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Best things to do in Saint Louis
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Saint Louis can only be compared to Washington, D.C. in the number of free activities available for savvy travelers. In addition to walking paths and recreational areas, Forest Park hosts major cultural sites, including St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis Zoo, and Missouri History Museum. Art lovers from around the world can marvel at one of the largest mosaic installations in the Western Hemisphere at Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. If traveling with kids, make sure your list of things to do in Saint Louis includes Grant's Farm, a typical 19th-century Bavarian farmstead with a petting zoo and carousels.
Saint Louis is best known for its Observation Decks, Zoos, and Specialty Museums.
Top 15 things to do in Saint Louis
1. Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis
Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis is home to one of the largest mosaic installations in the Western Hemisphere. The mosaic took 76 years to complete and contains 41.5 million glass tesserae pieces. The breathtaking pieces in the main cathedral were designed by August Oetken, including the famous depiction of the life of King Louis IX of France, for whom the church and city are named. Pope John Paul II officially designated it a basilica in 1997, but believers, historians, and art lovers from around the world have visited this cathedral since it held its first mass in 1914. In addition to its astonishing mosaic collection, the cathedral is also known for its crypts, museum, stained glass, and sculptures.
Suggested duration: 2 hoursLearn more about Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis
2. Missouri Botanical Garden
One of the oldest botanical institutions in the United States, Missouri Botanical Garden is a National Historic Landmark. Explore its 32 hectares (79 acres) of plant displays, and savor the peace of this city oasis. Stroll through the serene Japanese garden, one of the largest of its kind in North America, and relax among waterfalls, small beaches, and Asian flowers. In the Climatron, a large geodesic dome, discover a tropical rainforest and an aquarium of exotic fish. Hop aboard the garden's tram to take in the sights from a different vantage point. This 25 to 30 minute tour reveals more about the different plants, sculptures, and buildings. Picnics are not permitted; instead, you can visit any of several on-site cafes.
Suggested duration: 2 hoursLearn more about Missouri Botanical Garden
3. Beer Tastings & Tours
Suggested duration: 2 hoursLearn more about Beer Tastings & Tours
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4. City Museum
Built largely of repurposed industrial objects, City Museum calls itself an "eclectic mixture of children's playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel." Opened in 2010, the museum challenges guests to experience displays by feeling, touching, playing with, and climbing on them. Exhibits include Elvis Presley's travel trailer and an object claiming to be the world's largest underpants. Visitors looking for a bit of excitement can explore a maze of fake tunnels and caves, or slide down a chute that goes through ten floors. For panoramic views of the city and a ride on an old-fashioned Ferris wheel, visit the rooftop garden.
Suggested duration: 2 hoursLearn more about City Museum
Tours including City Museum:
5. The Gateway Arch
Take in spectacular views of the city from 192 m (630 ft ) in the air atop The Gateway Arch. This "Gateway to the West" is the city's most iconic landmark--and the largest manmade monument in the Western Hemisphere. Examine the structure's stainless-steel architecture and impressive engineering from the banks of the Mississippi River before riding a tram to the top. Don't miss the Museum of Westward Expansion directly under the arch at the visitor center.
Suggested duration: 2 hoursLearn more about The Gateway Arch
Tours including The Gateway Arch:
6. Forest Park
The sixth most-visited urban park in the United States and home to the 1904 World's Fair, Forest Park is also well-known for hosting five major cultural sites, including the St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis Zoo, and Missouri History Museum. The 526 hectare (1,300 acre) park has plenty of space for recreation and paths for walking, running, or biking. The park's 45,000 trees provide shade in the summertime and picturesque scenes in the fall and winter months. In addition to the 13 million visitors it hosts annually, the park has also proudly welcomed new wildlife to its restored prairie and wetland areas.
Suggested duration: 2 hoursLearn more about Forest Park
7. Saint Louis Zoo
One of the world's top-rated free-admission animal parks, features both indoor and outdoor exhibits, as well as a children's petting zoo. Divided into themed zones and dedicated to conserving endangered species and their natural habitats, the zoo shelters over 18,000 animals. Get up close and personal with a range of furry and flying creatures by walking around the exhibits on your own, or take a guided tour on the zoo's narrow-gauge railroad for an in-depth look at several habitats. Don't miss the zoo's big cat country, home to lions, leopards, tigers, jaguars, and cougars. The zoo also offers dining and souvenirs at shops and restaurants spread throughout its grounds.
Suggested duration: 2 hoursLearn more about Saint Louis Zoo
8. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield
Pay tribute to one of the nation’s most iconic leaders at Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. One of the most-visited presidential libraries in the country, the museum features an extensive collection of artifacts and memorabilia documenting the life and political career of the 16th U.S. president, as well as the events of the American Civil War. Venture through the “Pre-Presidential Years” exhibit to tour a life-size replica of Lincoln’s childhood home, then head to the “Presidential Years” section to view an original handwritten Gettysburg Address and signed Emancipation Proclamation. Don’t miss a visit to the life-size diorama of the presidential box at Ford’s Theatre, the site of Lincoln’s 1865 assassination.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 minLearn more about Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
9. Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Springfield
See Lincoln Home National Historic Site, the house where Abraham Lincoln and his family lived before moving to the White House. You can take a guided tour to learn what their life was like and see treasures like Lincoln's small corner desk. To get a better sense of his life and work, watch the site's film. Stroll down the street to see exhibits such as "If These Walls Could Talk" and "What a Pleasant Home Abe Lincoln Has."
Suggested duration: 2 hoursLearn more about Lincoln Home National Historic Site
10. Dana-Thomas House, Springfield
Designed in 1902 for wealthy Illinois widow Susan Lawrence Dana , Dana-Thomas House serves as an excellent preserved example of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright's "Prairie Style" houses. The dwelling reflects both Dana's passion for organic architecture and Wright's ability to seamlessly blend the inside and outside of a house into one. The 3,658 sq m (12,000 sq ft) home includes 35 rooms, 16 varying levels, three main floors, and approximately 450 individually designed glass windows. Take a guided tour of the home to learn more about its history. Tours involve taking many steps and do not provide a chance to sit down, so it is not recommended for those with limited mobility. Photos are not allowed inside, but you can purchase a photo book at the gift shop.
Suggested duration: 2 hoursLearn more about Dana-Thomas House
11. The Magic House, St. Louis Children's Museum
In a 5,100 sq m (55,000 sq f) space, The Magic House, St. Louis Children's Museum features exhibits, resources, and activities for children to experiment with, create, and develop problem-solving skills. Look for some of these favorite exhibits: an electrically charged ball that creates static electricity, a large pin screen that holds the shape of your body, a giant kaleidoscope, and an art studio. Older children get to solve mysteries by analyzing fingerprints, crawling through ductwork, and opening secret doors. Kids have the opportunity to stay overnight with one parent, an experience that includes an evening snack and breakfast plus extra time to enjoy more than 100 exhibits.
Suggested duration: 2 hoursLearn more about The Magic House, St. Louis Children's Museum
12. Lincoln Tomb & War Memorials, Springfield
A monument to the American history, Lincoln Tomb & War Memorials is the final resting place of one of the most distinguished presidents and a memorial to those who died for their country. The exterior design of the tomb features a 36 m (117 ft) obelisk, a statue of the president, and four statues of the military branches from the Civil War: infantry, cavalry, artillery, and navy. At the entrance, rub the nose on the sculpture of Lincoln's head for good luck. The interior is adorned with marble and bronze statues and excerpts from Lincoln's speeches. The president, his wife, and three of his sons are buried at the tomb. Close to the tomb, you also can see war memorials for Illinois residents who died in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Suggested duration: 2 hoursLearn more about Lincoln Tomb & War Memorials
13. Saint Louis Art Museum
Featuring a collection of more than 30,000 works of art, Saint Louis Art Museum counts among one of the country's major art institutions, attracting over half a million visitors each year. Erected for the 1904 World's Fair, the three-story building went through a massive restoration project in 2009 in which 21 new galleries were added, some for each of its permanent collection and temporary exhibits. The museum's star attraction is its modern art collection, including works by European masters Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh, Matisse, and Gauguin. Don't miss the gallery dedicated to 20th century German paintings that features the world's biggest collection of works by Max Beckmann, plus pieces by Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, and Martin Kippenberger.
Suggested duration: 2 hoursLearn more about Saint Louis Art Museum
14. Room Escape Games
Suggested duration: 1h 30 minLearn more about Room Escape Games
15. Grant’s Farm
See a typical 19th-century Bavarian farmstead, visit animals, and watch them perform at Grant’s Farm, a top family attraction. Catch a free tram with a narrated tour to reach the heart of the farm. Along the way, you'll visit a deer park and see numerous species in their habitats. More than 900 animals live at the site, among which are Budweiser Clydesdale horses, buffalos, elephants, camels, and kangaroos. Kids can feed and play with baby goats, and ride carousels. But remember this, the baby goats can be a handful sometimes. Open to the public since 1954, the farm has been visited by more than 24 million tourists.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 minLearn more about Grant’s Farm
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