Sometimes you just want to get away, but you don’t have the time or the money (or both) for a long trip. Such was the case recently when Natalie and I decided to spend three days in St Louis.
I’d never been to St Louis before, but I believe I had been through St Louis as a child. Of course, I remembered very little. So even though the city wasn’t an exotic location, and was in fact another midwestern city, Natalie and I discovered so much in our three days in St Louis.
We flew in on a Saturday morning and tried to plan the most from our trip, quite aware that we wouldn’t get to experience everything the city has to offer. After we touched down and collected our rental car, we headed straight out of state.
Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park and the Mississippi River Overlook
Out of state? But we just got there! It turns out that one of the best views of the Gateway Arch is from the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River.
At the park, you’ll find the Mississippi River Overlook. Completed in 2009, the Overlook was designed to provide an amazing view of both the Gateway Arch and the St Louis skyline. The structure stands at 43 feet tall and is composed of five, handicapped accessible tiers. At the top, you’ll find the sculpture of Malcom Martin himself, looking out over the Mississippi.
The site address for the webcam is listed at the top of the Overlook. We texted the address to hubby at home and waved to the camera.
We still had a few hours before it was time to check in to our hotel and we were hungry. Since we knew that we’d be doing a lot of walking in the city after we checked in to our hotel, we decided to pick a suburb for lunch.
A quick back and forth and Natalie picked the St Louis suburb of Kirkwood. To be quite honest, I knew very little about St Louis and even less about her suburbs.
Kirkwood was a great choice. It’s a very tidy neighborhood just 20 minutes outside of the city with neat front yards and charming homes ranging from small cookie-cutters to six bedroom mini-mansions. But the entire neighborhood was charming, with residents out walking and enjoying the sunshine.
Natalie also picked our lunch: Billy G’s. It was a very popular place and seating was nearly full both inside and out. It was a little warm, so we picked inside, and the friendly hostess showed us to our seats.
We were so hungry we were all over the menu and in the end each made a change from the beer-battered fish ‘n chips to the chicken spiedini. It was a marinated chicken skewer, served with a side of pasta Alfredo. Natalie chose the house salad and I enjoyed the potato and leek soup. All in all it was a delicious meal and there was plenty to it.
In order to walk off our lunch, we took a stroll down the street poking into the local stores and eventually making our way to the local farmer’s market. The farmer’s market was extensive and I found myself wishing I could dig into the produce and make dinners during our visit. Alas, we were staying at a hotel and I don’t think TSA would be too happy about me sneaking onions into y carry-on.
Among the other stores, my favorite was Sammysoap. They make their soaps in house, all made with natural products and essential oils. And they are committed to providing permanent jobs to residents with disabilities.
We then stopped at Clementine’s Ice Cream. Our full feeling had abated just enough to leave us room for a double scoop. I went with the salted caramel cracker (which to my disappointment had actual crackers in it) and the midnight pleasures which was a chocolate blend. Natalie went with the midnight scoop and Madagascar vanilla bean. The ice cream was good and there was a nice shady bench where we did some people watching as we worked on our cones.
The City Museum
We checked into the Hampton Downtown and took a bit of a rest, lying on the bed in the cool room and scrolling through our phones for about a half hour. Then our attention drifted towards what we wanted to do for the rest of the day.
The internet had provided me with some information about the City Museum, which wasn’t far from our hotel. The Museum is built inside of an abandoned shoe factory and is constructed primarily of reclaimed materials.
We had a great time exploring the caves, tree houses and ocean environments. There were things to climb on and in and around. I even got the courage to go down the ten-story slide.
All together we spent about three hours at the museum adventuring. It wore us out! If you’re going as an adult with no children to keep track of, it will take whatever energy you can spare.
If you’re trying to take little ones to the museum? It could darn near kill you! There are simply little places and staircases and tunnels where they can fit and you can not (though I saw sone parents try). There’s so much to explore. I recommend dressing your brood in matching t-shirts and choose bright colors that will stand out. This will help you in keeping an eye on them.
Admission to the museum was $20 each for adults for a basic day pass. There were add-ones available including one that allowed for unlimited pin ball play. Be careful with parking. We paid at an hourly lot which seemed to be an “official” City Museum parking lot. About a block away and not an official lot, we paid $30 for the three hours. We could have parked on museum property and paid only $15 for the same period.
Sugarfire Smoke House
I love barbecue, almost as much as I love fish and chips. Even though I really love the tangy, vinegar-based Carolina barbecue, I was anxious to give St Louis barbecue a try. Sugarfire was only about two blocks from our hotel and I’d heard good things.
As soon as we got there we realized that it must really be that good. The food is served counter service style with open seating. The line was down the side of the restaurant, across the front and extending out the door.
Our wait was about an hour long, but well worth the wait. Every employee we met was friendly, despite being very busy with their jobs. They served us more pulled pork than we could eat, along with two sides and a drink. There were six different sauces to try at the table, of which my favorite was the St Louie Sweet. The cole slaw was okay, but the sweet potato casserole was fantastic. Natalie had the garlic green beans and was impressed, although if we go again, I’ll be getting the cheesy broccoli casserole.
Day 2 – The Gateway Arch National Park
I’ll cover most of our visit to the Gateway Arch National Park in another article, but that’s how we started day two of our three days in St Louis. We woke up at 7:30 and had the traditional free hotel breakfast (eggs, sausage and waffles) before we headed to the park.
As I said, I’ll cover much of our park visit in a future article. I will say here, make sure you purchase your Arch tickets ahead of time on the Gateway Arch National Park website.
Lunch at Mama’s on the Hill
Did you know that toasted raviolis originated in St Louis? We were in search of some authentic St Louis toasted raviolis and discovered The Hill neighborhood. The Hill is St Louis version of a little Italy community.
We followed the crosswalks painted in the colors of the Italian flag to Mama’s on the Hill. Mama’s is a very small restaurant with an authentic feel. It felt like the kind of restaurant where people from the community come to eat with their families once a week. It was very welcoming and cozy.
In addition to the toasted raviolis, I had an order of Mama’s “Hill” of Spaghetti with meat sauce. Natalie had the fettuccini Alfredo. Mine was delicious and a large portion. However, Natalie out-ordered me again. She proclaimed her fettuccini the best she’d ever eaten. I was tempted by desert, but my belly was already a little too full.
Already in the area, we decided to take a trip through the Forest Park area. This is where you’ll find the St Louis Zoo. Did you know that their zoo is free? We didn’t take the time to visit, but that’s a nice stop for a family on vacation.
We did stop at the Jewel Box, which I had read about online, and the World’s Fair Pavillion. The Jewel Box is a large greenhouse in the Forest Park area that appears as just that, a large jewel box of glass. In front of the building is an aquatic garden, filled with lily pads.
The entire Forest Park area is worth a stop. It’s filled with plenty of green space. Making our way along the walking paths, we encountered all kinds of flower beds, statues and fountains.
360 at Busch Park
After a quick break (read “nap”) at the hotel, we started researching restaurants for our evening meal. I wanted something that was more of an experience, maybe something with a view. I wanted a uniquely St Louis experience. Natalie found 360, a restaurant near Busch Park, where the St Louis Cardinals play. (Special note to Ohioans: our Cincinnati Reds beat the Cardinals earlier in the day.)
In truth the location was more bar than restaurant with a mixed crowd of after-game baseball fans and 20 something’s. It was comfortable though and the view was nice, giving us a look overtop the ball field as well as the city and the Old Courthouse. Natalie had the smoked Mac and cheese, which was very good despite our initial skepticism as it appeared to have crushed Goldfish crackers sprinkled on top. I ordered and enjoyed the barrio tacos.
Day 3 – An Early Lunch at Salt + Smoke
We knew we had to stack everything into the first part of the day because we had a flight out in the afternoon. So, we decided to skip breakfast at the hotel and head to an early lunch at Salt + Smoke.
The restaurant is right next to Busch Field, where the St Louis Cardinals play. I’d read good things and we were anxious to give it a try.
We got there right at 11 when the restaurant opened and, of course, got our choice of seats since we were the first ones there. Our waitress was amazing. She went above and beyond to not just take our order, but made us feel like we were truly taken care of.
We each ordered the pulled pork, because it’s our favorite. Natalie ordered cole slaw and the green bean and tomato salad. I went with the cole slaw and fried pickles. I’ve never had fried pickles like this before. It was a combination of dill chips, dill spears and baby sweet pickles. The chips were my favorite, but all was good. The pulled pork was delicious and there were several sauces available, all delicious.
Horsing Around with the Clydesdales
I’m not much of a beer aficionado. Okay, I really don’t like it much. But St Louis is the home of the Anheuser Busch Brewing Company and the Budweiser Clydesdales.
I’d seen them before at the Ohio State Fair and during a few parades. During her lifetime, my mother was always a fan. Though her father farmed with tractors, she also remembered him farming with a team of Belgians as well. While Belgians are bigger than Clydesdales, she always liked watching the workings horses.
The first thing to know about the Budweiser horses is that there stable is nicer than some houses. It was built in 1885 and had electricity and running water at a time when many St Louis homes did not.
We learned about the pulling teams. Did you know that even though a pulling team consists of eight horses, that only the two in the back do the majority of the pulling? The horses closest to the wagon are called the wheelhorses. They are the strongest and heaviest horses and do most of the pulling. The next pair, the body horses, help with turning and bear some of the load when traveling uphill. The swing pair are the next two horses and they aid in steering. And finally, the leaders are the pair in front. They are the lightest of the horses on the team and, according to our tour guide, trained to step high and are critical for appearance.
There was much more to our tour, but I’ll leave you to read more on your own or to make your own visit. At the end of the tour, everyone over 21 was provided a cup of beer. I took a sip, but nope, I still don’t like beer.
Three Days in St Louis
We really enjoyed our visit to St Louis. Being a midwestern city, there were a lot of similarities to our Ohio cities. Seeing the arch, visiting the City Museum, learning about the Clydesdales and eating a lot of barbecue made the whole trip worth it.
We were able to get a good price on a flight. If you’re thinking of making the trip, you may consider driving. We probably would’ve saved some money that way. The drive is about six hours from Columbus and it’s less than 5 1/2 hours from Dayton.
We appreciate you FindingOhio and beyond with us. We will be bringing you more points of interest from around Ohio and from our trips to other US states.
If you’re looking to follow us around the country, check out our Travels section. Natalie loves the national parks and you can check out our adventures to nearby New River Gorge in West Virginia.
If you’re looking for something closer to home, we’ve got you covered there, too. Our Day Travels section is full of our adventures around the Buckeye State. Check out our recent trip to the Columbus Zoo or read how we save money on our road trips.
Be sure to check back often as we are posting new adventures at least once a week. And, as always, we appreciate it when you share our content to your social media. We want to share with everyone that Ohio is a great place to live and play!