Why Go To St. Louis
With a slice of Midwestern Americana and a hint of cosmopolitan flair, St. Louis' charms are best viewed in the stands of Busch Stadium, in the nostalgia of the iconic Judy Garland film "Meet Me in St. Louis," or at the bottom of a pint of Budweiser. And yes, there's the Gateway Arch – that gleaming curve of stainless steel. But beyond St. Louie's star attractions, you'll find a vibrant city that has plenty to offer for beer, food, sports and music enthusiasts. To start, it's the birthplace of iced tea and ice cream cones and is often referred to as the "Home of the Blues" thanks to its rich music scene. And with 79 distinct neighborhoods to tour, including tranquil Forest Park and historical Soulard, there's plenty to see, eat and do in this Midwestern metropolis. Plus, exploring here won't put a major dent in your wallet: St. Louis boasts more free attractions than any city outside the District of Columbia. So take a cue from Lewis and Clark, who "discovered" the area in the early 19th century, and start your exploration of the West – and St. Louie – here.
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Best Months to Visit
The best times to visit St. Louis are in April and May and September through October. St. Louis experiences long, hot summers and long, cold winters. The short seasons of spring and fall, which offer pleasant temperatures that set the stage for a full event calendar, make for the most enjoyable visits.
Weather in St. Louis
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
What You Need to Know
- It's multicultural Although the Gateway to the West offers its fair share of classic Americana (think: Cardinals baseball and barbecue), St. Louis also boasts a sizable immigrant population. In fact, this Midwestern city is home to the world's largest Bosnian population outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- It's hopping For a night out, head to The Loop in the West End. This area features a vibrant set of watering holes, plus dance lounges and several live music venues.
- It's a barbecue town St. Louis' version of barbecue is tangy and sweet. To sample some of the city's finest barbecue, visit traveler-approved barbecue joints like Bogart's Smokehouse in Soulard and Pappy's Smokehouse in Midtown.
How to Save Money in St. Louis
- Be mindful of the Cardinals' home schedule Although hotel rates stay fairly consistent throughout the year, prices can rise when the Cardinals play at home. To avoid these higher prices, plan your visit in the offseason or when the Cardinals are away.
- Take advantage of the city's free attractions One of the draws of this Missouri city is its abundance of free activities. Save some money by sticking to St. Louis' free attractions, such as the Saint Louis Zoo and the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.
- Use public transportation If you're hoping to avoid the added expense of renting a car or paying for parking, consider using Metro, the city's light rail and bus system. One-day passes cost $7.50.
Culture & Customs
Like Chicago and New York City, St. Louis is home to a plethora of immigrant communities. In addition to housing the world's largest Bosnian population outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the city boasts large German, Indian, Libyan and Mexican enclaves. Neighborhoods like The Hill are prime spots to try authentic ethnic cuisines.
Music is an integral part of St. Louis. The birthplace of ragtime, a precursor to jazz music that came about in the late 19th century, and a haven for a piano-forward form of blues music, St. Louis offers multiple kinds of music (think: rock, jazz, reggae and swing) at its live music venues, including traveler favorites like Broadway Oyster Bar, The Ready Room and Off Broadway. For a complete list of clubs, check out Explore St. Louis' website.
Another vital aspect of this Midwestern city is its baseball culture. Played here since 1876, baseball has become the sport of choice for many locals. The hometown team, the St. Louis Cardinals, regularly play at downtown's Busch Stadium. Some seats even feature views of the Gateway Arch.
What to Eat
From St. Louis-style barbecue to classic pub grub to authentic Bosnian and Italian fare, odds are you'll find plenty to sink your teeth into in this vibrant multicultural city. Many of the city's neighborhoods are home to a particular ethnic background and style of cuisine, so if you know what kind of food you're after, consult Explore St. Louis' Neighborhoods page before venturing out for grub. Or if you'd rather heed the advice of past diners, try eating at one of the following traveler-approved eateries.
Should you crave a classic deli sandwich, previous visitors suggest checking out Blues City Deli in Benton Park or Adriana's on the Hill in – you guessed it – The Hill district. For American comfort food like burgers, wings and nachos, dine at Hendel's Restaurant & Market or Stacked STL. And if you're looking for a quintessential rack of St. Louis-style ribs (which are slathered in sweet barbecue sauce before cooking on a grill), head to local barbecue hot spots, such as Bogart's Smokehouse and Pappy's Smokehouse.
No visit to St. Louis would be complete without sampling the city's twist on authentic Italian and Bosnian cuisines. The Hill's Charlie Gitto's and Zia's on the Hill are two places known for traditional Italian fare and toasted ravioli, a local Italian-inspired dish that features meat-filled pasta covered in breadcrumbs and pan-fried. If you'd rather try Bosnian cuisine, head 5 miles outside the city center to Grbic Restaurant & Events. Noteworthy dishes here include cevapi (grilled beef sausages with bread) and sarma (beef- and rice-stuffed cabbage rolls covered in a paprika sauce).
St. Louis is relatively safe to visit, but like other metropolitan areas, it's best to exercise caution while visiting, especially in areas north of Delmar Boulevard and across the Mississippi River in East St. Louis. Explore St. Louis recommends several tips for staying safe during your trip, including keeping valuables in parked cars hidden and walking with others at night. For more safety suggestions, consult Explore St. Louis' website.
Getting Around St. Louis
The best way to get around St. Louis is to drive or use MetroLink. Metro's efficient light rail system offers stops throughout the city, though locales removed from the main tourist areas are generally harder to reach (if at all). Meanwhile, having your own set of wheels – which you can rent from St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) – will ensure you can get to all of St. Louis' must-visit sights, but this convenience comes at a cost: You'll have to pay $1.50 to $25 for every two hours of parking in the downtown area on top of daily car rental fees. Metro's network also includes MetroBus routes and the downtown and Forest Park trolleys, but their longer travel times make them less convenient. Hailing a taxi or renting a bike are other options, but cabs are pricey and biking is not recommended during the cooler months.
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