St. Louis, Missouri

By Dawn Woolcott

A city reveals itself slowly. It can be hard to judge a city based entirely on one experience, or one day. Many people have said they’ve been to St. Louis, but have only driven through the town onto another destination. No city should be judged by what you can see from the freeway, and St. Louis is no exception.  You have to get off the freeway – explore the side streets and visit the parks and museums. For those coming to the city for just a short weekend or perhaps only one day before a cruise departure – just know that there is much more to the city than an Arch. While the Arch is undeniably amazing, just seeing it does not mean you have “seen” St. Louis. It is worth renting a car for a day if you want to get a better feel for the city.  Here are a few recommendations for places you might want to visit if you only have a short time:

Forest Park

St Louis Forest Park Lagoon with Flowers
Forest Park Lagoon

Voted one of the best city parks in all of the United States for good reason. This 1,300+ acre park is even bigger than New York City’s Central Park and can be explored by car, by bicycle, or on foot. Each gives you a different perspective. The winding paths take you past remnants of the old World’s Fair held here in 1904 including the St. Louis Museum of Art, the History Museum, and the Grand Lagoon.  You will also find a golf course if you feel the need for a round, tennis courts, and the world famous St. Louis Zoo. Another park worth visiting is Tower Grove Park, that includes historic old scenic pavilions that are fun to explore and next to the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Missouri Botanical Garden

Missouri Botanical Garden

Located not far from Forest Park and the Zoo, gardeners everywhere will enjoy a visit to the beautiful gardens. Gardeners will be hard pressed to limit their visit to a short time when there is so much to see. You’ll have to choose from a variety of themed gardens such as the Japanese garden, Sensory garden, or the Victorian garden.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

St Louis Basilica by DWoolcott
The Basilica of St. Louis

When you step inside, it is easy to forget you are in Missouri and not in Florence or Rome. The stunning interior decor and architecture make this well worth a visit. It opens early in the morning, which is a good time to visit and wander peacefully and might even have the interior yourself. Later in the day you might find a wedding or other event in progress and wouldn’t be able to experience it in full. As you leave, note the unusual green tiled roof on buildings outside in the quiet courtyard garden.

The World Chess Hall of Fame

Chess Hall of Fame in St Louis Missouri
Photo credit: The World Chess Hall of Fame

This astounding work of art is the world’s largest chess piece and sits outside the World Chess Hall of Fame. You’ll find this fun photo op in the Central West End, a walkable neighborhood filled with independent shops, restaurants, and coffee shops. Step inside and you’ll discover the story of one of the world’s oldest and best-loved games through engaging exhibitions and creative displays. This combination museum and active community center honors the accomplishments of the game’s finest players and its impact on arts and culture.


While in St. Louis, we stayed at the Cheshire Inn which is near Forest Park and the main campus of Washington University.  I highly recommend the hotel for its unique character and ambience. If you love an old-world charm, vintage style, and European quirky elegance, you’ll enjoy staying at this Inn. Two restaurants are on site, each with its own character. The Fox and Hound is a small and cozy pub feel with dim lights and quiet corners. A full service restaurant on site is Basso which takes you down into a converted cellar where wine bottles line the walls, an open kitchen where you can watch your brick fired pizza being made, and long communal tables or cozy booths around a large bar. While at the Inn you can enjoy a complimentary buffet breakfast with plentiful pastries, a few hot dishes, and a variety of quick options such as oatmeal, yogurt, and fruit. We enjoyed the big bowls of freshly picked blueberries and strawberries available while we were there!

For lunch, we enjoyed our visit to the hip and friendly brunch spot called First Watch where you can choose from breakfast or lunch all day long. The food was excellent and you get a big carafe of coffee all to yourself…  (always a plus with me!)  They have several west side locations, but there is one on Euclid Avenue near Forest Park and the Basilica which makes it convenient. Euclid Avenue is a great spot to head for dinner too, with a lively cluster of locally owned restaurants to choose from – most with outdoor seating options, a little live music by local bands might be playing, and you can admire the gigantic street lights that line the streets.

St. Louis has also been home to Anheuser-Busch Brewing for well over a hundred years. They offer tours of their facility as well as the stables for their famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses – both of which are quite impressive!

St. Louis also loves its art – and believes that art should be free for all. Two museums well worth visiting are free to enter: The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum on the campus of Washington University and just across the street from Forest Park. The museum sits in a contemporary building but holds works spanning from masters such as Dürer and Rembrant to moderns such as Picasso and Pollack. The campus itself is worth exploring – other than the newer buildings near the art museum, the rest of the campus feels quite historic, as if you were wandering around a university in England.  In Forest Park, the St. Louis Art Museum is also free where you can see original works by famous artists including Van Gogh, Ansel Adams, Hans Holbein, Rembrandt, and over 30,000 more…

Tower Grove Park in Autumn
breakfast at Cheshire Inn St Louis
An elegant breakfast buffet at the Cheshire Inn
The Cheshire Inn St Louis
Manor house living at the Cheshire Inn hotel
washington university st louis
Washington University campus in St. Louis
First Watch in St Louis
First Watch Brunch Restaurant
Basso Italian Restaurant in St Louis
Basso Italian Restaurant
Anheuser-Busch brewery stables
The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum
St Louis Art Museum
The St. Louis Art Museum
You can visit St. Louis on one of these river cruises that stop in this historic and park-friendly city!

Viking-America’s Heartland

St Louis to St Paul

Book Now More Info

Grand Ohio River-American Heritage

St. Louis to Pittsburgh

Book Now More Info
Save this story to your Pinterest board for future reference!