Best Attractions in St. LouisIn a city with dozens of attractions, you may have trouble deciding where to spend your time. Here are the highlights for this destination, as chosen by AAA editors. GEMs are “Great Experiences for Members.”
The Gateway Arch National Park and its three major sites symbolize the pivotal role St. Louis played in the great 19th-century westward expansion. The Gateway Arch , a AAA GEM attraction, is an utterly distinctive city landmark designed by architect Eero Saarinen. Take the tram ride to the observation room for panoramic views of the city.
Beneath the arch lies the Museum of Westward Expansion , where exhibits cover Native American history, explorers Lewis and Clark, buffalo hunters, miners and the growth of transportation. Also on the memorial grounds is The Old Courthouse , which holds a prominent place in American legal history as the site of the Dred Scott slavery trial and Virginia Minor's suffrage trial. Exhibits, dioramas and old courtrooms re-create a bygone St. Louis era.
Better known as the 1904 World's Fair, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition was held inside Forest Park, a AAA GEM attraction, and welcomed 20 million people during its 7-month run. Today visitors enjoy recreational activities and several attractions. One of them is the Jewel Box , an Art Deco-style conservatory with floral displays that are showered with sunlight thanks to the exterior glass walls.
Forest Park's expansive grounds also offer four GEM attractions. The Saint Louis Art Museum has works by such artists as Edgar Degas, Hans Holbein, Claude Monet, Henry Moore, Jackson Pollock and Titian. The Saint Louis Zoo is home to more than 19,000 animals and also features the Flight Cage, a walk-through bird cage provided by the Smithsonian Institution as a 1904 fair exhibit. The Missouri History Museum has a permanent exhibit showcasing prominent St. Louisans from the city's early days to the present, and you'll also see a replica of Charles Lindbergh's “Spirit of St. Louis.” The Saint Louis Science Center explores such topics as architecture, airplanes and space travel and offers plenty of interactive exhibits that will educate as well as entertain.
For a musical peek into the past, take a tour of the Scott Joplin House State Historic Site to learn about one of ragtime music's legends. If you remember the theme song to “The Sting,” the 1973 film starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, then you've heard Joplin's “The Entertainer.” The player piano in the house cranks out other ragtime tunes.
City Museum , a AAA GEM attraction, is a city favorite. Overflowing with creativity, the facility features amazing sights and activities for all ages. Engage in craft projects, play the piano, marvel at the creatures in the aquarium, watch a circus act or tackle the playground/jungle gym on the building's roof. There also are exhibits and artifacts pertaining to St. Louis history and architecture.
A trip to Missouri Botanical Garden, another GEM, is sure to impress even non-botanists. Henry Shaw opened his garden, designed with both beauty and educational purposes in mind, in 1859. In addition to admiring a variety of themed gardens you can tour Shaw's Tower Grove House. The Climatron, a geodesic dome covering more than half an acre, spotlights plants and animals native to tropical regions.
The Old Cathedral represents an even earlier part of city history. St. Louis founder Pierre Laclede designated the site of the present cathedral for a Catholic church, which was built in 1770. The original structures were mere log cabins; the current cathedral, conceived on a much grander scale, was completed in the early 1830s. You can visit the adjoining museum to view remnants from the church's early days.
The interior of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis , another Catholic cathedral and a AAA GEM attraction, is eye-popping—a collection of mosaics created from more than 41.5 million pieces of glass, marble and stone. Images depicting biblical stories as well as local history cover the walls and domed ceilings.
Tour the Samuel Cupples House at St. Louis University for a dose of architectural extravagance. The late 19th-century house resembles a castle and boasts 42 rooms and 22 fireplaces. Gargoyles and ornamental stonework adorn the exterior.
Anheuser-Busch Brewery tours recount St. Louis' brewing history. As you discover the process required to produce Anheuser-Busch products, you'll also learn about the founders and their legacy. A highlight is a tour of the Clydesdale stables and paddock.
The Holocaust Museum and Learning Center documents European Jewish traditions, Nazism, the horrors of the Holocaust and life for Jews after World War II. Oral histories preserve personal accounts of the survivors who eventually moved to St. Louis.
St. Louis military history is remembered at Jefferson Barracks Historic Park , which covers many of the acres that once made up Jefferson Barracks. Established in 1826, the barracks served as a supply post, a military training institution and a hospital. Thousands of veterans are buried in the national cemetery. Visit the 1857 powder magazine, now a museum with exhibits depicting the history of the area.
After you cross St. Louis attractions off your list, visit two more AAA GEM attractions in the vicinity. Six Flags St. Louis in Eureka offers laughs and screams alike with such rides as Daffy Duck Stars on Parade, Batman The Ride and the 18-story Ferris wheel Colossus.
Just across the Illinois border in Collinsville, Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site preserves 2,200 acres of Native American tribal mounds built between A.D. 900 and 1500. Although named for the Cahokia Indians who inhabited the area in the late 1600s, the Mississippian culture was responsible for building these massive constructions. Of the more than 120 original mounds, just over half remain.
See all the AAA recommended attractions for this destination.
Saint Louis, MO
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
The sales tax rate in the city of St. Louis is 8.49 percent. The city's lodging tax is 14.9 percent and there is a rental car tax of 7.82 percent.
Time and Temperature
(314) 321-2222 or (636) 441-8467
Barnes-Jewish Hospital, (314) 747-3000; Missouri Baptist Medical Center (Town and Country, Mo.), (314) 996-5000; St. Alexius Hospital, (314) 865-7000; St. Anthony's Medical Center, (314) 525-1000; Saint Louis University Hospital, (314) 577-8000.
I-270 and Riverview Dr. St. Louis, MO 63138. Phone:(314)869-7100
Lambert-St. Louis International Airport
Hertz offers discounts to AAA members; phone (314) 426-7555 or (800) 654-3080.
The Amtrak terminal, (800) 872-7245, is at 430 S. 15th St.
The Greyhound Lines Inc. terminal, (800) 231-2222, is at 430 S. 15th St.
Cab companies include St. Louis County Cab & Yellow Cab, (314) 991-5300 or (314) 993-8294; and Laclede, (314) 652-3456 or (314) 403-7000 (to request a taxi via text message). All cabs in St. Louis are on the meter system. Base fare is approximately $2 to $3.50 for the first mile, with a rate of $2 to $2.50 per mile. The base fare goes up $1 for each additional passenger. A fuel surcharge of at least $1 also is added to the fare, and there is a $4 surcharge for airport pick-ups.
Metro, the public transportation system—which includes MetroBus, the MetroLink light-rail train and the Metro Call-A-Ride para-transit van service—transports passengers throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area. The base bus fare is $2; $1 (ages 5-12, ages 65+ and customers with disabilities). Exact cash fare is required. A MetroLink one-ride ticket is $2.50; $1.25 (ages 5-12, ages 65+ and customers with disabilities). A 2-hour system pass (with transfers) is $3; $1.50 (ages 5-12, ages 65+ and customers with disabilities), or $4 from Lambert Airport. Weekly and monthly passes also are available. For route information, current fares and hours of system operation contact MetroTransit Information Mon.-Fri. 7-7; phone (314) 231-2345, or (618) 271-2345 in Illinois.