Talk about a great deal: Gorgeous free museums balance a lively professional sports scene. Pretty parks, the blues, ethnic foods and great breweries await in St. Louis neighborhoods.
Gateway Arch National Park
Credit: Courtesy of Gateway Arch Park Foundation

Day 1

Start your day at the Gateway Arch to ride up in a Jetsons-like pod.

Learn about local history and sample dishes at noteworthy restaurants on EAT St Louis Food Tours.

See if you can catch a game at Busch Stadium as The Cardinals, perennial World Series contenders, play in front of 46,000 fans. The retro-style stadium has great views of the action, and fireworks follow every home run. For more celebrated moments, visit the Cardinals National Hall of Fame and Ballpark Village.

For dinner, classic Cajun and Creole spices flavor jambalaya and alligator at Molly's in Soulard.

A taste of St. Louis' night life might take you to Stifel Theatre, where a restoration returned the building to its Art Deco glory; entertainers have included Jimmy Fallon and the Blue Man Group. The Muny stages outdoor musical productions in Forest Park. And the city's famous music scene plays out in many venues, including BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups and Blueberry Hill.

St. Louis Union Station Hotel
St. Louis Union Station Hotel
| Credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki/Redux

Unwind in a cozy room at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel; the luxury 1894 property is within walking distance of the MetroLink.

Citygarden St. Louis
Credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki/Redux

Day 2

After indulging in the hotel's breakfast buffet, walk around the nearby Citygarden (download the iPhone app to hear the stories behind the artwork). Then head to the National Blues Museum, where galleries transport visitors through the decades with decor and blues music from around the country.

For lunch, the ribs are to die for at hipster 'cue star Salt and Smoke, which has expanded into four neighborhoods.

Missouri Botanical Garden St. Louis
Missouri Botanical Garden
| Credit: Courtesy of Phoebe Mussman/Missouri Botanical Garden

The 79 acres at the Missouri Botanical Garden provide an oasis from the city's bustle; stroll the serene Japanese Garden and look for Dale Chihuly's striking glass sculptures.

Tours at Anheuser-Busch show the how-to of beer making.

Attention to detail at Charlie Gitto's reveals itself in the service and from-scratch items like three-pepper cream seafood pasta or six-layer lasagna; but always start with toasted ravioli, rumored to have been created in St. Louis.

Missouri History Museum St. Louis
Missouri History Museum

Five Great Places to See for Free in Forest Park

Explore the history of St. Louis and the state at the Missouri History Museum.

See works by Picasso and van Gogh at the St. Louis Art Museum.

At the Saint Louis Zoo, six zones encompass a wide range of environments, including Sea Lion Sound, a butterfly garden and a Caribbean Cove.

Among the highlights of the Saint Louis Science Center are a life-size T. rex  and a planetarium. Try your hand at the controls of a flight simulator.

Fifty-foot-tall glass walls at The Jewel Box open to floral displays in this greenhouse known for its fountain. Free on Mondays and Tuesday until noon.

City Museum St. Louis
City Museum
| Credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki/Redux

Bring the kids

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. Don't miss the Enchanted Caves and 10-story spiral slide.