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St. Louis

Photo by Wasif Malik

St. Louis Itineraries

St. Louis for Families

St. Louis: Five Free Things to Do

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With the iconic St. Louis Arch creating the definitive American skyline, this multi-cultural city on the banks of the Mississippi River is as rich in history and heritage as it is family-fun, engaging museums, creative art initiatives and passionate sports fans.

St. Louis city itself is a relatively small city with slightly more than 300,000 residents. An unusual constitutional issue that pre-dates the Civil War separated the city and the county for taxation purposes, and prevented the city proper from expansion or annexing with other communities. Therefore, dozens of smaller cities complete the St. Louis metro with a population of nearly 3 million residents. These are not considered suburbs, just separate entities.

You’ll hear locals talk about places in the city or the county. Don’t be confused into thinking the county is a rural, remote area. The county and its numerous small cities that just flow one into another has nearly a million residents and include places like Webster Groves, Ladue, Florissant, Chesterfield. These people all consider themselves St. Louis residents, although they may actually pay taxes to another municipality. Sounds confusing at first, but it’s not really, once you get the hang of it.

A getaway to St. Louis anytime from April to October should be coordinated around the St. Louis Cardinals and their home games at Busch Stadium. St. Louis is, among all things, a baseball city. The fans here have been called the best in baseball, and even if you cheer for another team, you’ll love the spirit of sportsmanship and community pride apparent at these games. To understand where it all comes from, make sure your day includes the Cardinals Hall of Fame next door to Busch in the Ballpark Village.

Most seats at Busch Stadium have a fabulous view of the Arch, the most visible component of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial right on the riverfront. It’s a bucket list experience for many people to ride to the top of the Arch, but if you’re visiting in the summer, plan ahead and get your tickets to the tram as far in advance as possible.

Take time to do more than the Arch, however. The Museum of Westward Expansion and the Old Courthouse both offer significant lessons in American history and provide additional insight to the historic fiber of St. Louis.

Another image synonymous with St. Louis is Anheuser-Busch and those beautiful Clydesdales. Dating to the 1850s when German immigration to Missouri was at its height, the names Anheuser and Busch have been prominent in the city. Anheuser-Busch became much more than the city’s favorite adult beverage. It was also a major employer and benefactor – think Busch Stadium. A-B, as the locals call it, has been the nation’s largest brewer since 1957, and in merging with Belgian-owned InBev, it became the largest brewer in the world. FYI – a lot of St. Louisans remain unhappy to this day about the InBev merger.

But a visit and tour at A-B Headquarters is a must for many visitors to the city, as well as to Grant’s Farm, the former estate of Adolphus Busch. It’s where the Clydesdale horses live year-round, when they are not prancing in another World Series championship parade.

St. Louis also has some knock-out museums that the visitor to the city should not miss. The Missouri History Museum, with original artifacts from the Lewis & Clark Expedition, to the St. Louis Art Museum and its extensive collection of European masters are among the free museums, thanks to a supportive tax from city and county residents. But there are some adorable smaller museums like the Eugene Field House Museum or the Karpeles Manuscript Museum that are equally memorable.

Explore all of this and much more with itineraries that highlight many Free Things to Do in St. Louis; the Totally Crazy Sports Side of St. Louis; St. Louis in 48 hours; and much more.


When To Go

How Much Time To Spend

You can experience a lot of St. Louis in a nice three or four day weekend, depending on your interests and how well you manage your time. But you can also fill a full week of activities, based on the season, and your interest in taking some day trips to fun places like nearby Hannibal, St. Genevieve and into Missouri’s wine region just west of the metro.

Weather and Climate

St. Louis experiences the best and worst of all four seasons. Spring can be lovely and fall always wonderful; summer can be brutally hot and humid. Temperatures touching 100 degrees in July or August are not uncommon. Who can tell about winter anymore?

Some years, the city doesn’t get more than a couple of snow flurries and some years, it seems all we do is shovel January and February.  Ice storms can also be an issue. Temps can be mild, in the 30s or so; or they can be brutal for a few days in the single digits.

Events and Holidays

Three events really define St. Louis.
Mardi Gras – More than 250 years since the French founded this city just upriver from N’awlins, St. Louis is home to the second biggest celebration in the U.S.  Soulard is ground zero for more than a month of activities, including a Taste of Soulard restaurant crawl. Pet parades crown the family friendly events, but keep the kids away from Soulard on actual Fat Tuesday. McGurk’s and Molly’s among the best bars to grab a hurricane.

Opening Day of Baseball –  The city of St. Louis explodes in Cardinal red and nobody is expected to go to work. The big party is at Busch Stadium, where the Clydesdales circle the field and everyone sings “Here Comes the King.”  Cardinals super heroes, otherwise known as the Living Legends, people like Ozzie Smith, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, and Red Schoendienst also circle the field to thunderous applause.

If you can’t get tickets, the Ballpark Village, the top of the Hyatt, Paddy O’s or really any bar in town is THE place to be as the Cardinal Nation celebrates another season of baseball.

 

Earth Day – One of largest Earth Day celebration in the US, the St. Louis Earth Day Festival in Forest Park is a community tradition and an opportunity to celebrate the Earth while learning about resources, products and services offered by local businesses and organizations that enable practicing Earth Day every day.

Fourth of July – Celebrate at America’s Biggest Birthday Party under the Arch on the riverfront. For more than 50 years, this has been THE Independence Day tradition in St. Louis. Four days of music, food, fireworks and more, and it’s all free!

National Holidays:

Columbus Day – On The Hill, St. Louis’ popular Italian neighborhood, Christopher Columbus is celebrated with all of the red, white and green of a national hero. In additional to a parade and food booths, there is a meatball eating contest, a Miss Italian St. Louis contest and bocce tournaments.

January (1st): New Year’s Day
January (third Monday): Martin Luther King Day
February (third Monday): President’s Day
May 8: Harry Truman’s Birthday (celebrated in Missouri)
May (last Monday): Memorial Day
July (4th): Independence Day
September (first Monday): Labor Day
October (second Monday): Columbus Day (aka Indigenous Peoples Day)
November (11th): Veteran’s Day
November (fourth Thursday): Thanksgiving Day
December (25th): Christmas

 

Time Zone

Time Zone: St. Louis is located in the Central time zone.

To check the local time in St. Louis, click here.

Daylight Savings Time (DST) happens in the spring (early March, on a Sunday morning at 2AM). It’s when clocks are advanced one hour so there is more daylight later into the evening. In the fall (late October or early November on a Sunday morning at 2AM), clocks shift back one hour to standard time. The entire U.S. (except most of Arizona) participates in this ritual of ‘springing forward’ and ‘falling back.’

What To Pack and Wear

St. Louis is extremely casual in most places most of the time. Jeans or slacks and a nice shirt will do just fine. Few restaurants require more.

Pack shorts and light weight clothes for the summer, rain gear for spring, and hats/gloves for winter. Any time of the year, St. Louis Cardinals team-gear is appropriate and will let you blend in like a local.

What it Costs

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.

Price ranges are quoted in $US.

See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
Free
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person

Sleep
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $200 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double

Eat
$ => $1-15 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$ => $16-40 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $41 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)

Shop
N/A => Not applicable

Tours
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$ => Tickets $26 per person

 

Airfare and Car Rental Prices

Fly the Friendly Skies
Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.
But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.

Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.

That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their “friend” or subscribe to their e-mailings.

Have Car, Will Travel
Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping.

There are also name-your-own-price sites, like Priceline, where you tell ’em what you want to pay and they hook you up with a car rental company who can fit the bill. There are some great deals here, if you are not too picky about the make and model of your rental.

Zipcar is another choice for rentals. Available in many major cities and college towns in the U.S., Zipcar is a great alternative for super-short term rentals. Picture this scenario: you are in a big city with terrific public transportation, so you don’t need a car. But then you hear about an amazing restaurant 20 miles away in the suburbs. You can’t go home without trying it. A taxi would cost a fortune. You’d have to wait a long time to get a return taxi. Download the Zipcar app; search for a nearby Zipcar locale. Memberships cost about $7 a month; rentals are about $8-10 per hour; gas and insurance are included.

Ride-sharing companies, Uber and Lyft, are also ubiquitous in major cities. Through a smart phone app, you can line up rides all over town. It’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.

Money Saving Tip: Costco, because of its behemoth size and price negotiating power, offers great low prices for most major car rental companies. Yes, you need to purchase an annual Costco membership first, but it more than pays for itself with what you’ll save with a typical week’s car rental (i.e. searches turn up a mid-size car through Costco for $225 and a comparable car through another aggregator for $325.)

Did You Know: Budget Car Rental offers drivers residing at the same address (i.e. unmarried partners or BFFs) complimentary extra driver coverage. Other car rental companies charge upwards of $10/day.

 

 

Insurance

Hopefully, your trip to (or within) the U.S. goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?

Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.

Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:
Trip Cancellation – About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.

Medical – Health services in the U.S. are expensive for the uninsured. This is a major reason to consider purchasing insurance. Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other nations. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000.

Trip Interruption – For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.

Travel Delay – Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.

Baggage – Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.
Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.

Do I need travel insurance?
If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. So is your destination. If you’re traveling to a hurricane-prone area during hurricane season, for example, you’ll probably want some coverage “just in case” no matter what.
Your English language skills are also an important factor. Insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.

How do I choose an insurance provider?
Do your homework – check around.

The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include, RoamRight, Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.

Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).
If you have pre-existing health conditions – Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.

Credit card insurance – If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.

The travel insurance business is expanding and evolving rapidly. As “shared space” lodging options like VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway become more popular in the travel and leisure market, so does the need for insurance for both property owners and travelers.

For more information, visit the US Travel Insurance Association.

 

Exchange Rates and Currency

U.S. dollars come in $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills. They are all the same size and color, so non-Americans have an understandably tricky time telling them apart. The $2 bill is in circulation but rarely seen.

Coins in wide circulation include pennies (1 cent), nickels (5 cents), dimes (10 cents), quarters (25 cents). The 50 cent and dollar coins are seen occasionally.

Smaller businesses may not accept $50 or $100 bills, so plan to have $20s or smaller bills in hand.

Money, ATMs, Credit Cards

ATMs
If you get money from an ATM machine, you may incur charges (often $2 or $3 per transaction). Check with your bank before you leave home to find out which, if any, U.S. banks allow you to get cash without an extra charge. Many grocery stores, gas stations and major retail outlets let you get a limited amount of “cash back” when paying for your goods – this is an easy way to get cash while on the go.

Credit Cards
Credit and debit cards are accepted widely throughout the U.S.

Don’t forget to call your debit and/or credit card company before you travel to inform them of your planned itinerary. This goes for U.S. residents traveling out of state. If you don’t do this in advance, you risk having your card denied/declined when you try to use it in a destination far from home. You should also call your company immediately to report loss or theft. The numbers to call are usually on the back of the card – which doesn’t make sense if they are lost or stolen. So make a note of them and store them where you’ll have easy access.

Some companies issue cards with embedded chips that prevent counterfeit fraud. Banks and merchants that don’t offer the chip-and-PIN technology are often held liable for fraud. Check with your bank and credit card company for details on your specific cards.

 

Tipping and Costs That Add Up

Tipping is a cost you must build into the budget for any U.S. travel experience, whether urban or rural. Tipping is most relevant to dining out and hotel stays, but other costs should also be taken in to consideration. General guidelines include:

Restaurants:
For excellent service, plan to tip 20% on the total bill, before taxes. For less-than-stellar service, 10-15% is customary, as an imperfect experience is often not solely the responsibility of the server. In many states, servers work for below minimum wage and live mostly on tips, so consider the ramifications of your tipping decisions.
Oh, and one more complication: Sometimes a tip is automatically included. But at least it will be itemized in plain sight on the bill.

Hotels:
Most bell staff receive $1-$2 per bag they assist with; if someone carts all of your bags up to your room, expect to tip $5-$10.

Tips for housekeeping are also good form. The rule of thumb is $2-$3 per day and about $5 per day in higher end properties.

At properties with concierge services, consider tipping concierge staff who assist you in planning activities, making reservations or acquiring tickets, or simply orienting you with driving directions or public transportation info. Current etiquette calls for $10-$20 per person, per day for concierge help. Car valet staff expect $1-$2 for delivering you your car. Spa employees (massage therapists, aestheticians, etc.) usually see 20% tips on their services, whether performed at the spa or in your room.

Other costs:
Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with being on the road. Make sure to budget between $10 and $40 per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, bug repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery and drug stores will be cheaper than tourist shops for all of the above.

 

Transportation

Getting There

St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) is located about 15 miles north of downtown St. Louis on Interstate 70, exit 236.

The two terminal airport is renowned for its art collection provided in conjunction with a number of arts related organizations based in St. Louis. Look for Spectroplexus in Terminal 2, a 100-foot tall aerial installation created by art and visual design students from Washington University.

Kids traveling through Terminal 2 love a hands-on aviation experience created by The Magic House, the city’s premiere children’s museum.

More than 250 daily flights arrive and depart from STL. Southwest Airlines is the predominant carrier, followed by American, Delta, and United, among others.

The Gateway Transportation Center, located downtown one block east of Union Station, is the city’s major rail and bus terminal. Among the daily service from St. Louis is the Missouri River Runner which connects major Missouri communities and Chicago. Amtrak also stops at Kirkwood, a St. Louis suburb.

Bus service includes Burlington Trailways, Greyhound, Megabus and Thruway Motorcoach.

Background

Music

 

Music: St. Louis is all about the blues. W.C. Handy made it official when, in 1914, he published “Saint Louis Blues,” which is played during every St. Louis Blues home hockey game.  The blues, jazz, ragtime, and a little bit of everything in between flows into the streets of Soulard where many of the city’s legendary juke joints can be found.  Some of the classic clubs are BB’s, Grizzly’s and the Broadway Oyster Bar. Don’t forget the 1860 Hardshell Saloon where music of some kind is on the stage 365 days a year.

But in thinking about music in St. Louis, never forget that the great Chuck Berry called this place home until his death in 2017 and performed regularly at the Duck Room at Blueberry Hill in the Delmar Loop.

And remember the Scott Joplin State Historic Site, where on occasion, you’ll find music at the Rosebud Café.

Soundtrack for a Road Trip

The obvious choice is Saint Louis Blues by W.C. Handy, but anything by Chuck Berry is appropriate.

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