Those are the only two things I knew about St. Louis, Missouri before last weekend.
Considered by many to be just another Midwestern flyover city, St. Louis has been a drive-thru destination for me for the past few years, always a good place to take a quick fifteen leg stretch on a long road trip. But this year, things were different. St. Louis no longer a pit stop, but a holiday destination. We were heading to the Gateway of the West, and we were ready to have some good ol’ fashioned Midwestern fun.
Time to get my TripAdvisor on.
Here’s a few of the St. Louis highlights we hit on our holiday travels:
Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis
You can’t search “St. Louis attractions” without the Cathedral Basilica topping the list. “More beautiful than the ones in Europe” and “Unbelievable spiritual experience” are just a few of the glowing reviews accredited to this St. Louis must-see.
My husband has a thing for historic churches (they are a mandatory pull-the-car-over and get-your-cameras-out moment), so a few quick glances at the Cathedral visitor pictures posted and I knew we were dealing with a one-of-a-kind sanctuary that would top the hubby’s Most Favorite Photographs List.
It was pouring rain the afternoon we arrived at the Cathedral Basilica. Thankfully, they had easily accessible parking located almost adjacent to the church. Even in the unrelenting rain, the exterior of the Cathedral was simply out of this world. The dome, the spires, and those insanely impressive wooden doors – the Cathedral was beyond words (or pictures, for that matter).
We arrived mid-wedding (can you imagine getting married in this amazing space?), so spent a few minutes exploring the unique museum and intricate foyer mosaics. Following the ceremony, we ventured into the hallowed spiritual space and just froze. It was unbelievable. When not in use for religious ceremony (mass, wedding, etc.), the Cathedral is open for viewing and tours to the public (and it’s all free).
Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park
I had one big thing on my St. Louis bucket list – snap a great photo of the Gateway Arch. While, going to the Gateway Arch Park seemed like an obvious destination point for this little photographic rendezvous, it doesn’t offer the landscape vantage point I needed to capture the St. Louis icon (it’s freakin’ huge).
Enter: Manic Googling.
My arch-related photoscape challenge appeared to be a common one, judging by the many forum and social posts asking the question: “Where’s the best pace to take pictures of the Gateway Arch?”. Turns out, this challenge had a readily accessible solution – Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park.
The Memorial Park is located across the river from the Gateway Arch, over on the Illinois side. It offers an ADA-accessible overlook, the brilliant Gateway Geyser, and phenomenal views of the St. Louis icon. The park pays homage to it’s generous benefactor, a WW2 veteran, St. Louis attorney, and founder of the PBS affiliate, Malcolm W. Martin. It was his forethoughtful endowment that made the Memorial Park (and these amazing photos) possible.
Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tours
Ahhhhh, Anheuser-Busch – one of the largest beer brands in the world and a true St. Louis landmark.
The towering historic campus is hard to miss off the interstate, with its billowing steam clouds and trademarked branding. The St. Louis brewery location is the largest of Anheuser-Busch’s multiple campuses, and home to the world-renowned Budweiser Clydesdales. And the best part, is that photo-snapping tourists like myself can explore the brewery through multiple tour options.
I’m not a huge Budweiser fan (tastes too much like college); however, the Anheuser-Busch tour was just fascinating. Lots of history, unique architecture, and a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at Anheuser-Busch’s unique brewing process. Getting up close and personal with the Budweiser Clydesdales (their stable is incredibly ornate) was so cool, the production plant’s automated efficiency is impressive, and the free tastings along the way make for a very enjoyable event.
Word of caution: there’s A LOT of walking on the Brewery Tours. Also, much of the tour involves walking outside – be sure to dress accordingly. The Brewery Gift Shop was great (totally stocked up on Christmas gifts…you know my family’s from Mississippi, right?). There’s also an outdoor restaurant on the campus.
A St. Louis Holiday Weekend
St. Louis has so many unique attractions and venues. It’s home to the first Korean War Memorial in the United States (located in Forest Park – think 1904 World’s Fair), Ulysses S. Grant’s Historic Farm, and several casinos with busy event line-ups.
Our favorite place to eat while in St. Louis was the Capitalist Pig – a 1930’s era Police Station converted into an award-winning art gallery and BBQ joint (it’s so good). You can chow down on some locally-sourced meats (their sauce is out of this world) from repurposed jail cell while listening to local bands and drinking local brew. The Capitalist Pig is one of the most unique restaurants I’ve experienced. It’s located right across from the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, so great place to grab lunch.
I feel like we just scratched the surface when it comes to exploring St. Louis, and am already planning a second trip. If you’re in the area during the holiday season, consider swinging by Anheuser-Busch for the Brewery Lights (it’s free). There’s also a well-reputed zoo and science center that tops the list of kid-friendly St. Louis attractions. The smaller communities around St. Louis also offer much for the Instagramming tourist – Hermann’s wineries, the Ozarks’ caverns, and Ste. Genevieve’s historic district, just to name a few.