St. Louis is a vibrant, bustling city with steamboats, baseball, hockey, breweries, and plenty of free attractions for you to experience. As the Gateway to the West, St. Louis has always been a center of activity for hundreds of years due to the proximity of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.
First as a trading hub for Native American tribes living along the rivers, as a fur trading post when the European settlers moved in, as the jumping-off point for the Louisiana Purchase Expedition of Lewis and Clark, then to the explosion of city growth when immigrants moved here in mass during the middle 1800s. St. Louis came into its own during the early 1900s as the host of the 1904 World’s Fair and the Olympics.
And was immortalized in the song “Meet Me in St. Louie, Louie”. Since then St. Louis has continued to re-invent itself to what it is today. Here are some of the best things to do In St. Louis.
Visiting other destinations in Missouri? Check out our other delicious guides:
- 20 Best Restaurants In St Louis
- 9 Best Lake Of The Ozarks Restaurants
- 8 Must-Try Restaurants In Springfield Missouri
- The 10 Best Things to Do In St. Louis
- Ride to the Top of the Gateway Arch
- Watch the Game in Ballpark Village
- Explore the City Museum
- Smell the Flowers at Missouri Botanical Garden
- Enjoy the Nature in Forest Park
- Admire the Animals at the Saint Louis Zoo
- Get Your Geek on at the Saint Louis Science Center
- See all the Fishes at the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station
- Play at The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum
- Tour the Anheuser-Busch St. Louis Brewery
- To Sum Up: Best Things To Do In St. Louis
The 10 Best Things to Do In St. Louis
Ride to the Top of the Gateway Arch
The Gateway Arch National Park is a must-see stop on your exploration of St. Louis. Did you know that the Gateway Arch is considered the tallest monument in the United States? The mirror-like steel arch is as magnificent on the outside as is on the inside. While you are waiting for your timed ride up to the top, there is a museum underneath the arch that showcases America’s pioneers including Lewis & Clark. You can learn all about St Louis’ role in the westward expansion of the United States. If you want some thrill, then add this to the things to do In St. Louis.
When it is time for you to get into the tram, watch your head. The tram is egg-shaped and narrows quite a bit at the top. The entire ride takes about 45 to 60 minutes. Be forewarned, It is a slow ride to the top for those who might be claustrophobic. The breathtaking view from the top is worth the journey to reach it. You can see almost 30 miles over the Mississippi River and to the West on a clear day. And if you have more time on your visit, take a Riverboat Cruise on the Mississippi River, which is part of the Gateway Arch Experience.
Watch the Game in Ballpark Village
601 Clark Ave // +13147977530
The St. Louis Cardinal’s baseball is the hottest ticket in town. If you aren’t in the stands at Busch Stadium watching the Cardinals you can enjoy the game at St. Louis’ Ballpark Village right next to the stadium. The Ballpark Village is the newest addition to downtown St. Louis and has seven venues, an outdoor 40′ LED TV with over 200 bench seats for you to watch the game, five separate concert stages, and over 125 different brews on tap in the restaurants and bars throughout the village.
Besides watching the game on the big screen, you can play a game of corn hole or check out the Cardinals Hall of Fame nearby. Even when there isn’t a game being played this is a fun place to bring your family. It’s one of the more “crowded” things to do In St. Louis but equally worth it.
Explore the City Museum
750 N 16th St // +13142312489
One of my earliest memories of visiting St. Louis is exploring the City Museum. Within this 100-yr old 10-story warehouse, there is an unbelievable playground for kids and adults with miles of tunnels, caves, bridges, planes, and castles for you to climb and explore.
The City Museum has secret passages for you to find, playgrounds, ball pits, a skate park, a circus, a tiny train, a Ferris wheel on the roof, and a giant slide that goes down 10-stories. There is even a pinball hall with over 35 games to enjoy.
There is also a cafe on the second floor that offers sandwiches, salads, and pizzas. On Friday and Saturday nights, there is a full bar with a DJ playing music when the City Museum transforms into a no kids allowed playground at night.
Smell the Flowers at Missouri Botanical Garden
4344 Shaw Blvd // +13145775100
The Missouri Botanical Garden is the nation’s oldest public garden and one of the prettiest areas in St. Louis all year long. During the spring and summer, it is fun to walk through the gardens to see and smell all the flower blooms. In the winter, the Garden Glow is something to experience with the pathways all decked out, Christmas trees colorfully lit, and all the special holiday touches scattered around the garden.
My favorite garden is the Japanese Garden, one of the largest in North America, it is 14-acres of Asian plantings, zen gardens, waterfalls, beaches, and islands. You could spend hours in this section and not run into another person, which totally adds to the garden’s peace and tranquility.
Another neat garden area to visit is the Climatron. You can see this giant greenhouse when you enter the gardens. The Climatron is the first geodesic dome to be used as a conservatory. It is unique because it has no interior support that you can see from floor to ceiling. This allows more light and space for plants than conventional greenhouse designs. It is probably the only place where it feels like you are walking in a tropical forest jungle in the middle of the Midwest. The botanical garden is open on Tuesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You must put the garden on your things to do In St. Louis list.
Enjoy the Nature in Forest Park
If you are looking for something to do outside then head no further than Forest Park. Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States and is larger than New York’s Central Park! The park has over 1,300 acres filled with forests, nature reserves, lakes and streams, fountains, trails, recreational pathways, and five of the St. Louis cultural institutions including the Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis Science Center, The Muny, Missouri History Museum, and the Saint Louis Zoo which all have free general admission.
Forest Park was also the site of the 1904 World’s Fair and you can see several structures that still exist from the fair today like the St. Louis Art Museum and the giant walk-through Flight Cage at the St. Louis Zoo. The World’s Fair Pavilion overlooking the lake and Picnic Island was built after the fair as a memorial to the 1904 fair. And on warm sunny days, you’ll find tons of people biking, walking the trails, and picnicking on the lawn in front of the art museum and around the pavilion. One of the more relaxing things to do In St. Louis, that’s for sure.
Forest Park also houses the James S. McDonnell Planetarium, multiple golf courses, a boathouse, tennis center and courts, a cricket field, plenty of sporting fields, and a fish hatchery. There is so much to see and do just in Forest Park that you might want to plan a couple of days to see it all here.
1 Government Dr // +13147810900
The Saint Louis Zoo has over 14,000 animals living in natural habitats over 90 acres within Forest Park and was named #4 among the best zoos in the world by TourScanner this March. The zoo is one of the busiest areas in the park with over 3-million visitors annually, so parking can be an issue if you come later in the day. However, if you arrive early, you can park on the street for free. The zoo is open daily and is one of the few free zoos in the United States.
The River’s Edge and the Red Rock area are very representative of the African landscapes and homes for the elephants, rhinos, giraffes, and zebras. My favorite part of the zoo is the 1904 World’s Fair Flight Cage. The Flight Cage was the largest aviary ever built and today it remains one of the largest free-flight cages in the world, where all the birds roam and fly free throughout the enclosure.
Make sure to check out Polar Bear Point and the newer Primate Canopy Trails, outdoor homes for lemurs and monkeys. Plan on spending a half to a full day at the zoo to see all the animals and enjoy all the activities. Visiting this zoo is a must on the list of things to do In St. Louis.
Get Your Geek on at the Saint Louis Science Center
5050 Oakland Ave // +13142894400
The St. Louis Science Center started in 1963 as a planetarium but has expanded to include multiple buildings that house over 750 interactive exhibits and is now among the largest science centers in the United States.
You can learn about energy, agriculture, space travel, dig up dinosaur fossils, experience the red planet, build a replica of St. Louis Arch, and so much more. Take in a show at the James S. McDonnell Planetarium to experience the night sky without city lights.
Check out the indoor-outdoor GROW agricultural pavilion and gallery, or watch a movie in the four-story OMNIMAX® Theater. The Science Center is one of the only free nonprofit science museums in the country. There is a fee to park at the main building but is free if you park by the planetarium.
See all the Fishes at the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station
201 S 18th St // +13149233900
The St. Louis Aquarium is one of the newer attractions within the city opening in the summer of 2020. The aquarium is inside St. Louis Union Station, a National Landmark, which was one of the largest and busiest passenger rail terminals in the world in the early 19th-Century. There are six global aquatic galleries housing over 13,000 animals to see including tons of fish, jellyfish, sea dragons, river otters, and of course, sharks. It’s definitely one of the best things to do In St. Louis.
Shark Canyon has over 80 sharks and Sting Rays swimming in a 250,000-gallon glass environment where you can watch them swim around and over your head. The Confluence Gallery focuses on local animals that are found in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The other galleries take you through global rivers to the big deep oceans. Kids will love being able to press their little faces up to the glass and watch fish bigger than them swim right by.
Play at The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum
516 S Kirkwood Rd // +13148228900
St. Louis Children’s Museum, The Magic House, is a full-day adventure where kids can use their imaginations to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover. This multiple-floor 60,000-sqft museum is filled with hundreds of interactive exhibits for kids of all ages. The littlest ones can play in a toddler-sized boat, while the older kids can work in a tiny village, pretend to be a president, be Jack in the Beanstalk, work in the Construction Zone, play in the giant Bubble Room, or be an artist in the Art Studio. There are also several outside exhibits where kids can interact, including playing in a waterfall and outdoor nature garden.
This summer, kids can even play on the beach thanks to ten truckloads of sand that were brought to the backyard of the Magic House. Kids will love hanging out at the Magic House, and you will love seeing their laughter and happiness. If you’re looking for things to do In St. Louis with your kids, this is it.
Tour the Anheuser-Busch St. Louis Brewery
1200 Lynch St // +13145772626
You can smell the hops in the air the minute you step outside of your car. The Anheuser-Busch Brewery tour is an activity any beer-lover should have on their must-do list when visiting Saint Louis. The tour lasts about 45-minutes and takes you through the entire 7-Step Brewing Process including being able to enjoy samples at the end of the tour.
The biggest tour highlight for me was being able to see the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses in their historic 1885 stable. Although trying new beer samples and seeing which ones were my sisters’ favorites was entertaining. The entire experience was a neat way to try something new and we all had a wonderful time exploring Anheuser-Busch Brewery. Amongst the things to do In St. Louis, this one is one of my favourite 🙂
To Sum Up: Best Things To Do In St. Louis
If you are a huge sports fan, love art, history, culture, science, nature, and of course, beer then St. Louis needs to be on your travel bucket list. With many of the major attractions like the St. Louis Zoo, the Science Center, and the St. Louis Art Museum all offering free admission, budget travelers can spend several vacation days discovering the attractions of this gateway city without breaking the bank. Come out to this fabulous city and experience these attractions and so much more. They are all waiting for you at the Gateway to the West!
Which of these best things to do in St. Louis will you try first? Let us know in the comments section below!
Heather is a freelance writer and photographer from Detroit. She is the owner of Raulersongirlstravel, a travel website sharing her adventures and photographs from around the world. She loves SLOW travel, getting to know the local culture, and always exploring with her camera. She has been published in several publications.