtown St. Louis along the Mississippi River, Jefferson Barracks Historic Park is the home of Jefferson Barracks, an active U.S. Army post from 1826 to 1946. The park has a visitor’s center and several museum buildings built in the 1850s such as the Old Ordnance Room, the Powder Magazine Museum, and the Laborers House and Ordnance Stable.
The park also has an amphitheater, a cross-country course, trails, and other facilities for various activities. Some of the special events at the park include The Cavalry at Jefferson Barracks and Feast in the Park.
345 North Road, St. Louis, Missouri, Phone: 314-544-5714
22.Things to Do in St. Louis, Missouri: Ulysses S. Grant National Historical Site
© Ulysses S. Grant National Historical Site
Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site is located on Grant Road south of downtown St. Louis. Also known as White Haven, the nearly 10-acre site is devoted to Grant’s life, military career, and Presidency. White Haven was a slave plantation until the end of the American Civil War. There are five historic buildings on the site, one of which was the childhood home of Grant’s wife, Julia Dent Grant.
The site became a part of the U.S. National Park Service in 1989, and today it offers programs for children such as Be a Junior Ranger and Trading Cards. Free tours are available.
7400 Grant Road, St. Louis, Missouri, Phone: 314-842-1867
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23.Things to Do in St. Louis, Missouri: Cinema St. Louis
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Cinema St. Louis, Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival, or SLIFF as the locals call it, is a very big deal in the film industry. This festival, which had its modest beginnings in 1992 with screenings of 25 movies, has grown over the years, and in 2014 it screened 375 films from more than 50 countries throughout the course of ten days.
About 24,000 moviegoers came to see what was going on in the world of independent productions, poignant international movies, and high-quality studio movies that haven’t yet been released commercially. The festival now attracts big movie names and takes over the city, but for movie buffs of St. Louis, it is a unique opportunity to see some incredible films that wouldn’t be screened in their city otherwise. Visit from November 5-15, 2015.
3547 Olive Street, St. Louis, Missouri, Phone: 314-289-4150
24.Shakespeare Festival, St. Louis, Missouri
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If you plan on coming to St. Louis, try to visit in August so you can catch the Shakespeare in the Park Festival. Attending this yearly event held in beautiful Foster Park is an experience that simply stays with you.
Taking in the Bard’s immortal words from the comfort of a blanket on a lush green lawn with a starry sky overhead is absolutely magical. You are encouraged to bring a picnic basket and a bottle of wine to make the most out of this celebration of theatre. All productions, which are held every night for a week, are free.
The Shakespeare festivities extend to September when St. Louis holds a traditional Shakespeare in the Streets. This event has two parts: free performances and a block party. To foster love for the Bard in new generations, the Shakespeare Festival hosts half-day long summer camps for school children. There are also several week-long camps for teenage actors.
25.Things to Do in St. Louis, Missouri: Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park
© Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park
The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park is located southwest of downtown St. Louis on North Ballas Road in Kirkwood. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the house in 1950 for Russell and Ruth Goetz Kraus. The property was later sold to a non-profit organization so that the 1,900 square foot house and the 10.5-acre park could be saved.
All of the Wright-designed fabrics and furnishings are still intact to this day. The St. Louis County Parks Department maintains the house, which is now listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Tours of the house (including special twilight tours) are conducted from Wednesday to Sunday.
120 North Ballas Road, Kirkwood, MO 63122, 314-822-8359
More places to visit: 20 Best Relaxing Weekend Getaways in Missouri.
25 Best Things to Do in St. Louis, Missouri
- Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri, Photo: Saint Louis Art Museum
- Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri, Photo: Courtesy of EvanTravels - Fotolia.com
- EAT Saint Louis Food Tours, St. Louis, Missouri, Photo: Courtesy of natashaphoto - Fotolia.com
- The Magic House Children's Museum, St. Louis, Missouri, Photo: The Magic House Children's Museum
- City Museum, St. Louis, Missouri, Photo: City Museum
- World Chess Hall of Fame, St. Louis, Missouri, Photo: World Chess Hall of Fame
- Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri, Photo: Courtesy of JMichael Photography - Fotolia.com
- The Caramel House, St. Louis, Missouri, Photo: The Caramel House
- Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park, Photo: Michael/stock.adobe.com
- Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO, Photo: Courtesy of Dmitry V. Petrenko - Fotolia.com
- Grant's Farm, St. Louis, Missouri, Photo: Courtesy of Vera Kuttelvaserova - Fotolia.com
- St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Photo: Courtesy of Jaroslav Machacek - Fotolia.com
- City Garden, Photo: Courtesy of arinahabich - Fotolia
- Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum, Photo: Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum
- Campbell House Museum, St. Louis, Missouri, Photo: Campbell House Museum
- Things to Do in St. Louis, Missouri: St. Louis Zoo, Photo: Courtesy of Michael Krummel - Fotolia.com
- Saint Louis Science Center, St. Louis, Missouri, Photo: Saint Louis Science Center
- Things to Do in St. Louis, Missouri: Missouri History Museum, Photo: Missouri History Museum
- Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri, Photo: Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum
- Things to Do Near Me: Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, Missouri, Photo: Pulitzer Arts Foundation
- Things to Do in St. Louis, Missouri: Jefferson Barracks Historic Park, Photo: Courtesy of wedninth - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in St. Louis, Missouri: Ulysses S. Grant National Historical Site, Photo: Ulysses S. Grant National Historical Site
- Things to Do in St. Louis, Missouri: Cinema St. Louis, Photo: Courtesy of Nejron Photo - Fotolia.com
- Shakespeare Festival, St. Louis, Missouri, Photo: Courtesy of jgolby - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in St. Louis, Missouri: Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park, Photo: Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of EvanTravels - Fotolia.com
Budweiser Brewery Tours
Whether you are interested in a bit of St. Louis history or you just want to drink some beer, a tour of Budweiser Brewery is always a fun time. The brewery’s St. Louis site in the old Soulard neighborhood is the company’s oldest and the largest.
Anheuser-Busch originally chose the site in 1852 because of its proximity to the Mississippi River and the convenient feature of natural cold storage areas in underground caves. Start your visit with the complimentary 45-minures tour and watch the seven-step process of the creation of your favorite brew.
By then, you will be both thirsty and hungry, so hop to the Biergarten for some beer sampling and tasty food. Those who are especially enthusiastic about beer will perhaps be interested in the Beer School and Beermaster Tour.
12th and Lynch Street, St. Louis, Missouri, Phone: 314-577-2626
More destinations: Best Things to Do in Branson.
Attraction Spotlight: National Museum of Transportation
Located in Kirkwood, Missouri approximately 20 miles southwest of St Louis, the National Museum of Transportation is a 42-acre private museum dedicated to the preserving the history of transportation vehicles, displaying a large collection of locomotives, automobiles, aircraft, and other transportation technologies. The National Museum of Transportation was founded in 1944 as a citizen group looking to preserve historic transportation vehicles for the purposes of public education.
The museum’s collection began with a single mule-drawn streetcar named Bellefontaine, displayed at a location near St. Louis County’s historic Barrett Station, and has grown today to encompass more than 200 road vehicles, 70 locomotives, and a variety of other transportation-related holdings and memorabilia. In 1948, the museum was incorporated as a nonprofit organization known as the Transport Museum Association, and in 1979, the organization transferred control of museum operations to the St. Louis County Department of Parks and Recreation. In 2017, the museum regained its status as a privately-operated organization, once again overseen by the Transportation Museum Association.
Today, the holdings of the National Museum of Transportation are considered by the Smithsonian Institution to be among the largest and most comprehensive collections of transportation vehicles in the world. The museum encompasses a 42-acre site in the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood, including the facilities of the former Barrett Station Depot. The museum site preserves the West Barretts Tunnel, one of the first manmade railroad tunnels in the United States constructed west of the Mississippi River, along with more than four miles of historic railroad track currently used for exhibitions.
The centerpiece of the museum’s holdings is its railroad collection, featuring more than 70 historic locomotives and 190 overall holdings, many serving as rare or lone surviving examples of their technology. As one of the most comprehensive collections of American-made railroad equipment, the museum highlights freight, city, and national passenger transit technologies of the 19th and 20th centuries. Notable holdings include the Union Pacific #4006 Big Boy, the world’s largest steam locomotive, as well as an 1833 Boston & Boston & Providence Railroad Passenger Coach, the largest tank car ever constructed, known as The Whale, and the EMD FT #103, which has been declared a National Engineering Landmark. Many locomotives are also among the last extant models of their kind, including a Milwaukee Road Class EP-2 Bipolar Electric, a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad EMC 1800 hp B-B, and a Wabash 2-6-0 #573, one of only two remaining steam locomotives of its type.
More than 200 items comprise the museum’s automobile and road vehicle collection, housed within the Earl C. Lindburg Automobile Center. Highlights include a 1901 St. Louis Motor Carriage Company automobile, one of only nine extant examples of its technology today, as well as the only Chrysler Turbine Car, a rare 1963 issue, displayed publicly anywhere in the world. Also of note are a 1959 Ford Gas Turbine Tractor, donated to the museum by the company in 1971, and the Bobby Darin “Dream Car,” a custom car created by Detroit fashion designer Andy Di Dia.
Notable museum aircraft holdings include the Douglas Aircraft C-47A, used by the United States Air Force during the invasion of Normandy in World War II, and the Lockheed T-33, a United States Air Force trainer aircraft. Watercraft holdings include the HT Potts Tugboat, the first Missouri River tugboat model to utilized a welded steel hull. Other mass transit technologies are also showcased, including the Fifth Avenue Coach Company Bus #1234.
Exhibits are housed within nine unique exhibit areas, including the Barrett Station Depot, which houses a model train exhibit and other railroad artifacts and memorabilia. For young museum visitors, a Creation Station playspace is available inside the museum’s Education and Visitor Center. The Barrett’s Landing Cafe, also located within the Visitor Center building, offers creative family-friendly American fare.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Guided and self-guided group tours are available for elementary and secondary school students, tailored to incorporate Missouri curriculum standards. More than 50,000 Missouri-area students participate in museum programming annually, including programming for scouting groups to earn transportation and engineering-themed badges.
A full-scale miniature railroad operates daily on the museum’s grounds near its Visitor Center, and a restored full-sized trolley is available for rides Thursdays through Sundays throughout the spring and summer months. A small handcar village also offers rides for children around a miniature track from April through October. A variety of classic car shows are hosted by the museum annually in conjunction with local car enthusiast and restoration clubs, including a Mustang Round-up in April, an All-Ford Show in June, and an Oldsmobile Fun Show in September. During the winter holiday months, the museum showcases the E. Desmond Lee Holiday Train Display, the state’s largest indoor miniature train display.
2933 Barrett Station Rd, St. Louis, MO 63122, Phone: 314-965-6212
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Attraction Spotlight: Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site
The Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site is a United States National Historic Site 10 miles southwest of downtown St Louis Missouri. Set on a 9.65-acre estate within the region of Grantwood Village, the historic site, which is also known as White Haven, celebrates and honors the life and military career of President Ulysses S. Grant. The site features five landmark structures, including the Grant Home known as White Haven, where Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia Dent resided with an enslaved African-American workforce from 1854 to 1859, Market House, and Washburne House. The site is also home to a visitor center and a museum, where an introductory film on the estate is shown, and interpretive tours are available daily. The historic sites are open to the public year-round and offer guided tours of the restored home and outbuildings and the beautifully manicured grounds.
Born Hiram Ulysses Grant in 1822, Ulysses S. Grant lived a life of service from civil rights champion and Civil War hero to best-selling author and two-term President of the United States. Grant came to Missouri in 1843 with the 4th Infantry at Jefferson Barracks, and on visiting his friend, Frederick Dent’s family farm, he fell in love with Dent’s sister, Julia. After serving with distinction in the Mexican-American War, Grant returned to Missouri and the farm, which was known as White Haven, to ask for Julia’s hand in marriage.
Throughout their lives together, White Haven was a central point for Ulysses and Julia, and they considered it their family home. Even though political and financial circumstances forced them to leave the farm for over a decade, Grant was planning on retiring to the farm to live his days out in peace following his second term as president. However, failed business deals and family interests led him to give up the property shortly before his death in 1885. Today, the magnificent estate and outbuildings are open to the public to enjoy the beauty, the peace and the serenity that Grant was looking forward to in his retirement.
The Washburne House
Home to prominent Galena attorney and later a U.S. congressman and political adviser to Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, the Elihu B. Washburne House was constructed in 1843 in the famous Greek Revival style and later enlarged to its present size. The Washburne House was owned by Elihu Washburne until 1882 until it was purchased by the Sheehan family, who held the house until 1968, and later the State of Illinois. Today, the Washburne House forms part of the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, is managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, and is open for the public to explore.
The Old Market House
Constructed in 1845-1846 in the Greek Revival style, The Old Market House was the focal point of community life during Galena's heyday and sheltered vendors and shoppers, who gathered in the heart of the river city's business district until 1910. The Old Market House was beautifully restored to its former glory in 1955 and today is managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and hosts a variety of changing exhibits and special events.
The U.S. Grant Historic Site offers a variety of educational and community outreach programs for visitors of all ages, including adult’s classes, activities for children and families, Junior Ranger and Junior Ranger Archeology Program, Summer History Programs for Children, and guided tours of the site and it’s outbuildings.
The U.S. Grant Historic Site is located at 7400 Grant Road in St. Louis and is open year-round to the public on a daily basis from 9:00 am to 5: 00 pm. Free interpretive visits to the Main House are offered every hour or half-hour, beginning at 9:30 am. Guided tours of the Ulysses and Julia’s restored home, outbuildings, and stables can also be enjoyed, and visitors can learn more about the life and career of Ulysses Grant and the impact it had on American history. There is a paved eight-mile bike and footpath known as Grant’s Trail next to the U.S. Grant Historic Site, which visitors are welcome to use.
7400 Grant Rd, St. Louis, MO 63123, Phone: 314-842-1867
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Attraction Spotlight: Contemporary Art Museum
Situated in the epicenter of the Grand Center arts district in St Louis, the Contemporary Art Museum, or CAM for short, is one of the best-known non-collecting arts institutions in the country. Visitors are invited to tour any of the 20 annual exhibitions that the museum schedules each year. CAM offers a platform for both local and international artists, allowing visitors to observe a myriad of perspectives on contemporary artistic traditions. In addition to their exhibitions, CAM provides a variety of educational programs aimed at both artists and the public alike.
The Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis was founded in 1980. In 2003, the institution moved to its present location in the Grand Center arts district. Its new 27,000-square-foot building was designed by renowned architect Brad Cloepfil.
Kelley Walker: Direct Drive
In his first solo exhibition at the museum, Kelley Walker’s Direct Drive exhibit, which was shown in the fall of 2016, the artist invited audiences to explore the way in which images are contextualized and repurposed ad infinitum in today’s consumer-based society. Filling every gallery in the museum, the displayed images invited guests to explore issues pertaining to identity, sexuality, race, and class. This multimedia installation, which included 3D prints, silkscreen prints, photographs, collage, and sculptural pieces, was informed by artists such as Sigmar Polke, Andy Warhol, and Jackson Pollock.
Kelley Walker: Schema
The summer of 2016 saw the opening of a unique exhibition featuring celebrated artist Kelly Walker. The exhibition was a collaboration between Walker and a group of St. Louis area teens who had been part of the museum’s Teen Museum Studies program. Exploring the convergence of longstanding narratives about oppression and violence with the current digital age, the exhibition aptly demonstrates the way that artists can and should see themselves as agents of change. The show featured vinyl images of photographs originating from the Civil Rights Era, which were overlaid with colorful streaks of toothpaste, creating a juxtaposition that invited visitors to contemplate the way modern audiences relate to these iconic images of violence and dissention.
Mickalene Thomas: Mentors, Muses, and Celebrities
Mickalene Thomas, a New York-based artist, is currently being featured at CAM until the end of 2017. Though known for her expressive paintings and collages, the exhibition also includes video, film, and photographic pieces. The exhibition deals with matters of African American femininity and power by exploring the artist’s own mentors from both the big screen as well as from her own life. Icons such as Eartha Kitt, Whitney Houston, and Wanda Sykes feature prominently in the displayed pieces. Thomas also incorporates imagery and characters from the movie The Color Purple, which was pivotal in Thomas’ political awakening. The use of furniture and artifacts from the 1970s leads visitors through a chronological narrative that is both deeply personal and universal at the same time. In this way, Thomas invites museumgoers to retrace her steps as she grapples with the legacy of inequality and its enduring impact on the modern identities of women of color.
Hayv Kahraman: Acts of Reparation
Representing Kahraman’s body of work from 2011 to 2017, the Acts of Reparation exhibit explores themes of collective memory, migrant consciousness, and decolonization. The series of paintings comprising this collection offers visitors an inside look at the experiences of people who have been forced to flee their homeland and start a new life abroad. Kahraman uses depictions of women’s bodies as a symbol for the segmentation of the migrant communities whose stories she narrates. The artist’s use of weaving techniques, inspired by traditional Iraqi textile arts, connects her work to a homeland that is at once real and imagined. In this way, the exhibit invites visitors to pose questions concerning the relationship between lived experience and collective memory.
Events and Programs
On the first Friday of every month, visitors are invited to partake in special exhibitions and programming at the CAM. The First Fridays program offers a variety of entertainment and education-based events in the Grand Center area. Visitors enjoy free entry to a variety of participating institutions, including CAM, the International Photography Hall of Fame Museum, and the CEL Center for Architecture + Design, to name a few.
CAM also offers daily tours that highlight specific aspects of current exhibitions. On certain days of the week, museum staff also offer tours of the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, which is located next door to the museum.
3750 Washington Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63108, Phone: 314-535-4660
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