Midwest Living Review
Main Street in St. Charles, Missouri, is such a picture-perfect historic district, you might find yourself wondering if Walt Disney didn't have a hand in laying the brick sidewalks or painting the wood shutters. But it isn't a Hollywood set. St. Charles was founded in 1769 when French-Canadian fur trapper Louis Blanchette settled along the Missouri River west of St. Louis. You can still see his house today (it's home to Plank Road shop), as well as the buildings that sprouted around it. Daniel Boone walked these streets. (You can stay at Boone's Colonial Inn, named in his honor.) Louis and Clark started their journey here. (You can visit a log church re-created to look exactly like the chapel they worshipped in before departing.) St. Charles was Missouri's first capital. (Take the fascinating tour of the impeccably restored building, and see how the first legislators huddled shoulder to shoulder under dripping wax candelabras.) Every time you step out of St. Charles' 100-plus gift shops and restaurants, history greets you: cobbled streets, heavy wood doors, old-fashioned shop windows with merchandise piled behind rippled glass, a horse-drawn carriage clattering over cobbled streets.These days, the Main Street area in St. Charles has three distinct personalities. In spring, summer and fall, the town enjoys special attention as the trailhead for the 225-mile Katy Trail bike path, which follows old railroads across Missouri. Bicyclists can get tune-ups at the 2nd Street Bike Cafe, rent wheels on Main Street or enjoy a post-ride ale at the Trailhead Brewery. Come winter, the town dresses for the holidays with an annual fest called Christmas Traditions. Costumed characters stroll downtown, evergreen-draped shops stay open late and skaters twirl on a small rink next to the Missouri River. And year-round, the town serves as a gateway to Missouri's wine country. Little Hills Winery has a shop and restaurant downtown, and it's a short drive from here to the wineries of Augusta and Hermann.It's worth noting that St. Charles has an additional historic district on 2nd Street called Frenchtown, but it is far less gentrified. Antiques hunters will find a couple good shops here, and there's a nice bicycle cafe, but most visitors will probably prefer to stay on Main Street.