Hello STL!
October 15, 2014 7:45 AM   Subscribe

What's fun in St. Louis?

My wife and I will be visiting friends in STL from 10/16-10/20 and we'd like to make a list of fun things to do. We're staying mostly at La Quinta Inn & Suites. So far on the itinerary we've got:

The zoo
The petting zoo
Purina Farms
A MeFi meetup

Stuff we'd like to see/experience:

Offbeat museums (i.e. not art galleries)
Interesting tours (the Mega Cavern is one of our fondest memories from visiting Louisville)
Historical sites (preferably haunted)
Flea markets/bazaars
American/Midwest cuisine restaurants
Punk bars
Geek stuff (arcades/video game and comics shops/etc.)
Live animals

Also, neither of us drive and it doesn't look like Uber and/or Lyft are in STL yet. How is the local cab system and public transportation? Would we be able to get to Purina Farms and back to the hotel on our own, for instance?
posted by griphus to Travel & Transportation around St. Louis, MO (38 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
City Museum!
Also possibly the botanical garden depending on the weather.

I can't speak to cabs, but the Metro system is pretty good. I'm not local so maybe others have more info on transit stuff.
posted by pantarei70 at 7:51 AM on October 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

Here is my map of things to do in StL. Public transport isn't great, if you are going some place on the MetroLink- then that is easy. The bus system is (was?) called the bistate and can get you around, but it isn't like a large city system.

Do you mean Grant's Farm rather than Purina Farms?
posted by sulaine at 7:55 AM on October 15, 2014

Soulard Farmer's Market is cool!

You should also do the Anheuser-Busch Brewery tour. It's right near Soulard and is awesome, very interesting from a historical perspective.
posted by something something at 7:57 AM on October 15, 2014

Response by poster: Do you mean Grant's Farm rather than Purina Farms?

Nope, we def. want to go to Purina Farms for the dog stuff.
posted by griphus at 7:58 AM on October 15, 2014

St. Louis style pizza is probably one of the more Midwestern foods there is. It's a regular thin crust pie, but under the mozzarella is a tangy liquidy sharp provolone-based cheese. Imo's is the most famous, but smaller restaurants are probably better.

Also, find some Gooey Butter Cake. It's the St. Louis treat.
posted by hwyengr at 8:00 AM on October 15, 2014

If you're looking for offbeat museums, you'd probably love the City Museum like was previously mentioned. It's like a strange children's museum that's also fun for adults.
posted by Deflagro at 8:01 AM on October 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Laumeier sculpture park.

The Transportation Museum.
posted by Rat Spatula at 8:04 AM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

nthing the City Museum. The girlfriend and I went there with friends for her 25th birthday and had a flipping sweaty blast!

We went to the City Zoo and had a great time there as well, but it is a bit out there. I don't know how accessible it would be to you with public transit.

However, if you dig craft beer, milk shakes and/or local, grass-fed beef, definitely check out or reserve a table at Bailey's Range. It's in the downtown area and is a place I'll recommend everybody check out. Bison Au poivre for the win!
posted by TreeDodger at 8:15 AM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am from St. Louis originally, and so if you really cannot drive I would suggest not staying at hotel that is suburban central and pick something more centrally located to the fun stuff downtown. Its a driving city, public transportation is going to be a pain/suck up all your time. I cannot find any bus stops near Purina Farms, so it looks like you would need a cab.
Old St. Charles can be fun, you can visit the original state capital and there is a lot of info on the Lewis and Clarke expedition. My parents are fond of Picasso's for coffee if you go there. Shaw Nature Reserve is also pretty neat, it is part of the MO Botanical Garden. Don't go to Imo's unless you like eating melted plastic over cardboard.
posted by florencetnoa at 8:18 AM on October 15, 2014

Flea Market/Bazaar: Green Shag Market on Manchester.

Punk Bar *AND* Geek Stuff: The Silver Ballroom which has a ton of pinball machines and a fantastic old-school punk jukebox. Warning: they allow smoking inside if that kind of thing bothers you. Pinball/arcade alternative (non-smoking version): Orbit (although I haven't been there. I should go though as it's pretty close to where I just moved. Maybe a good site for a future MeFi meetup [sorry I won't be making the one this weekend, but I've got a group of friends in town and our weekend schedule is already set]).
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:20 AM on October 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh and you can head across the river to visit Cahokia Mounds.
posted by florencetnoa at 8:24 AM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing City Museum--plan on spending the majority of the day there.
posted by chaoticgood at 8:29 AM on October 15, 2014

Be aware that there is a good chance that baseball's National League Championship Series games will be going on for part of your visit, depending on the outcome of games in San Francisco. Schedule here. You might want to avoid the area around Busch stadium at game time unless you feel like mingling with tens of thousands of baseball fans, i.e., dealing with traffic, long waits at restaurants, etc.
posted by exogenous at 9:02 AM on October 15, 2014

Let me just say it for the 1000th time: CITY MUSEUM! If there is one thing you should see it STL, that is it! Be sure to go down the 10-story slide. It used to be kind of hidden, but now there is signage to find it (a fun path through the man-made caves). Definitely play in the outdoor sculpture. I'm 36 and my brother is almost 50 and we don't look out of place climbing on everything. Fun for everyone!

As for food, toasted ravioli is what you want to put into your mouth. Joanie's in Soulard serves some really good toasted ravioli. They have the traditional meat kind as well as spinach and artichoke ravioli. YUM.

My friend owns this cool place (also in Soulard) called Mad Art. He used to be a cop and he bought this old abandoned art deco police station and turned it into a gallery. They have all sorts of events there (not just art shows), so if you see something of interest happening, you should definitely go! He's cool and will totally let you hang out in the holding cell.

Also in Soulard (there are other neighborhoods, I swear) is Venice Cafe. The interior is totally weird and if you're looking for a drink...um, yeah. It's interesting. (Sensory overload!)

Ted Drewes in South City serves some incredible frozen custard. I grew up near there and when I visit home, even if it is 14 degrees outside, THAT IS MY FIRST STOP. Haha. No really...it's delicious.

Forest Park has lots to offer if you end up around there. It's probably a pain to get around there without a car, so...maybe someone else can give you some advice? The Jewel Box is pretty.

Orbit is alright. I went there earlier this year and they have a decent selection of arcade games. Strange Donuts is down the street and you can grab a GOOEY BUTTER DONUT.

Speaking of gooey butter...if you like artery-clogging food, you need to find some gooey butter cake! If you're in a pinch, you can find a Schnucks (grocery chain) and ask for a dozen gooey butter cookies at the bakery. (The cookies are good, too.)

As for punk shows and the like...I used to hang out at the Rocket Bar downtown, but that is long since gone. Someone on here should be able to direct you to a good venue. Record store-wise, Vintage Vinyl in University City always has something and Apop Records (on Cherokee) is cool but I believe they are closing soon. Boo.

Um...GO FIND THAT TOASTED RAVIOLI (and thanks for making me homesick). ;)
posted by pea_shoot at 9:07 AM on October 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

My friend owns this cool place (also in Soulard) called Mad Art. He used to be a cop and he bought this old abandoned art deco police station and turned it into a gallery

There is trivia there on Thursday nights which everyone is welcome to attend w/ Greg Nog and I tomorrow at 8 pm :)

BBQ is a good thing to eat while you are in town -- Pappy's or Bogart's, although the Shaved Duck is also lovely. And if you want soul food, Sweetie Pie's is the place to go. There's also a strong NOLA/creole culture, with plenty of great creole-style food (jumbalaya, poboys, etc.) to try. Specifically Broadway Oyster Bar but there are so many. There are, of course, tons of good fried chicken and american style restaurants, too.

Lemp Mansion is what you want for haunted stuff, although it can get a little pricey (also I think they only do the haunted tours on Monday nights.) Looks like they have mystery dinner theater pretty regularly though.

Oh, and Cherokee street in general is a little punk feeling (or, well, hipster) and also the home of many many many antique shops which can be nice for a good stroll. Not quite a flea market per se, but kindof close? There are lots of bars along that row (and brunch spots), and the Cherokee Performing Arts Center is a good bet for random offbeat entertainment. Looks like it is hosting a pole dancing show this weekend.
posted by likeatoaster at 9:31 AM on October 15, 2014

Seconding the Silver Ballroom. I go there a lot every time I visit. They've got an excellent punk rock jukebox, pinball, meat pies, and alcohol. My brother is a bit of a fixture there, so I happen to know a lot of the regulars, who are a fun bunch.
posted by smich at 9:35 AM on October 15, 2014

You're gonna have a hell of a time getting out to Purina Farms, frankly. St. Louis is definitely a driving town.

There's also a marathon (Rock and Roll) going on Sunday morning, so plan accordingly.
posted by notsnot at 9:39 AM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Many have covered other things that I would mention, but here are two offbeat museums: the Eugene Field House and Toy Museum, specializing in toys and dolls from 1790 to the present, and the American Kennel Club's Dog Museum.

You will not be able to get to Purina Farms other than with a private car. Best to find a friend who's willing to accompany you.

And anyone who says Imo's pizza is disgusting can shut it.
posted by Liesl at 9:40 AM on October 15, 2014

Uber is available in St. Louis now. It only just became available, and it's only the black car service, not UberX, but it covers pretty much the whole Missouri side of the greater metro area.

The best comic book shop in the area is probably Star Clipper, which is on the Delmar Loop along with a host of other interesting places to spend money.
posted by jedicus at 10:19 AM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Grant's farm is great! Free beer and you can meet the Budweiser clydesdales and feed baby goats.

Maplewood is a nice neighborhood to hang around for an evening--there's the Schalfly Bottleworks restaurant/brewery, a great Cuban restaurant with swings instead of barstools, and a small pinball bar (mentioned upthread). That stuff is a bit of a hike from the Maplewood Metrolink station, but it's not terrible. Also a really amazing chocolate shop.

The Delmar loop is a collegey area with thrift stores and nice restaurants and my favorite comic shop. And Pi is some of the best deep dish pizza ever. It also has a Metrolink stop, much closer to the interesting stuff.

People hating on Imo's are weirdos, I moved to Indiana and miss it so.
posted by almostmanda at 10:24 AM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

As for Midwest cuisine, consider selecting one of the fine establishments reviewed on the St. Louis Slinger Tour blog.

(A slinger, for those who don't know, is "a Midwestern diner specialty typically consisting of two eggs, hash browns, and a hamburger patty (or any other meat) all covered in chili con carne (with or without beans) and generously topped with cheese (cheddar or American) and onions.")
posted by jedicus at 10:26 AM on October 15, 2014

If you want to eat good, normal pizza, Dewey's is the best in the area. There are a few different locations.

For BBQ there's Sugarfire (my favorite; they typically have amazing specials and experimental sauces) and Pappy's (more straightforward, often crowded). Sugarfire is directly accessible by bus, but I have no sense of how long that might take.
posted by jedicus at 10:31 AM on October 15, 2014

Excuse Captain Obvious here, but you didn't mention the Arch and neither did anyone else. I thought it was extremely cool when I was in St. Louis, and would go again for sure.
posted by cnc at 10:51 AM on October 15, 2014

OOh, seconding Sugarfire for BBQ. and 11thing City Museum. The Budweiser brewery tour is pretty entertaining and the free beer at the end is one of the few times in your life that Budweiser will ever taste good. Also hit up the Schlafly Bottleworks tour. If you're down on the Loop visiting Starclipper, go one block north and hit Vernon's BBQ. But for the love of all that's saucy, do not eat at the BBQ joint on the Loop called Salt and Smoke. It's blech.

I know it sounds weird to go see a movie in a town you're visiting, but if you haven't seen Gone Girl yet, go see it at the Hi-Point. They've got the best popcorn ever and the theater is pretty awesome as well.

I'll tell you this because I like you, but the rest of you St. Louis folks need to promise not to flood my favorite restaurant, The Piccadilly at Manhattan has some of the best fried chicken around and their chicken pot pie is a work of art.
posted by teleri025 at 11:18 AM on October 15, 2014

Also recommending The Arch. You ride up and down in windowless, barrel-shaped, sit-down elevator cars..
posted by Rash at 11:23 AM on October 15, 2014

City Museum, City Museum, City Museum, City Museum.

*cough* I enjoyed the City Museum. I would say Ted Drewes (get the cement) and the Arch (I didn't go up, that was fine) were the other highlights of my trip. I also picked up Sugarfire on my way from the airport into town and enjoyed it very much - I was just talking about the Cracker Jack salad today.

I was only in STL for like 3 days (wedding), but City Museum, Ted Drewes, the Arch, plus some random donuts and great MeFites made me enjoy the trip far more than I (a liberal effete East Coaster) had expected.
posted by maryr at 11:48 AM on October 15, 2014

The City Museum is what I miss most about St. Louis. I'm not exaggerating when I say it's the most amazing place I've been to in my life. Go at night when there's beer and no/fewer kids underfoot.

Going up the Arch is pretty awesome. You get stuffed into this tiny capsule that rocks back and forth as it attempts to stay level as it travels up the leg of the arch. The Arch is an incredible example of mid-century modernism inside and out, but in the late 90s they put some junk over the top of things in the waiting areas in an attempt to keep things up to date.

Purina Farms is way the hell out there. You'll pay a lot in cab fare getting to and from Gray Summit.
posted by zsazsa at 12:02 PM on October 15, 2014

If you're wandering around the Zoo, it's worth walking up to Washington University's campus. The art museum there is pretty funky, and then you can go to the Loop and eat at Blueberry Hill, Chuck Berry's diner-y dive-y kitschy restaurant with a lot of St. Louis foods (toasted ravioli!).
posted by ChuraChura at 12:42 PM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I went to the Eugene Field Museum about 10 years ago I was given a tour by a bored teenager who couldn't care less about him and who knew nothing about the Tribune Primer.

I recommend the Scott Joplin house.
posted by brujita at 12:43 PM on October 15, 2014

PS: Random donuts were from World's Fair Donuts, I think? and while very very good, I don't think you need to go out of your way. I think STL has many good donut places. That is just the one that I tried, so I thought I'd mention the name.
posted by maryr at 12:43 PM on October 15, 2014

And Kim Massie!
posted by ChuraChura at 12:49 PM on October 15, 2014

definitely go to Apop on Cherokee St. - it's awesome but they're closing at the end of october!
posted by ghostbikes at 3:04 PM on October 15, 2014

You should def. plan on the City Museum and Missouri Botanical Garden (largest Japanese walking garden in the Western Hemisphere!). You could make a pretty decent day of the Old Courthouse and the Arch, with a side jaunt to CityGarden.
posted by notsnot at 5:02 PM on October 15, 2014

Hi. I've lived in St. Louis for about 12 years now. I highly recommend The Loop, with a meal at Blueberry Hill - the Loop is my favorite part of St. Louis. You can take a segway tour of downtown or Soulard, which is a fun way to see the city. If you've never been to the Arch, it's worth going to once - the building is pretty amazing.

The cool neighborhoods around St. Louis are the Loop (Washington University students), South Grand (fun bars and LGBT crowd), South Grand (great ethnic restaurants), Cherokee Street (hipsters) and maybe the Central West End.

St Louis foods to try are toasted ravioli (amazing), St Louis style pizza (yuck), and gooey butter cake (also amazing). Blueberry Hill has the best toasted ravioli in town.

Lots of great coffeeshops in St. Louis these days: Rise and Blueprint feel like you're in a bigger city. Kaldi's and Comet also make great coffee. Blueprint and Comet make each coffee by hand - the others have handmade brews and also drip coffee.

I live about 10 minutes from where you're going to be staying. If you want any restaurant suggestions, feel free to MeMail me!
posted by kdern at 7:45 PM on October 15, 2014

Correction - the neighborhood with the fun bars and LGBT crowd is The Grove. This is where Rise Coffee is located, as well as Atomic Cowboy, a fun bar with good food.
posted by kdern at 8:27 PM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Purina Farms is going to be tough, as it's in a tiny little town called Gray's Summit about an hour from downtown St. Louis. If you like dogs and want something closer in, the AKC Museum of the Dog is located in Queeny Park. They have lots of dog art and there's usually a breed ambassador on weekends.

If you do make it out to Purina Farms, Shaw Nature Reserve is only about 5-10 minutes away from Purina Farms. You could spend a couple hours at Purina Farms and then a couple hours at Shaw. For the record, the dog show at Purina Farms is entertaining, but the rest of it is farm animals and exhibits about the history of the company.

Grant's Farm has more pettable farm animals and they have free beer too, so I might look into that if you don't make it out west.

City Museum is unlike any other place!

The Missouri Botanical Garden is amazing and stunningly beautiful.

Ted Drewe's, as mentioned before. Don't be intimidated by the long lines, they move super fast.

Suson Park in south county has farm animal displays. Everything from horses to turkeys to longhorn cattle.

Faust Park in Chesterfield has a old timey village and a really great butterfly house.

The World Bird Sanctuary Open House is this weekend! They fly the birds right over your head and you can have your picture taken with an eagle or an owl. I highly recommend it if you like birds. Bird Sanctuary is next to Lone Elk Park where you can see bison and elk.
posted by Ostara at 9:34 PM on October 15, 2014

I grew up in St. Louis - the other day I looked up my old house on Google Maps and noticed it was a mere 3 miles away from the Mississippi river - I never knew!

I haven't been back to the vicinity since my father died in 2011, but I agree with many of the things already mentioned. Some comments:
  • City Museum. It's always changing. It's extremely difficult to describe, but if you're tired of most museums these days where they're attempting to be a franchise of the SF Exploratorium - City Museum is for you. I'll warn you that some of the 'exhibits' are not safe and I often wonder how they have avoided getting sued into oblivion. But don't let that keep you away. I guess it's technically an "art museum" but it is most emphatically not an "art gallery".
  • Speaking of which - The St Louis Art Museum (and that entire area out there in Forest Park) is worth a day of exploration. I guess it technically is an "art gallery" but - it's worth a visit. Just the style and scale of the architecture is something that will stick with you. Trust me on this one.
  • I believe the Metrolink runs right through Lambert Int'l. Which might be helpful if you're flying in.
  • The Gateway Arch is nice (although I find the museum on ground level boring) - I remember them building it when I was a kid. But I have to warn you that the little pods you ride to the top are little pods. I've spent a lot of time spelunking with friends and never felt the kind of claustrophobia I felt the last time I went up the Arch. If you go to the top, look for the little access panel on the ceiling that lets you go out onto the top surface. No, you can't do this. But many years ago the STL Post-Dispatch featured a picture of several city council members standing on top of the arch, commissioning a new aircraft beacon. I'm sure it was safe, but just the thought of what might happen if you walked just a little bit too far to one side or the other has stayed with me for years.
  • Nobody mentioned The Hill? It's a little neighborhood south of Forest Park that has some really wonderful, unspoiled Italian restaurants. I'm sure you can get recommendations from just about anyone. My personal advice: don't go looking for, like, pasta; look for unusual and delicious italian sandwiches, home-made meatballs, and stuff like that.
  • I love St. Louis style pizza. I know people who really hate it, but I feel it's largely their misfortune. Toasted raviola are awesome, too. There's a chain called Imo's that I like a lot. Although if I'm serious about it, I'll go to Cusanelli's, which is where my parents took me as a kid back in the 60s. The website makes the place look fancy, and maybe they've done renovations. I actually hope not - I remember the place being not fancy in just the right way. But they've been in business for over 50 years, they must be doing something right.
  • I'm not sure where you're coming from, but if you like White Castle or Steak'n'Shake - St. Louis has lots of them.
  • I'm not a fan, but the Botanical Gardens are a favorite of some members of my family. I believe it's not far from the STL Science Center, which is better (and bigger) than most science museums, plus you can walk over the highway to the McDonnell Planetarium.
  • Someone mentioned Cahokia Mounds. The last time we went to visit them, they were in rather sorry shape. It's kind've unfortunate that you can see them as you drive along 70/55, but not far away there are some really huge landfill mounds. The first time we drove out to that vicinity together, my wife thought I was BSing her about the "Indian Mounds" - the look on her face when she discovered that I was telling the truth was priceless. I'm not recommending this, but the best time to visit the Cahokia Mounds is at night, when they're closed, and you can climb to the top and look at the sky.
  • You'll probably think I'm joking, but the River des Peres is oddly, perhaps disturbingly, interesting.
  • I'm not into gambling and so I have no experience with any of them, but there are many casinos in the St. Louis area, if you're into that.
  • East St. Louis is nearby. This is the city where Clark Griswold suffered a flat tire in the first Vacation movie. It's also where they filmed Escape From New York. I'm not necessarily recommending you visit the place, but it's "interesting" in its own way.
  • I don't know if they do it anymore, but there were riverboats down on the levee where you could have dinner and see a show. It was a really good time.

posted by doctor tough love at 10:16 AM on October 16, 2014

It kind of sounds like maybe you'll have kiddos with you, but if not, I've been keeping my eye on several groupons for wine and beer tastings at some of the awesome breweries around the city.
There are also some other activities on there that you may enjoy! "The Kitchen Sink" is my familly's absolute favorite restaurant at the moment and it was on there recently, as is MoMo's greek restaurant in University City (across the street from previously mentioned Dewey's and down the road from the Delmar Loop).
But I am a deal fiend so I will see myself out now.... Welcome to the Lou!
posted by rubster at 12:56 PM on October 16, 2014

« Older I-90 East road trip, where do we stop for pie ?...   |   Osteoporosis, elevated calcium in urine, is a 2nd... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.