Is St. Louis Worth Visiting? 5 Awesome Reasons to Go in 2024

I’ll be honest. When I had the opportunity to travel to St. Louis, Missouri for my husband’s work, I wasn’t that excited. I thought it would be a small, boring Midwestern city without much culture or things to do. Wow, was I ever wrong. (To all my St. Louisans out there, I’m so sorry.)

If you’re wondering if St. Louis is worth visiting, this post is for you! I had every reason in my head to not like St. Louis, but I’m not exaggerating when I say I was blown away by this city. It was such a pleasant surprise for me in every way.

Is St. Louis worth visiting?

You could probably already tell from my intro that my answer is a resounding “yes!” St. Louis is absolutely worth visiting. Known as the “Gateway to the West,” St. Louis has a surprising variety of things to see and do.

Whether you’re into history, art, music, theater, food, or sports, you’ll find something for you in St. Louis. 

Is St. Louis worth visiting? See the Gateway Arch

5 awesome reasons to visit St. Louis

Here are a few of the reasons why I love St. Louis and think it’s worth visiting.

1. St. Louis has so many attractions (many of them FREE!)

The thing that stood out to me most about St. Louis was the number of attractions, from the St. Louis Zoo and Aquarium to the St. Louis SC soccer stadium and City Museum. 

We only scratched the surface of all there is to see in St. Louis, and I’m already excited to go back and explore more.

What’s even better is many of these attractions don’t cost a penny! St. Louis ranks closely with Washington, D.C. for the number of free attractions available to the public. 

St. Louis attractions that have no entrance fee:

  • St. Louis Zoo
  • St. Louis Science Center
  • St. Louis Art Museum
  • Forest Park (St. Louis’s urban park, which is bigger than NYC’s Central Park!)
  • Gateway Arch National Park
  • Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis
  • Grant’s Farm
  • Missouri History Museum

Other must-see places in St. Louis:

  • The Muny: The largest outdoor musical theater in the country.
  • St. Louis Aquarium: Inside the old Union Station, this aquarium is home to more than 13,000 animals, including a giant shark habitat.
  • Union Station: Once the largest train station in the country, and now a major food and entertainment venue.
  • City Museum: One of the most unique museums you’ll ever see, filled with tunnels, caves, slides, and rides indoors and outdoors.
Downtown St. Louis is worth visiting

2. St. Louis has an amazing food scene

Whatever you’re craving, you’re likely to find it in St. Louis.

I’m still surprised that in a city as big as Boston, where I live, there are no Persian restaurants. We have to drive outside of the city to places like Watertown to find a good one. 

Not the case for St. Louis! Here you’ll find awesome Persian restaurants, not to mention a plethora of Thai, Chinese, Indian, Mexican…you name it!

And of course, you can’t miss some local favorites like Ted Drewes frozen custard, Fitz’s root beer, and Pappy’s BBQ. 

Other St. Louis food inventions include St. Louis-style pizza, gooey butter cake, and toasted ravioli. Mmm.

St. Louis is worth visiting for Ted Drewes frozen custard

3. St. Louis has a rich history to discover

St. Louis is a cultural crossroads in the heartland of the U.S. It’s well known as the “Gateway to the West,” where the famous Lewis and Clark expedition began in 1804. 

The explorers were tasked with scoping out the land that made up the Louisiana Purchase (everything west of St. Louis).

The city’s strategic location along the Mississippi River led to its rapid growth and prosperity throughout the 1800s. It became a music hub, home to famous Blues and Rock n’ Roll artists like Chuck Berry, Scott Joplin, and Miles Davis.

In 1904, St. Louis hosted the World’s Fair, a giant international exposition in Forest Park. That same year, St. Louis was also the first U.S. city (and third in the world) to host the modern Olympics. 

You can learn a lot more about the history of St. Louis and Missouri at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park, located at the original entrance of the World’s Fair.

🇫🇷 How did St. Louis get its name?
The city was founded by French fur traders back in 1764, and they named the city after King Louis IX, the only French king to become a saint. The funny thing is they didn’t name it after the actual king of France at the time, Louis XV, but rather after a king who reigned more than 500 years prior.

St. Louis Union Station

4. People in St. Louis are friendly and down-to-earth

When I arrived in St. Louis, I immediately noticed how kind people were. I’ve lived in New England for the last five years, and while I think New Englanders can get a bad rap (I’ve met so many lovely people here), there is something to be said for the warmth of the Midwest.

People seem less hurried here. Drivers are patient (almost to a fault – I’ve gotten way too used to the frantic driving in Boston) and courteous toward pedestrians. 

Even though St. Louis is a big city, it has the vibe of a small town: friendly and down-to-earth.

5. St. Louis is a safe and family-friendly place

Before our visit, someone shared an article with us saying St. Louis was one of the most dangerous cities in America. Interestingly, when we toured around the city with a St. Louisan, she said the city gets severely misjudged because of what people consider “St. Louis.”

Crime stats are calculated based on St. Louis City, not St. Louis County, and are severely skewed. If you include the 90+ municipalities within the county, crime rates are significantly lower. 

In fact, we were told by many locals what a safe and wonderful place St. Louis is to raise a family. And we never once felt unsafe during our time there. 

Of course, you should take the usual precautions you would in any major city, but as a whole, St. Louis is a well-maintained place where you can tell residents have a sense of pride and want to see the city continue to thrive.

St. Louis is worth visiting because of its family-friendliness.

Fun facts about St. Louis

Here are a few quick facts you may or may not already know about St. Louis:

  • St. Louis consumes more barbecue sauce per capita than any other place in the U.S.
  • St. Louis used to be one of the largest shoe manufacturing centers in the world.
  • The Gateway Arch is the tallest man-made monument in the U.S.
  • Panera was founded in St. Louis, originally called the St. Louis Bread Company. You’ll still see it called by that name throughout the city.
  • St. Louis City and St. Louis County have 92 different municipal governments, so it’s a city of cities.

Best place to stay in St. Louis

We stayed at the Royal Sonesta Chase Park Plaza and loved it. Locals will tell you the hotel is a cultural landmark in St. Louis, dating back to 1922.

The hotel has three awesome restaurants and a five-screen cinema, as well as an outdoor pool. 10/10 recommend this place for your visit to St. Louis!


Other FAQs

Here are answers to other common questions about St. Louis: 

Why is St. Louis so popular?

For one, St. Louis is in a prime, central location in the U.S. Midwest, with easy access to other parts of the country. (I guess there’s a reason for its nickname “Gateway to the West.”)

St. Louis is also an affordable place to visit with several free attractions, including the St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis Art Museum, and St. Louis Science Center. The 1,300-acre Forest Park is home to many events and points of interest, drawing crowds from near and far.

The city’s rich music and food culture is another major selling point. Who doesn’t love a good barbecue and blues?

And baseball fans love coming to St. Louis to watch the Cardinals play. The team has won 11 World Series championships, the second-most of any major league team.

At the St. Louis Science Center

Is there a lot to do in St. Louis?

Yes, I was shocked by how much there is to do in St. Louis. Whether you want to see a live musical or show, cheer on one of the sports teams, tour one of the many museums, or delight your taste buds at the variety of restaurants, you’ll find plenty of ways to fill your time.

What is the best month to visit St. Louis?

April, May, September, and October are great times to visit St. Louis, as the weather is warmer but not as hot as in the summer. (Summers can get really HOT.) 

While winter in St. Louis isn’t as extreme as the northern U.S. states, it still can get pretty cold. 

Spring and fall are the best times to take advantage of milder temperatures and enjoy both indoor and outdoor activities in St. Louis.

How many days should you spend in St. Louis?

You can hit a lot of the highlights in one day, but to get a really good feel for the city, I recommend spending at least three or four days here. 

Here’s an example of how you could spend four days in St. Louis:

Day 1: Explore Forest Park and its many attractions, including the St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri History Museum, and St. Louis Science Center.

Day 2: Tour City Museum and Union Station before watching a soccer game at CITYPARK stadium.

Day 3: Go on a St. Louis food tour to experience its many culinary delights and visit the Gateway Arch.

Day 4: Visit the National Blues Museum and walk next door for a delicious St. Louis-style barbecue at Sugarfire. See a musical at The Muny in the evening.

Beautiful St. Louis

What food is St. Louis known for?

St. Louis is a foodie haven. Here are a few food items specific to St. Louis to add to your list (I really shouldn’t be writing this while hungry):

  • St. Louis-style pizza: A thin cracker-like crust topped with sweet tomato sauce and Provel cheese.
  • Provel cheese: A processed blend of Swiss, provolone, and cheddar cheese founded in St. Louis.
  • Frozen custard concrete: This thick frozen treat was made most famous by Ted Drewes, a must-stop place in St. Louis.
  • Gooey butter cake: A sweet, dense cake made with wheat cake flour, butter, sugar, and eggs, and topped with powdered sugar.
  • Toasted ravioli: Breaded and fried ravioli served with marinara sauce.
  • Slinger: This is a mixture of hashbrowns, over-easy eggs, and sausage patties topped with chili, American cheese, and raw onions – a staple in St. Louis diners.  

And one more St. Louis invention that doesn’t sound appealing to me at all but is fascinating: The St.Paul sandwich. This sandwich is commonly served in Chinese American restaurants in the St. Louis area and consists of an egg foo young patty served with dill pickle, white onion, mayo, and lettuce between two slices of white bread. 

Apparently, the St. Paul sandwich was invented by Chinese restaurants in the 1940s as a menu item that would be more palatable to a Midwestern American audience. Not sure why anyone would choose white bread over Kung Pao chicken, but that’s beyond me…

How should you spend a day in St. Louis?

If I only had one day in St. Louis, I would:

  • Spend the morning in Forest Park and visit the St. Louis Zoo or the St. Louis Art Museum
  • Head over to Sugarfire for a barbecue lunch before touring the National Blues Museum or City Museum nearby. 
  • Visit Gateway Arch National Park and buy tickets to ride the elevator all the way to the top. 
  • In the evening, grab dinner at Union Station and ride the Ferris wheel, or see an outdoor musical at The Muny.
St. Louis Zoo

Is St. Louis a beautiful city?

Yes, St. Louis is beautiful! I was not expecting there to be such lovely parks and architecture everywhere. History is preserved well in this city, and you can find traces of past eras anywhere you go. 

I also love how diverse St. Louis is, both in terms of its population and the array of things to explore. You have blues and rock n’ roll, root beer and frozen custard, theater and symphony, museum and stadium. 

St. Louis is a cultural melting pot that to me represents the soul of America. It’s a must-see destination on any U.S. bucket list.

Conclusion: Is St. Louis worth visiting?

I hope I’ve convinced you to add St. Louis to your travel wishlist! 

My trip to St. Louis was a great reminder about travel in general: Don’t misjudge a place based on preconceived notions. Give anywhere a chance, and you’ll often end up pleasantly surprised. 

That was most certainly the case for me with St. Louis. Do yourself a favor and go!

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