Few cities are lucky enough to have an architectural icon like the Gateway Arch overlooking the mighty Mississippi River, but there's so much more to St. Louis. The city has a booming craft brewery scene, a rich history, and top-notch cultural institutions. Whether you're eating at an old-school soda fountain or getting lost in a phantasmagorical wonderland, St. Louis is an excellent weekend destination.
Historic Route 66 ran through St. Louis, so roll into the city old-school style and start your trip with a meal at the 24/7 Eat-Rite Diner. Incredibly small and incredibly unassuming, you won't find a better greasy spoon in the city. If you're not sure what to get, order the Slinger: hash browns, sausage, and eggs topped with chili and onions.
The official name of the Gateway Arch and the park around it is the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, and it commemorates a weird combination of things. The Western half of the park preserves the courthouse where the Dred Scott case, a 1857 trial where a slave unsuccessfully attempted to sue for his freedom, was heard and offers great views of the other unit in the park, which involves the Gateway Arch (dedicated to the first civil government west of the Mississippi).
On your way from one side of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial to the other, take a detour to the very old-school Crown Candy Kitchen for a snack. Their BLTs are the stuff of legend, but their milkshakes are the real draw here. Go for a hot fudge or chocolate banana malted!
The main portion of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial features the famed Gateway Arch. The Arch is the tallest arch in the world, and the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere, so if you aren't too afraid of heights, it's worth it to make the trip up to the top to take in the views.
St. Louis loves its pizza and BBQ ribs, but if you know where to look, you can find some really great fried chicken. Case in point: Byrd & Barrel. Serving up all kinds of chicken, from the obvious (fried chicken sandwiches and nuggets) to the adventurous (chicken liver bahn mis and fried skins), plus tasty sides and a good selection of beers, this joint is great for a relaxed but delicious dinner. Pro tip: the building was once a fast-food joint, and they've kept the drive-thru open if you want a gourmet meal on-the-go.
Belly up to the bar at Dressel's Public House for a beer or two. With an impressive selection of craft beers, plus wine, cocktails, and bar bites, this Welsh pub is a cozy place to knock a few back with the locals.
Snag a seat on the patio at Sanctuaria, then take your time browsing the beverage menu, it features over 100 drinks! Their cocktails, mostly spins on classics, are notoriously tasty. Try a few and enjoy the Latin flair of this place...and order some tapas if you need to soak up the booze.
St. Louis has a strong German heritage and a rich tradition of brewing beer (we'll get to that later), so of course they have some really great local breweries. Urban Chestnut is one of these breweries: the location is a massive bierhall, which is a really fun environment in which to sample what they have on tap.
The Doubletree St. Louis hotel at Union Station looks like a castle, but it's actually an historic converted rail station. That means the building is stunning, inside and out (seriously, the lobby is drool-worthy), and it's in an awesome, central location. The rooms have that old glamour feel, but modern amenities; it's a Hilton Doubletree, after all. Pro tip: there's an hourly lights show projected onto the 65-foot vaulted ceilings each night between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m., you don't wanna miss it!
Nothing like a hearty brunch to start your day! Rooster offers a little something for every kind of brunch-lover: scrambles and savory crepes for the traditional folks, sweet crepes topped with ice cream and French toast topped with zesty citrus butter for those with a sweet tooth, and a brunch burger for the ravenous.
Next up, the Lemp Mansion. The Lemps were a family of German immigrants that grew a small grocery store into the first brewery to distribute their sweet, life-giving elixir across the nation, becoming one of the wealthiest and most influential families in St. Louis in the process. But, Prohibition, divorce, death, and depression soon brought down the Lemps-- and most of the really dark stuff went down in their stately home, the Lemp Mansion .
I won't spoil the fun, since you can visit the Lemp Mansion for yourself. It's a B&B and restaurant, but if staying in a super-haunted historic home isn't your cup of tea, you can check out their museum and gift shop!
Whether or not Budweiser is your beer of choice, there's no denying that their operation is impressive. Stop by the St. Louis Anheuser-Busch brewery and take one of their tours, which range from beer school (a beginner's introduction to different styles of beer) to the history tour, which takes you into their Schoolhouse Museum, to the Day Fresh Tour, where you can meet the Budweiser Clydesdales. Or, just grab a drink in their biergarten!
St. Louis loves its barbecue, and Pappy's Smokehouse is one of the city's most beloved BBQ joints. They only serve food until they run out, and the wait might be long, but once you taste the ribs and burnt ends, you'll understand why. They also have Frito pie, which is your choice of meat with cheese and onions over a pile of Fritos. Sounds weird, but it's totally delicious.
The St. Louis Soldier's Memorial Military Museum was originally built to honor WWI vets, but it's been tweaked to encompass other soldiers as well. Uniforms, weapons, portraits, even art installations make this a sobering and well-thought-out little museum.
The St. Louis City Museum describes itself as a "phantasmagorical wonderland", which should tell you just about everything you need to know about this place. Opened in 1997, the museum, which is housed in an old shoe factory, is made mainly of found architectural and industrial objects (including a school bus, cranes, a fire engine and two old Saber 40 aircraft fuselages). There’s an aquarium, a ferris wheel, a 10-story slide and tons more, but don’t expect to have an easy time finding any of it, since the whole place has essentially been turned into a maze of crazy exhibits...and there’s no maps (to encourage you to explore and discover). You never know where each crazy ladder or slide will lead you...you could end up inside a life-sized whale statue, a giant skate park, an enormous ball pit filled with dodge balls, or in a treehouse bar, where you can order up a nice beer.
Elevated American classics are the specialty at Reeds American Table: think fried catfish over green curry broth, meatloaf made with lamb, pork and beef and topped with tomato jam, and salad made with kale and juniper-maple dressing. Don't skimp on drinks or dessert (they have awesome cocktails and a great wine menu, and the roasted pears are to die for).
End your trip through St. Louis at one of their more famous craft breweries: the Schlafly Taproom. In addition to their delicious beers (there's usually 16 on tap; try the Grapefruit IPA or the Oatmeal Stout). The taproom offers live music Thursday-Saturday, pub fare if you need something to soak up the booze, and a fun crowd of beer-loving locals.