Take a half-day at the Gateway Arch to see a film about the Arch’s construction and ride up in a Jetsons-like pod. The Museum of Westward Expansion in the lower level is a free, fascinating look at Lewis and Clark’s journey west from here—go before it closes for renovation in late 2014!
Choose a theme—behind-the-scenes, farm-to-table—and sample dishes at noteworthy restaurants on StL Culinary Tours.
A major restoration returned the Peabody Opera House to its Art Deco glory; entertainers have included Jimmy Fallon and Blue Man Group.
Unwind in a tidy room at St. Louis Union Station Hotel; the Grand Hall lobby impresses visitors with its sweeping archways and gold leaf accents (from $149).
The breakfast buffet at the hotel fuels guests for a walk around the nearby Citygarden (download their app to hear the stories behind the artwork).
Downtown, you’ll find great catfish po’boys, gumbo and sweet potato pie at BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups.
The 79 stunning acres at the Missouri Botanical Garden provide an oasis from the city’s bustle, and free tours at Anheuser-Busch show the how-to of beer making.
The 1904 Steak House serves dry-aged prime steaks in a re-created Victorian house that resembles the home in the Judy Garland film Meet Me in St Louis.
Don’t-miss St. Louis
Yes, it’s surreal, but the mishmash of a ball pit, the world’s largest pair of men’s briefs and an exhibit about architect Louis Sullivan seems to work for kids and adults alike at City Museum.
Classic Cajun and Creole spices flavor jambalaya and alligator at Molly’s in Soulard.
The Old Courthouse shares the moving story of Dred Scott and how his patient fight for freedom from slavery influenced the entire nation.
Bridge Tap House and Wine Bar specializes in cheese and charcuterie plates that can be paired with any of 200 beers, 55 of them on tap.
More information: (800) 325-7962; explorestlouis.com
Meal you’ll remember
Attention to detail reveals itself in the from-scratch menu items and service at Charlie Gitto’s. Diners dote on fried calamari with rock shrimp, three-pepper cream seafood pasta and six-layer lasagna. But always start with the toasted ravioli, which is rumored to have been created in St. Louis. (314) 772-8898; charliegittos.com
Five great places to see for free in Forest Park
1 Missouri History Museum Running through February 15, 2015, 250 in 250 commemorates 250 years of St. Louis history through the stories of 50 people, 50 places, 50 moments, 50 images and 50 objects. (314) 746-4599; mohistory.org
2 Saint Louis Art Museum See works by Picasso and van Gogh; dine on elegant lunches at Panorama, which has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Forest Park. (314) 721-0072; slam.org
3 Saint Louis Zoo Six sections encompass a wide range of environments, including the subantarctic and tropical rainforests. Highlights include River’s Edge—a spacious home for Asian and African animals with underwater viewing of hippos. (314) 781-0900; stlzoo.org
4 Saint Louis Science Center Among the highlights are a life-size T. rex and a planetarium. Try your hand at the controls of a flight simulator. (314) 289-4424; slsc.org
5 The Jewel Box Fifty-foot-tall glass walls open to floral displays in this greenhouse, known for its fountain. Free on Mondays and Tuesday until noon. (314) 531-0080; stlouis-mo.gov
Busch Stadium Major League Baseball’s Cardinals play in these retro-style downtown digs. North of the stadium, Ballpark Village houses the Cardinals National Hall of Fame. (314) 345-9500; stlcardinals.com
Blueberry Hill Hickory-seasoned burgers, 18 draught taps and 62 bottled beers draw crowds to this popular club in the Delmar Loop. Rock ’n’ roll star Chuck Berry plays once a month. (314) 727-4444; blueberryhill.com
The Muny This theater stages outdoor musical productions in Forest Park. The 2014 summer season includes Broadway hits The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Grease, Tarzan and Spamalot. (314) 361-1900; muny.org
Grant’s Farm Budweiser Clydesdales live on the 281-acre farm of St. Louis’ Busch family (though the name references President Grant, who once farmed here); 15 miles from downtown. (314) 843-1700; grantsfarm.com