St. Louis is best-known to most Americans for its landmark arch. But residents appreciate their hometown for its many parks, greenspaces and easily enjoyed entertainments: the city ranks second only to Washington, D.C., for highest number of free things to do among U.S. cities.
You might guess it's the Washington Monument but, in fact, the Gateway Arch is the tallest manmade national monument in America. Nearby is an open mall (as in plaza, not shopping mall) with a lovely reflecting pool. 15th Street is where to find the City Museum with its multitude of attractions, including Tiny Train Town, World Aquarium, Enchanted Caves, Toddler Town and an interesting collection of architectural relics. The place is one of visitors' most popular stops, because it's like a playground for young and old.
You can also spend some quality family time at Forest Park, a large, central public space where the outdoor activities include boating, fishing, picnics, golf and ice-skating. While there, make sure to try the park's hotdogs and ice creams, which are a point of St. Louis pride.
One of the best times to visit the city is from May to June, when the St. Louis Renaissance Faire takes place on weekends. A lot of these fairs absorb a good deal of flack, ridiculed as the exclusive domain of nerds, but this one is different. It features excellent food, drinks and entertainment, and locals dress up and decorate their houses as if it were the 16th century.
If you enjoy performing arts, St. Louis has one of the two Fabulous Fox Theatres in existence. It has a variety of entertainment year-round. In summer, you can enjoy outdoor musical concerts at the Muny. In late spring, take in a free show during the Shakespeare Festival.
Shopping and Dining
Downtown St. Louis has been undergoing improvements and the site is now seeing the arrival of many new hotels and arenas, domes and stadiums, along with plenty of shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. But outside the city center there are neighborhoods with their own appealing attractions. Historic Soulard, located southwest of downtown, has a great farmers market (it's the oldest west of the Mississippi). The surrounding blocks are filled with trendy dining places, including Lafayette Square with its charming tree-lined streets.
If you're looking to shop and dine in a more cosmopolitan environment, the Central West End is where art galleries and antique shops are. After shopping, you can relax in one of the many coffee houses in the area. Visitors who enjoy Italian food will love the Hill, also known as Little Italy. Apart from Italian restaurants, you'll discover a wealth of Italian bakeries and shops.