The Best St. Louis Travel Guide
Updated: Sep 29, 2022
St. Louis Vacation Ideas and Planning
The U.S. has some great cities that we definitely think are worth visiting. One that truly surprised us is St. Louis, Missouri! Located in the heart of the Midwest, St. Louis, or as the locals call it, STL MO, is a gem of a little city. It is about a 4.5 hour drive from Chicago, and makes a great place for a weekend adventure from the Windy City. Pack up your car and get planning, we're going to show you why you have to plan a trip to St. Louis, Missouri!
There are many delicious restaurants and cafes to choose from, activities for all ages, and lots of exciting things to see! We loved the museum at the Gateway Arch, City Garden in downtown St. Louis, and enjoying lots of unique coffees and food. You can squeeze a lot in during a two or three day trip to this buzzing city as everything is relatively close together.
We honestly didn't have very high expectations for this city, as we had never heard too much about it, but we were so wrong! We made the most of our time in St. Louis so we’re sharing with you how to do the same. Now let’s get planning!
Best Restaurants & Cafes in St. Louis
Who doesn’t love finding great food in new places? We’re personally huge fans of finding a nice restaurant or two when visiting a new place, and we’re slightly obsessed with finding the best coffee shops and cafes. Take a look at our favorite cafes and restaurants in St. Louis and hit them up for a good munch!
The Mud House - coffee and kitchen, vegetarian options
Cheshire Grin Cat Cafe - great pastries and coffee with adoptable cats
Hartford Coffee - quieter cafe with delicious coffee and food, vegetarian options
Park Avenue Coffee - unique, tasty coffees and famous gooey butter cake
Cafe de Blaire - coffee, ice cream and to-die-for bubble tea
Sidney Street Cafe - upscale, unique American dining, delicious options
Nudo House - incredible ramen, great vegetarian options
The Mud House
Stop at The Mud House for breakfast or a midday pick-me-up and enjoy great coffee and tea and super yummy food. It's tucked into a nice neighborhood and is a popular place. We got here around 9:30 AM on a Saturday and it was fairly busy, but really picked up around 10:15 AM. However, this was on a weekend, and there is lots of seating so you should be able to get a table if your party is not very big.
They have a decent menu with actual meals, not just pastries, and lots of vegetarian and vegan choices. We ordered and highly recommend the Maple Spice Latte, Oat Milk Horchata Latte, and the Vegan Slinger!
Cheshire Grin Cat Cafe
This place is a cat lover’s heaven! It’s a great little cafe that also functions as a nonprofit cat rescue. At the Cheshire Grin Cate Cafe you can order a coffee and a pastry if you please, and hang out with some friendly, adoptable cats.
Make sure you make a reservation ahead of time as they are highly recommended. You can play with the cats and even apply to adopt one if you please! We loved our order, so if you’re looking for recommendations we got the Whiskey and Yuki specials, and a delicious apple crumb muffin.
Hartford Coffee Company
Located in a quaint neighborhood near a lovely park, Hartford offers a variety of drinks, breakfast meals, and lunch options. It’s a nice place to enjoy a quieter meal break, especially if you’ve been running around downtown. They too have a variety of vegetarian options which we loved.
We highly recommend the Orange Creamsicle Latte, Matcha Lemonade, Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf, and the vegetarian Quesapita! Take note that they have different specials so our drinks might not be available year-round; however, everything we ordered was great so we can only assume you can’t go wrong at this cafe.
Park Avenue Coffee
This wonderful cafe has multiple locations, and they are known for their gooey butter cake. When we say you have to try it, we seriously mean you have to try it. They also offer a few other food options, mostly pastries, so don’t plan on having lunch here. Park Avenue Coffee is a more modern cafe with some unique latte flavors and cool merch!
We ordered and highly recommend the Thai Iced Coffee, Brown Sugar Lavender Coffee, and the Turtle Gooey Butter Cake. All the gooey butter cake options sounded delicious, but we’re caramel fiends, so we went with the turtle!
Cafe de Blaire
Located in downtown St. Louis, Cafe de Blaire offers a variety of coffee and tea drinks, frappes, ice cream, milk shakes, and bubble tea. This is the place to go to satisfy your sweet tooth! The staff here are very friendly and helpful, so if you’re not sure what to order, they’ll help you find the perfect thing for you! We enjoyed the Taro Bubble Tea and the Thai Tea Bubble Tea, both of which were super yummy.
Sidney Street Cafe
An upscale restaurant with a welcoming, friendly atmosphere. You can’t go wrong with Sidney Street Cafe. The food is all delicious, the service is very entertaining and helpful (our waiter jumped for joy at one point!), and the atmosphere is inviting.
We ordered Lobster Turnovers, Agnolotti, Spaetzle, Mashed Potatoes (a special), Hasselback Potato, and a White Chocolate Turtle Blondie. Everything we had was so good, we ate every single bite, which rarely happens for us. We would honestly go back to St. Louis solely for the purpose of eating here again. It was that good.
Experience the best ramen in the Midwest at Nudo House! Make sure you go hungry because there is something for everyone and you’ll want to try it all. They have a few vegetarian options too which is a bonus! It’s a colorful, busy place with fun art work all around, and it’s popular among local families and college students.
We ordered the Curry Up Ramen with Japanese Squash, the Classic Nudo, Tamarind Tofu, and let’s not forget, Crab Rangoons. This is a must go when visiting St. Louis. Keep in mind they have two locations; we went to the Delmar location. I was never too impressed with ramen until we tried Nudo House, and now I have very high expectations for it. (I guess we’ll just have to go to Japan now!)
What to Do in St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri is a great city for a weekend adventure. While you could stay longer and easily find fun things to do, two or three days in this little city is perfect. You can squeeze in many activities as everything is pretty close to each other here, especially if you’re driving. Below are our favorite activities that we highly recommend checking out while you’re visiting St. Louis.
City Garden - walk through sculptures in this downtown city oasis park
City Museum - a giant playground for all ages to enjoy
Gateway Arch - St. Louis’ famous arch, you can’t miss it
Munch - look at our favorite restaurants above and spend time eating delicious food
Busch Stadium - go cheer on the St. Louis Cardinals
Venture into Downtown St. Louis and explore the City Garden. It’s a three acre park with a variety of neat sculptures and statues to admire. This is a nice place to get some fresh air or a nice break if you’ve been running around the rest of downtown. It’s also the perfect place to let your kids run around and burn off some energy. The City Garden is a nice little city oasis, it’s close to restaurants and other activities in Downtown St. Louis, and it’s great for all ages to visit.
Fun for all ages, the City Museum in St. Louis is basically a giant playground with three main exhibits. Let your inner child out at this wild place when you go down a 10-story slide, climb up five stories to an airplane or find your way through the rainforest.
There’s so much to see and do at the City Museum, you could easily spend an entire day here if you please. There are slides and tunnels and fish and climbing, the list goes on. General admission is $18 and you can get a rooftop add-on for $8 which allows you to explore the ferris wheel, planetarium dome, and more on the roof. You can also add on a Pinball Hall pass for $6 and play pinball all day!
You simply cannot visit St. Louis without going to the famous Gateway Arch. It is a national park, so if you’re a national park fiend like we both are, this has to be added to your STL plans. The arch is free to visit (what a bonus!), but there are tram rides to the top if you’re feeling more adventurous. During the weekends, they are $19 per person, or $16 if you have a National Park Annual Pass. Make sure you book your tram ride in advance as the time slots fill up quickly. You’ll get panoramic views of the city and the river, but remember you’ll be 630 feet up in the air, and shoved in a tiny tram the entire way up and back down.
There is also the Museum at the Gateway Arch which has free admission (yay for free!). It’s a very informative little museum that teaches you about the history of the arch and of westward expansion in the United States. When visiting the arch, especially if you’ve bought tram ride tickets, set aside extra time to find/get to your parking spot if visiting on the weekend (you can pre-purchase parking for the Gateway Arch National Park). There was a St. Patricks’ Day Parade when we visited, which resulted in the streets being closed (the streets are all one way in downtown STL) so we were literally stuck on the opposite side of the city from the arch. So our recommendation is to check and see if there are any city events happening when you’re planning on visiting!
If you hadn’t noticed, St. Louis offers a variety of fantastic restaurants and cafes. And who doesn’t love a delicious meal? This city is great for people who love finding really great food, sipping on a latte, and satisfying their sweet tooth. The food options did not disappoint here, so if you’re feeling like it, take your time to move around trying different restaurants and all the different types of food STL has to offer!
Watch the Cardinals
Baseball fans, go grab your tickets. Watch the St. Louis Cardinals play at Busch Stadium and explore Ballpark Village. If you’re visiting St. Louis in late spring, summer, or early fall, this is a great place to enjoy the nice weather. Sit outside at the stadium and enjoy a bite to eat while enjoying a baseball game. You can also learn about the history of the team at the Cardinals Hall of Fame & Museum or grab some St. Louis Cardinals merch from Arch Apparel.
Getting Around St. Louis
We drove from Chicago to St. Louis (which is only about 4.5 hours if you’re making that trip!) so we had our car to get around in St. Louis. If you can easily drive here, or rent a car if you’re arriving in St. Louis Lambert International airport, we highly recommend doing so. It makes getting from place to place much easier, especially if you only have a few days in the city. That way you can squeeze more activities into your days!
The traffic was never bad in the residential areas. It got a bit congested in Downtown, but there was also the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, so I believe that the traffic normally isn’t bad in St. Louis. At least not compared to Chicago or LA.
There is lots of free street parking in the more residential areas. We stayed in an Airbnb and had no trouble finding a spot on the street outside. In Downtown St. Louis there are many parking garages and cheap street parking. The parking garages can get fairly expensive, but if you have the time to drive around a bit, you’ll find a really cheap one.
We parked in the Ballpark Village for at least four hours and it cost about $10. This is a cheaper one, but definitely not the cheapest being right by Busch Stadium. Street parking is generally around $2 an hour, and it is free after 7pm, Monday through Saturday, and all day Sunday. Feel free to check out more parking rules in St. Louis too!
Driving is a good option here; however, there is public transportation as well. St. Louis has a bus system and a pretty small train system. We personally did not use either while in St. Louis, but while wandering around Downtown, we came across several stations and bus stops. Take a look at the Metro St. Louis website if you have more questions about the public transportation, and you can find fare rates, maps, train times, and more on their website.
You can also download Uber or Lyft to utilize while in St. Louis. We personally did not use either as we had our own car, but being a city, you are bound to find some Uber and Lyft drivers here. Be prepared to have to wait some as these apps are still greatly lacking drivers, but this is a great option, especially if your group is only 2 to 3 people. Uber and Lyft XL's are harder to come by, so relying on rideshare apps might not be the best idea if you're traveling with a larger group.
Where to Stay in St. Louis
We personally stayed in an Airbnb while visiting St. Louis for $90 a night. It was in a nice, quiet neighborhood, close to downtown, and very close to restaurants and cafes. There are quite a few options for Airbnbs in St. Louis depending on how many people are going on the trip. With just the two of us, it was really easy to find one. If you have more than four people in your group, it will start to get harder to find one; however, if you have a car, staying a little further from Downtown would be no problem.
If you want to stay in Downtown St. Louis to stay close to the action, a hotel is your best bet. The average cost per night is around $150 if you’re wanting to stay in the heart of the city. If you’re willing to stay somewhere a little further from downtown, it will be cheaper. But if you’re only going for a couple of nights, staying downtown would be very fun!
We highly recommend visiting St. Louis if you’re adventuring through the Midwest! This smaller city really blew us away and we had an absolute blast here. The food is amazing, the downtown is buzzing, and the activities are exciting. We hope this St. Louis Travel Guide helps you plan your trip to STL and have the best time there! If you are adventuring around the Midwest, go check out Chicago as well! You won't regret it. Subscribe to our blog below and follow us on social media (@alpacka.mybags) to stay in the know with our travel tips and recommendations. Happy planning and happy travels!