Best Things To Do in St. Louis
With its cache of vibrant museums, gardens and parks, you'll find plenty of reasons to meet in St. Louis. Families will enjoy visiting the Saint Louis Zoo, The Magic House and the Saint Louis Science Center. Meanwhile, artsy types can't pass up a chance to check out the City Museum and the Saint Louis Art Museum. Wherever you start your expedition, save time to marvel at the iconic stainless steel Gateway Arch rising from the city center.
Updated August 7, 2018
- #1View all PhotosfreeGateway Arch#1 in St. LouisMonuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMonuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
This monument to the country's westward expansion is also an engineering marvel, which St. Louisans remain proud of more than 50 years after its construction. The stainless steel Gateway Arch, which was designed and submitted by Eero Saarinen during a national competition, rises 630 feet into the air and spans 630 feet from leg to leg. Visitors can learn more about the history of the arch at the Museum of Westward Expansion and the Gateway Arch Visitors Center. Opened in July 2018, the building sits below the arch and includes six new galleries that detail the history of the West. What's more, the park now boasts more than 5 miles of walking and biking paths.
Although it's free to enjoy on the ground, many former travelers suggest paying the $10 to $13 fee to ride to the top of the Gateway Arch, citing its incredible aerial views. For another stunning vantage point during the warmer months, consider buying a one-hour sightseeing cruise ticket, which costs $20 for adults and $10 for children ages 3 to 15. Tickets for both activities can be purchased in advance on the Gateway Arch ticket portal.
- #2View all PhotosfreeForest Park#2 in St. LouisParks and Gardens, Recreation, Sports, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, Recreation, Sports, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Forest Park is huge. If you want to get an idea of how large, consider this: It's about 500 acres larger than New York City's sprawling Central Park. As such, this "forest" holds nearly 1,300 acres of things to do. You'll find everything from a zoo to summer concerts to museums to a fish hatchery to a golf course inside its borders. You can also jog its trails, boat its waterways and swing your racket on its tennis courts, among other activities. Just glance at this map; you'll see it takes effort to become bored here.
And if you're looking for a bit of St. Louis history, you're in luck: There's plenty of that on-site, too. Forest Park has not only been open since 1876 but has also played host to the 1904 World's Fair. (In fact, proceeds earned from the 1904 World's Fair were used to construct the park's World's Fair Pavilion in 1909, which is free to visit.) Additionally, the park also houses the Cabanne House – the first brick farmhouse built west of the Mississippi.
- #3View all Photos#3 in St. LouisChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Although this beautiful, neo-Byzantine Roman Catholic cathedral was completed less than a century ago in the early 1900s (long after many of the churches in Europe), the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis enjoys worldwide renown for its mosaics collection on its walls and ceiling. Nearly 42 million glass tesserae pieces comprise the installation, making it one of the largest in the world.
The cathedral's massive mosaics collection is why many previous visitors recommend spending several hours here, even if you're not religious. Just be sure to check the church's schedule: When Mass is in session, tours are not available.
- #4View all PhotosfreeSaint Louis Zoo#4 in St. LouisZoos and Aquariums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDZoos and Aquariums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Lions, tigers and bears, oh my! The Saint Louis Zoo does house these three types of mammals, but it also boards armadillos, sloths, swans, penguins, turtles, gators and tarantulas, along with many other kinds of creatures. And over at the Caribbean Cove, you can run your hands over an assortment of stingrays (clipped of their stingers).
But the wide assortment of animals isn't the only reason why past visitors praised this St. Louis attraction. Many recent travelers raved about the free admission, as well as the large, natural enclosures created for the animals. In fact, the zoo is so large that you may want to set aside more than one day to explore this expansive property. And if you're hoping to avoid swarms of people, arrive early or plan your visit during a weekday.
- #5View all PhotosfreeGrant's Farm#5 in St. LouisParks and Gardens, Zoos and Aquariums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, Zoos and Aquariums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Grant's Farm was built by Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant, who settled on the land in 1854 to farm and raise cattle. Eventually, the namesake would gain fame for his service in the Civil War, which helped the leader become president in 1869.
After Grant moved off the land, the property was preserved by August A. Busch, Sr. and has since belonged to the Busch family. Grant's Farm is now home to 281 acres of land and offers concerts, animal shows and petting zoos for little would-be zoologists. The property also features stables that house some of Budweiser's famous Clydesdale horses. No wonder why recent travelers said this attraction is well worth a visit despite its steep fees for special activities.
- #6View all Photos#6 in St. LouisMuseumsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Downtown West's City Museum is hard to describe, so maybe we should use its own words: "an eclectic mixture of children's playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of unique, found objects." Attractions include "Toddler Town," an exhibit with tunnels and a ball pit for tots, and "Enchanted Caves," where visitors can explore tooth-like stalactites and deep caverns.
In fact, the City Museum appeals to so many children of all ages that several recent travelers described this attraction as a must-see museum worthy of multiple visits.
- #7View all Photos#7 in St. LouisMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Whether you enjoy art or are just looking for a way to pass the time while exploring Forest Park, travelers suggest checking out the Saint Louis Art Museum. Home to more than 34,000 works of art, the museum showcases pieces from Europe, Asia and ancient Egypt. You'll find a mix of paintings, sculptures, photographs, textiles and more displayed here.
Former visitors loved perusing the Saint Louis Art Museum's collections, adding that its temporary "Sunken Cities: Egypt's Lost Worlds" exhibit (which is available until Sept. 9) and its permanent "European Art" gallery can't be missed. Past travelers also appreciated the museum's complimentary admission, though extra charges apply for access to select rotating exhibits every day except Friday. Tickets for special events and galleries are sold on MetroTix's website. You'll also want to be mindful of the museum's photography policy: Only flash-free photography is permitted in the featured and permanent exhibits.
- #8View all Photos#8 in St. LouisMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Just south of Forest Park's Oakland Avenue border lies the Saint Louis Science Center. At this free museum, travelers can check out more than 700 hands-on exhibits about animals, space, weather and skyscrapers, among other topics. Complimentary science experiments and live demonstrations are available as well.
According to past visitors, the Saint Louis Science Center offers ample ways to keep kids of all ages entertained. However, some museumgoers lamented the crowded atmosphere, particularly on Saturdays, while others wished activities like planetarium shows and Discovery Room experiences did not cost extra. Travelers who drive here and do not park for free at the planetarium will also need to set aside additional funds for parking in the museum's lot, which costs between $10 and $12, depending on the season.
- #9View all Photos#9 in St. LouisParks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDParks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
One of the more unique things about the Missouri Botanical Garden is that kids love it. And why wouldn't they? The Doris I. Schnuck Children's Garden features a limestone cave (to explore), the Spelunker's Slide (to hurtle down), a treehouse (to climb) and a steamboat (to board), among other attractions.
And the sights geared toward adults aren't that shabby, either. Some previous visitors said feeding the koi fish in the Japanese Garden and admiring the Chihuly glass sculptures throughout the property were the highlights of their trips, while others recommend enjoying a picnic lunch (during the warmer months) or taking in the lights and holiday decorations (in the winter).
- #10View all Photos#10 in St. LouisMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
If you're traveling with little ones, save time for a visit to The Magic House. This children's museum in Kirkwood, a southwest suburb of St. Louis, offers a variety of interactive exhibits for younger kids to enjoy, including an area for budding builders, a bubble room and a "Jack and the Beanstalk"-inspired climbing structure. On sunny days, your children can also run around the Outdoor Play Garden, which features a circular stream, hopscotch courts, a garden kaleidoscope and more.
Families rave about The Magic House, citing its exhibits as more educational than those found at other children's museums. Visitors also praise the property's attentive staff, though some caution that the facility can get crowded, especially during holiday breaks and when school groups are on-site. To avoid hordes of families in the summer and on weekends (the busiest times of year), the museum recommends arriving after 2 p.m.
- #11View all Photos#11 in St. LouisSightseeing, SportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, SportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Major League Baseball's St. Louis Cardinals are much beloved by their hometown. A visit to Busch Stadium will prove that, as you see the ballpark bathed in swaths of red-shirted fans. Even if you're not a baseball fan, a visit to this iconic St. Louis stadium cannot be missed. Baseball aside, the venue offers stunning views of the St. Louis skyline and the iconic Gateway Arch, according to past guests. Families were also impressed with the Family Pavilion, a facility renovated in 2017 that offers a multilevel play structure, a virtual reality experience, a suite for nursing mothers and more. What's more, this stadium offers escalators, which eliminate some of the walking you'll have to do to get from the concession stands to your seat.
You'll find Busch Stadium in the city's downtown area, just a few blocks from the river and within a mile of Scottrade Center (home of the city's NHL team, the St. Louis Blues). To see Busch Stadium, you can either catch a game or take a tour. Game fees vary, and hourlong tours cost $14 to $18 per person (kids 3 and younger do not need tickets). During baseball season, tours are available every day at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., while offseason tours depart daily at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
Explore More of St. Louis
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.