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Top Five Things to See in St. Louis, Missouri

Last July, B and I ventured to St. Louis, Missouri, to attend the Antiques Roadshow. While there, we were pleasantly surprised by several attractions and left with a very positive view of this city, which, to be honest, we weren’t expecting much out of. This post will discuss five St. Louis things we saw and did so next time you find yourself randomly in St. Louis, you’ll have as nice of a time as we had. (To be fair, I’ll leave the highlight of the trip, the Roadshow, off this list because it isn’t a permanent fixture.)

5. Delmar Loop

From our downtown hotel, we hopped on the St. Louis Metro Red Line and headed to the Delmar Loop. This is a hip, groovy part of town that is chock full of restaurants, entertainment and funky shops. We walked up and down Delmar Boulevard and enjoyed looking at the different stars in the St. Louis Hall of Fame (kind of like in Hollywood, only these are St. Louis people). I was especially pumped when I found Nelly’s Star. To be perfectly honest, I was singing Country Grammar all weekend.

Sign for the Loop in St. Louis
Joining the hipsters at the Loop

In Delmar Loop, we did one of our favorite trip rituals of wandering around a local grocery market. This particular one had a very robust section of Asian goods…not sure why. We also saw our first example of a quick, cheap place to eat in St. Louis that we did a few more times. At several grocery stores, there is an excellent selection of prepared foods. Not the gross kind like a Tornado at a gas station, but good quality. Instead of a sit down restaurant where you have to wait and pay a tip, you can pick what you want and get sushi, barbeque, sandwiches, etc.

We also found a few cool shops and enjoyed spending our money on interesting local items before the heat and humidity finally did us in and we had to catch the train back downtown. Sadly, last month Delmar Loop was the site of vandalism after a what-had-been peaceful protest. Several of the shops that we had visited in July had their windows broken. Hopefully, by the time you visit, the Loop will have been restored to how it should be.   

4. Barbecue

It seems like most regions of the south are known for their barbeque. To be honest, I don’t have a refined enough bbq palate to be able to distinguish what city does it best. I can say, though, that barbeque down south just tastes better than it does in Idaho. After we finished up at the Roadshow, we walked down the road from the convention center and B found a highly recommended place on her phone called Sugarfire. So we decided to stop in. It was around 3:00 in the afternoon, so we walked right into the establishment, ordered our bbq and took a seat. It was quite delicious, so much so that I was in no mood for dinner later that night.

If you are going to hit up Sugarfire, you might want to get there during in a non-peak hour. We had no idea we had lucked out the first time with no line; whenever we walked past this place around meal time, the line was out the door.  

St. Louis BBQ
Which sauce to choose (I tried most)

3. The Arch

The St. Louis Arch is iconic, and all other times I have been to St. Louis I have made a point to go to the visitor center and get a stamp in my passport and one time, I even took the elevator to the top. However, when B and I visited St. Louis, I got a new appreciation for the Arch. Instead of being a destination, we enjoyed it more as part of the landscape. We took a walk around the park that begins at the Arch and runs along the Mississippi River. Then we sat at the base of it and watched the tour helicopters take tourists on quick flights around the city while eating pizza in the plaza in front of it. Most magically, we watched the sunset set it on fire from the roof of our hotel.

The Arch was built in 1965 and was dedicated to the American people. I hadn’t fully appreciated how cool the Arch was until I looked at it as something other than as a structure–this trip helped me think of it more symbolically, as a representation of ingenuity and ambition.

Sunset on the St. Louis Arch
Just chillin’ in front of a St. Louis sunset

2. The Cardinals

I have seen the New York Mets play baseball at 90% of the major league games I’ve attended. I’ve seen them in San Francisco, New York, Washington D.C. and even interleague in Baltimore. So it came as no surprise to me that when we decided to see a St. Louis Cardinals game, they would of course be playing the Mets. (This would all be cool if the Mets were my team..they aren’t.) ANYWAY, we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to make a game so we didn’t buy tickets beforehand. This made our experience at the stadium even more magical. Here’s how it went: we showed up and bypassed the ticket office line by purchasing tickets at an electronic kiosk. The machine spit out our tickets, receipt and coupons for free hotdogs and drinks (Miracle #1).

We then walked through the gates and a ticket checker handed us our commemorative St. Louis Cardinals baseball caps so we could support the hometeam (Miracle #2). We then found our way up, up, up to our cheap seats. You’d think we’d be sad about our nosebleed seats. However, because our seats were so high, we were in the shade. Yes, instead of roasting in the heat and humidity, we were the first row of shaded seats (Miracle #3). We didn’t anticipate we would last long at the game because of the heat, but we ended up watching the whole game. The Cards won and we were fed and clothed for a very inexpensive ticket.

St. Louis Cards Stadium
Cards v Mets, of course

1. Cahokia

A few months before I found out I had been selected to get tickets to the St. Louis Roadshow, I came across an article about an ancient culture in the southeastern United States. I was astounded. How is it that I have a degree in American History and have dragged B halfway around the world multiple times to see ancient structures and I had never heard of this in my own backyard? So embarrassing! I resolved to visit at my earliest convenience. Fortunately for me, I did get tickets to St. Louis so I knew I’d be adding this piece to the Roadshow trip.

The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is located a short 15 minute uber ride across the Mississippi River into Illinois. The grounds are about 3.5 miles and look like a very well manicured lawn, with some hills every now and then. I had purchased a Groupon to the site, so B and I each got our own ipods and could learn the history of the place as we climbed the hills. The Site is very well managed and we learned so much about the people that lived here a thousand years ago who had decided to carry bucket upon bucket of dirt to create hundreds of these mounds. If you visit St. Louis, the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is an absolute must. I’m quite surprised that this park is only a National Historic Landmark and not a full-fledged National Park.

Cahokia State Mounds
Cahokia State Mounds

Honorable mention: Insomnia Cookies

I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention the fine establishments in St. Louis called Insomnia Cookies. One day we weren’t quite hungry enough for a proper dinner so we popped into an Insomnia Cookie and had a delicious ice cream cookie sandwich–which we did manage to eat most of before it melted in the sweltering heat of a Missouri summer. This bakery delivers cookies ’til 3:00 a.m. Guaranteed the students at local universities make good use of this place.

Conclusion

St. Louis has a pretty bad reputation. Yes, we did see some rough areas and wouldn’t have felt comfortable in a lot of places after dark. That being said, B and I were pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable a time we had there during a long weekend. There’s always good places mixed in with bad. So if you find yourself in St. Louis, don’t stay locked up in your hotel room. Explore!

St. Louis Travel
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