Sara’s St. Louis, Missouri

Hey there, city-lovers! St. Louis, Missouri, is often overshadowed by other Midwest metropolises like Chicago, but Sara Arnold tells us why the Gateway to the West is a must-visit.

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St. Louis, Missouri is My City

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is the Arch! Not necessarily ’cause I would prefer it, but that’s ALWAYS their preferred first stop. Don’t get me wrong, I think its beautiful, but St. Louis has so much more to offer.

When I crave Vietnamese I always go to Pho Grand. This is the best pho I’ve ever had. Beautiful restaurant, great neighborhood, friendly service, decent prices.

To escape suburbia I head to Castlewood State Park. Only about 40 minutes from downtown this is a phenomenal park with a great hiking trail overlooking a cliff on the Meramec River. Great day-trip picnic!

If I want to people watch I go to the Delmar loop. Great shops and restaurants with sidewalk seating. Perfect to watch passersby.

For complete quiet, I can hide away in Left Bank Books downtown. Fantastic selection, independently owned!

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If you come to my city, get your picture taken with the Arch. And make a menacing tough guy face as you look down at the camera with the Arch behind you. Classic St. Louis.

If you have to order one thing off the menu from Schlafly Taproom it has to be Sticky Toffee Pudding. You have not had desert until you have tried this.

Phoenix Rising is my one-stop shop for great gifts. Bacon Band-aids to nose-printed cups to Miso Pretty soaps to gorgeous handmade jewelry.

Locals know to skip any other ice cream place in town and check out Ted Drewe’s instead. Its an institution. Not to be missed.

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Photo ops in my city include Busch Stadium and the best vantage points are from inside! Pick up some tickets and check out a game! The view of the skyline is great from home plate.

The most random thing about my city is we have both a Dog Museum and a Bowling Hall of Fame. I’ve lived here my whole life don’t know anyone who has been to either one.

In my city, an active day outdoors involves a bike ride or jog around Forest Park.

My city’s best museum is the City Museum! Great for families and couples, alone or with a big group.

For live music, check out Beale on Broadway or BB’s Jazz and Soups.

They are right across the street from each other and if you stand in the middle of the street, you can hear both bands jamming out some amazing blues music.

Courtesy Diner is the spot for late-night eats. Dont expect to find anything relatively healthy on the menu.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read the Riverfront Times.

In the summer you should have a drink on the patio at the Royale. This is a fantastic restaurant with signature cocktails named after each St.

Louis neighborhood. Try a Subcontinental.

In the fall you should shop at the Soulard Farmers Market. Go early to miss the crowd, but don’t miss the Gooey Butter Cake at the Soulard Bakery Stand. This local favorite is a sugar lovers’ heaven.

In the winter you should ice skate at Steinberg Skate Rink. This outdoor rink is surrounded by Forest Park and is open late on the weekends. Take a break and have a beer next to their firepit.

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A hidden gem in my city is Historic Soulard. Beautiful historic brownstones that you wont see any further west than here in Soulard.

The second largest Mardi Gras in the US happens here, so needless to say there are plenty of bars in the neighborhood.

For a great breakfast joint try Soulard Coffee Garden. There’s a beautiful old patio out back complete with herb gardens and water features.

Don’t miss the Whittaker Music festival in the summer. Every Wednesday in summer, locals flock to the Botanical Gardens to sit in their lush gardens and enjoy the live music. Bring a picnic basket and a blanket and prepare yourself for a wonderful evening.

Just outside my city, you can visit several great wineries. Surprisingly, Missouri has some fantastic award-winning wines.

The best way to see my city is by car. I wish I had a more exotic answer, but St. Louis is a driver’s city. Big highways with little traffic, cheap or free parking nearly everywhere, it makes it so easy to get around!

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is “Meet Me in St. Louis.”

If you have kids, you won’t want to miss the Magic House. Newly renovated, this is a science museum meets art museum meets learning center meets jungle gym.

My city should be featured on your cover or website because St. Louis is the underdog! We are so proud of our city, but for one reason or another, we always end up getting a bad rap. St. Louis is beautiful, friendly, and completely unpretentious.

Photo: Kevin Liu, Jeannette Kimmel, Jimmy Emerson, and Aaron Hase