Myriad museums, natural attractions, historical sites, and culinary delights, not to mention its world-famous Gateway Arch, make St. Louis a terrific destination for travelers from around the world.
Bison and elk and deer—oh, my! These are just some of the wildlife you may spot during a visit to the 546-acre Lone Elk Park, a wildlife management area in Fenton. Take a leisurely drive through to see the animals, or get out of the car and stretch your legs along the park’s 11 miles of hiking trails.
Get out of town and go underground at Meramec Caverns, about 60 minutes southwest of downtown St. Louis. Follow in Jesse James’s footsteps and explore the series of natural caves, which the famed outlaw used as a hideout in the 1800s.
The city’s role in the Westward Expansion of the U.S. in the 19th century was commemorated by the Gateway Arch, which was erected in the mid-1960s. On the heels of the $380 million CityArchRiver project, Gateway Arch National Park (so re-named in February 2018) is in the spotlight once again, introducing the new state-of-the-art Jefferson Memorial Expansion Museum.
The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, about eight miles northeast of the city, was inhabited between 800 and 1400 A.D. and is the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico. The civilization, which was larger than the city of London in 1250 A.D., was dedicated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982.
Music lovers will want to make a beeline for the National Blues Museum, which showcases regional styles and the musicians who create the sounds that have been a foundation of America’s soundtrack for more than a century. Interactive technology, engaging exhibits and live performances will entertain visitors for hours.
Best Day Trip
Literary buffs will be delighted to know that Mark Twain grew up about two hours north of St. Louis in Hannibal, Missouri. It was in this small town along the Mississippi River that the prolific writer was inspired to create the characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn that appear in his beloved novels.
Off the Beaten Path
If the crowds are too much at the Gateway Arch, which looks like a sculpture itself, opt instead for Laumeier Sculpture Park, one of the first and largest sculpture parks in the U.S. Sixty works of large-scale outdoor sculpture are on display within the 105-acre park, which is free and open daily, and child- and dog-friendly.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Most Iconic Place
A visit to St. Louis isn’t complete without a visit to the Gateway Arch rising high above the Mississippi River. Before riding a tram to the top, take time to watch “Monument to a Dream” to see just how this architectural feat was constructed.
The Old Courthouse, which now serves as the Gateway Arch’s visitors center, holds quite a bit of historical significance itself—it was the site of the first two trials (1847 and 1850) of the Dred Scott case in his (and his wife Harriet’s) quest for freedom from slavery. In addition, Virginia Minor’s case for a woman’s right to vote was tried here in the 1870s.
Larger than New York’s Central Park, St. Louis’ Forest Park is the seventh largest urban park in the U.S. and was the site of The Louisiana Purchase Exposition (aka World’s Fair) of 1904. Take a seat on a bench or spread out a blanket and watch families en route to one of the museums within the park, as well as walkers, joggers, and bicyclists navigating the paths that encircle the park.