St. Louis Trip Planner: Where and When to Go

View of the arch rising up high into the sky next to the river.

St. Louis’s famous arch. Photo © A. Molson/iStock.

St. Louis has dozens of unique neighborhoods. Author Brooke S. Foster offers an overview of the different parts of the city and goes over planning essentials, such as the best times of year to visit.


When to Go to st. Louis

Downtown

Visitors to downtown will find plenty to see and do—from the iconic Gateway Arch to shopping in one of the city’s most cosmopolitan retail districts. After the bankers and lawyers head home at day’s end, downtown’s many restaurants and bars come alive. Whether you’re looking for a sports bar packed with Cardinals fans or a chic martini lounge, you’ll find it here.

Midtown and Central West End

Midtown is fast becoming the fine-arts hub of St. Louis, thanks largely to the reopening of the historic Fox Theatre and the development of Grand Center. In the Central West End, stately mansions nestle against modernist art galleries, which in turn neighbor highend boutiques and rave-worthy restaurants.

Soulard and Lafayette Square

Soulard is home to pretty red-brick row-houses and friendly bars serving everything from draft beer to craft cocktails. In adjacent Lafayette Square, the Victorian-era mansions make this one of the most architecturally dazzling neighborhoods in the city. The many shops and restaurants hum with energy, and the bars and cafés that face historic Lafayette Park are particularly popular.

South City

The neighborhoods of South City are perhaps the most ethnically diverse in St. Louis. Within five city blocks of Grand South Grand, you can find three Vietnamese restaurants, a sushi restaurant, two Chinese restaurants, an Afghan restaurant, a Middle Eastern restaurant, and a halal meat market. At the Missouri Botanical Garden, visitors can explore the nation’s oldest private botanical park and the first geodesic-dome greenhouse, the Climatron.

Dogtown and the Hill

The Hill is St. Louis’s Italian neighborhood and a restaurant destination for visitors and native St. Louisans alike. On warm nights, it’s not uncommon to see bocce tournaments unfolding on the neighborhood’s lawns. Dogtown, to the north, is St. Louis’s historically Irish neighborhood, and visitors won’t be disappointed by the area’s authentic Irish food and generous Guinness pours.

Delmar Loop and University City

The Delmar Loop spans both St. Louis and University City, and the area is constantly bustling with life. A visitor could spend an entire day in the Loop, shopping in boutiques and record stores, catching a movie at the arthouse Tivoli Theater, attending a sold-out concert at The Pageant, and bowling till 3am at the Pin-Up Bowl.

Greater St. Louis

While some city-dwellers grumble about the homogenous nature of “the county,” there are many suburbs with personalities all their own. There are stellar restaurants, hip boutiques, and great bars (including a craft brewery) in Ladue and Maplewood. Main Street in Webster Groves hearkens back to the turn of the 20th century. Best of all, most of these suburbs can be reached via the recently expanded MetroLink system, meaning that visitors can check out Greater St. Louis easily and affordably.


When to Go to st. Louis

As is true in many Midwestern cities, winter temperatures can dip into the single digits, while summer temperatures sometimes soar past 100 degrees. If extreme temperatures bother you, plan to visit St. Louis in April, May, September, or October. The city’s vibe is downright joyous in the spring months, when people say goodbye to winter and make haste to St. Louis’s many parks. In the fall, the tree-lined streets are awash in red and gold. If you don’t mind some heat, pack plenty of shorts and sundresses and experience summer in St. Louis. The only time to avoid St. Louis is in the dead of winter: Freezing temperatures and icy roads can easily turn a fascinating city into a frustrating one.


Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon St. Louis.

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