By Evi Arthur, St. Louis Magazine | February 23, 2021
Downtown development has gained impressive momentum in recent years, including the improved Arch grounds and revamped Union Station, now housing the St. Louis Aquarium, the St. Louis Wheel, a carousel, mini-golf course, and more. Nearby, you can unwind in Citygarden’s 3-acre sculpture park or grab rooftop drinks at Three Sixty. St. Louis’ very own Major League Soccer club, St. Louis CITY SC (a.k.a. the City) plans to take the pitch in 2023 at a modern stadium being built in Downtown West, near the homes of the champion Blues and Cardinals. Design Downtown STL recently proposed a thoughtful plan for more green space, gardens, and bike paths. And the second phase of Ballpark Village is well on its way, with One Cardinal Way and Live! By Loews opening in 2020.
A haven for artists and entrepreneurs, Cherokee Street is lined with an eclectic mix of distinct locally owned businesses. The area has welcomed a host of new businesses in recent years, including clothing shops (Ardently, Profield Reserve, Bozack), restaurants (La Manganita, Jerk Soul), and even a second record store (punk-focused Wax Rats Record Shop). They join Cherokee Street mainstays: retail options (Firecracker Press, Dead Wax Records, STL-Style, and Hammonds Books, to name a few), restaurants (The Mud House, La Vallesana, Yaquis), breweries (Earthbound, Bluewood), and art galleries (The Luminary, 2720, Monaco).
On a sun-soaked summer afternoon, you can almost imagine you’re in Italy as you sit beside the picturesque marble fountain in Piazza Imo, across from historic St. Ambrose Church. That’s the charm of The Hill, St. Louis’ classic Italian neighborhood. Now dotted with Italian flag–striped fire hydrants, it was once the stomping grounds of baseball greats Joe Garagiola and Yogi Berra, as well five members of the 1950 World Cup. Today, it’s perhaps better known for another sport: bocce, which you can play at Milo’s Bocce Garden or the Italia-America Bocce Club. There’s no shortage of classic dining spots, including Zia’s, Favazza’s, and Anthonino’s Taverna (which also serves authentic Greek), to name just a few. And before you say arrivederci, pick up cured meats at Volpi, cannoli from The Missouri Baking Company or Vitale’s, and professional-grade cutlery at Bertarelli Co.
Central West End
The ultramodern One Hundred building now towers 36 stories above Kingshighway, offering sweeping views of Forest Park and the historic Chase Park Plaza. The southern edge of the Central West End is home to the Washington University School of Medicine and to the Cortex Innovation Community, where the [BioSTL Building, formerly called the] Crescent building’s biotech hub houses BioSTL and construction is underway on an 11-story state-of-the-art neuroscience research center, one of the largest such facilities on the planet. BioSTL is also launching a new Center for National Pandemic Resiliency in Biosciences. But that’s not the only way in which the CWE shows its smarts. It’s also home to the expanding Saint Louis Chess Club and World Chess Hall of Fame, plus Left Bank Books, the city’s oldest independently owned bookstore, and a host of other retail and restaurant options in a charming cosmopolitan setting.
In the winter, Hidden Valley Ski Resort, near Eureka, offers a little slice of Aspen here at home. Campsites, trails, and birdwatching opportunities abound at nearby Babler State Park and Rockwoods Reservation. A short drive south, Castlewood State Park is a popular spot for hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and mountain biking. Wildwood resident Jan Petzoldt says the popular state park has been a favorite hiking spot of hers for years. “It’s so varied and has something for everyone.” But the entire Wildwood area is full of green space, she adds. “There are so many opportunities to get out and enjoy the outdoors and great parks within walking distance.”
South Grand/Tower Grove South
If you’re craving international cuisine, South Grand is the destination. Its restaurant options span 14 countries, including Ethiopian (Meskerem), Brazilian (Brasilia), Vietnamese (LemonGrass), Thai (Basil Spice), and Turkish (Sheesh). Nearby Tower Grove Park also hosts the annual Festival of Nations, providing fun and fare from dozens of countries. Just north of the park, the $550 million SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital recently opened, and more exciting additions—including luxury apartments, a hotel, retail, restaurants, and offices—are in the works at the adjacent Iron Hill at Prospect Yards.
Named after Frenchman Antoine Pierre Soulard, the neighborhood does not take its French roots lightly. The Soulard Farmers’ Market dates back to 1779, shortly after French fur traders founded the city, and the neighborhood’s annual Mardi Gras celebration is one of the largest in the nation. Historic brick homes and apartments line the streets, along with an impressive collection of pubs. Soulard resident Zach Hesler notes, “I moved to Soulard for the bar and nightlife scene.” Among the options: John D. McGurk’s (with authentic Irish music and fare), International Tap House (with a wealth of beer options), and Hammerstone’s (with music nightly). You can also catch a show at local institutions Broadway Oyster Bar and the Old Rock House. Slated to open nearby, the six-story SoHo building will house 320 modern units and help connect Soulard to south downtown.
Squeeze into a booth at Crown Candy Kitchen and you’re immediately transported to another time. More than a century old, the family-run soda fountain has a tin ceiling, vintage Coca-Cola memorabilia, and a display case chock-full of homemade chocolate and candies. Across the street in Old North, revitalized Crown Square offers a specialty grocery store (Old North Provisions), arts organizations (Zuka Arts Guild, Central Print, UrbArts), and locally owned businesses (Head Hunters Barber & Beauty Salon, Think Th-ink tattoo studio, Therapy Boutique). Farther west, The Ville was once home to such greats as Arthur Ashe, Josephine Baker, and Dick Gregory. The area’s about to take another historic step with the addition of Next NGA West, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s $1.75 billion western headquarters, slated for completion in 2023. And the forthcoming Brickline Greenway—named for the sturdy deep-red building blocks that make up so much of the neighborhood—will connect the city in all directions, from Forest Park to the Gateway Arch, Tower Grove Park to North City’s Fairground Park (yes, another historic site, once home to the city’s first zoo).
Beyond the nearby CWE and Midtown, perhaps no neighborhood in the city has seen such dramatic growth in recent years as The Grove. Situated just southeast of Forest Park, the commercial stretch of Manchester has long been known for its nightlife, but the offerings have expanded in recent years, with Urban Chestnut Brewing Company opening a sprawling Bierhalle and brewery at one end of the stretch and mixed-use development CHROMA and Hue opening at the other. In between, there’s now an eclectic mix of restaurants (BEAST Butcher & Block, Chao Baan, Firecracker Pizza & Beer, Gramophone, Rise Coffee House), shops (City Greens Market, Intoxicology), and salons (Cultivate, Mitch STL, Southside). Vibrant murals adorn many of the buildings, including local artist Grace McCammond’s larger-than-life tribute to U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team member and St. Louis native Becky Sauerbrunn.
Arts lovers are drawn to Grand Center. Home to the Fox Theatre, Powell Hall, The Sheldon, the Contemporary Art Museum, the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, and the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, the neighborhood is a hub for performances and exhibitions. Circus Flora has a permanent home under the Big Top, and the new High Low offers both a cup of joe and a side of art—ideal for residents and students at nearby Saint Louis University. Across from IKEA, the much-anticipated City Foundry is soon to open its food hall and retail spots. Passing through the development, the Brickline Greenway will provide access to trails and green space, including a stretch from the Grand MetroLink station to the CWE station—just a small stretch of a vast network of trails connecting city neighborhoods.
The Delmar Loop is full of icons, and not just those on the St. Louis Walk of Fame. After you’ve spotted the sidewalk stars emblazoned with the names of Maya Angelou, Harold Ramis, The Rockettes, and more, take a photo beside the statue of the late Chuck Berry, who for years performed at the Duck Room downstairs at Blueberry Hill, across the street. While you’re there, play one of his songs on the jukebox and pick up a record at Vintage Vinyl. Then, after strolling past the diverse range of shops and restaurants, take in a movie at the Tivoli Theatre, where a poster of the 1987 documentary about Berry, Hail! Hail! Rock ’n’ Roll, still hangs. Then catch a show at The Pageant or Delmar Hall, next door. Finally, grab a drink on the rooftop of the Moonrise Hotel in the newest section of The Loop, east of Skinker, and plan your next outing.
Money magazine recently ranked St. Peters the 13th best place to live in the United States—and top in the state. It noted the strong sense of community (with a free virtual concert series during the pandemic), the strong housing market (with homes often selling quickly for 1 percent above listing price), and the 236,000-square-foot Rec-Plex (with a skating rink and Olympic-size pools). And then there are the city’s 25 parks, including a BMX track, a dog park, and more than 27 miles of trails. Just reading the list of options is enough to make you work up a sweat.
Lake Saint Louis
Once a resort community, Lake St. Louis actually offers two lakes: the 550-acre namesake and the 75-acre Lake Sainte Louise, both accessible only to members of the Community Association and their guests, along with a golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts, marinas, and parks. The Lake Saint Louis Sailing & Paddling Club hosts such popular events as the annual Pirate Party and Moonlight Paddles, as well as sailing and kayaking lessons. Beyond the lake, there are other pastime options, including the National Equestrian Center, the new Missouri Rush Sports Park (boasting a rooftop restaurant/bar overlooking four turf soccer fields, in nearby O’Fallon), and The Meadows shopping center (with Von Maur, BC’s Kitchen, and a farmers’ and artists’ market). And if you’re looking to get away from it all without going too much farther, drive a half hour west to the 7,500-acre Innsbrook resort.
Veranda magazine named Ladue one of the 25 richest towns in America in 2019. According to Zillow, the average home value is $943,000. Tilles Park is a year-round draw, with a popular playground and the Winter Wonderland holiday light display. Ladue’s school district consistently ranks among the best in the state, and some of the region’s top independent schools, including John Burroughs and MICDS, call Ladue home as well. (Fun fact: Actor Jon Hamm taught actress Ellie Kemper at Burroughs in the ’90s.) There’s also no shortage of retail options in nearby Frontenac, including high-end brands at Plaza Frontenac, as well as the new Life Time Fitness and new retail and office space under construction on the former Schneithorst’s site.
Stroll the cobblestones of historic Main Street, passing the First State Capitol, and browse the dozens of charming shops that now fill the centuries-old brick buildings. Along the way, stop for a coffee at Bike Stop Café, a pint at Schlafly Bankside, a rack of ribs at Salt + Smoke or butter-basted scallops at Tompkins by the Rack House, and a nightcap at Bella Vino. But before you get too wrapped up in all the nostalgia, remember that St. Charles has plenty of new offerings beyond historic Main. Following the success of the Streets of St. Charles development, just south of Ameristar Casino and I-70, the Riverpointe development will feature a 5.5-mile walk along the Missouri River, from New Town to south of Main Street.
Augusta and Defiance
Like the short drive from San Francisco to Napa Valley, the 15-minute drive along winding Highway 94 to Missouri’s wine country feels like a dramatic departure. Rustic barns, farmland, and rows of vines dot the countryside, which opens up to the Missouri River Valley. On weekends, St. Louisans flock to the Katy Trail and the patios of such popular wineries as Mount Pleasant Estates, Chandler Hill Vineyards, and Augusta Winery (named the nation’s third best winery by Men’s Journal in 2019). Even those who prefer a pilsner over a pinot are in luck: O’Fallon, Missouri–based Good News Brewing is expanding to the historic Augusta Brew Haus.
Webster Groves and Kirkwood
Drive through Webster Groves, and you’ll likely notice plaques beside many of the doors. They denote century homes—houses more than 100 years old. The Webster Groves Public Library also offers helpful resources to help homeowners learn more about the histories of their homes. The neighborhood offers a number of noteworthy recent additions, including such popular restaurants as Frisco Ballroom, Olive + Oak, and Balkan Treat Box (touted by the likes of Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, and Bon Appétit). The city is also working with SG Collaborative on a potential redevelopment project near Kirkham Avenue. In nearby Kirkwood, the $25 million Performing Arts Center, which opened last September, is hosting socially distanced events and rehearsals, including yoga classes, a monthly opera concert, and youth theater productions.
Alton and Grafton
St. Louis is nicknamed the River City for a reason. Situated near the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, the area was a perfect launching point for Lewis and Clark’s famous expedition. Today, atop the 180-foot-tall Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower, you can see where those rivers meet. Afterward, visit the National Great Rivers Museum, near Alton, to learn more about the Big Muddy and to tour the adjoining Melvin Price Locks and Dam. Enjoy lunch at the iconic cash-only Fast Eddie’s Bon Air, then take a trip down the scenic Great River Road to quaint Grafton. Sitting right on the bank of the Mississippi, The Loading Dock hosts live music much of the year, is home to a bustling weekend flea market in the warm-weather months, and recently added an ice rink. Nearby Pere Marquette State Park offers picturesque views of the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, as well as a cozy historic lodge. Finish the day by getting out on the river—without leaving your car—on the Grafton Ferry.
Edwardsville and Belleville
If you’re looking for a family-friendly under-the-radar spot, look no further than Belleville. During the pandemic, the historic Skyview Drive-in has played such classics as Goonies and Back to the Future. Eckert’s offers seasonal pick-your-own fruits and vegetables, as well as an old-time country store, restaurant, cooking classes, and onsite plant center and nursery. Nearby, the O’Fallon Family Sports Park boasts soccer fields, baseball fields, a splash pad, and more. In Edwardsville, Plummer Family Park recently opened, replete with four turf baseball fields, six multipurpose fields, and a dozen pickleball courts. And near the Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville campus, the new Trace on the Parkway will offer dining, shopping, and luxury apartments and townhomes.
Aptly described as “somewhere between Mayberry and Metropolis,” this burg at the edge of the St. Louis city limits balances family-friendly charm with a hip vibe. Within the span of a few blocks, you can start the day with a cup of joe (Living Room, Foundation Grounds, Oliver’s Coffee + Flower Bar), go gift shopping (Maven, Vom Fass, Penzeys), pick up a snack (Strange Donuts, Kakao Chocolate, Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions), and sit down to a nice meal (Acero, Elmwood, Asador Del Sur). Finally, toast to a full day with a pint. Schlafly Bottleworks serves dozens of varieties, along with live music, a farmers’ market, and seasonal festivals. “It’s very welcoming,” resident Hannah Gear says of Bottleworks. “During the pandemic, the expanded parking lot patio made Schlafly the essential community gathering place.” Nearby Side Project Brewing, recently named the No. 2 brewer in the world by website RateBeer.com, allows early access to new beers through its membership program, La Coterie. Looking for even more options? Tapped offers 48 self-pour taps, along with wood-fired pizza.
Ballwin and Valley Park
At the heart of Ballwin, Queeny Park offers 7 miles of trails that wind through forest, prairie, and wetland, and the Greensfelder Recreation Complex plays host to roller derby and ice skating. The neighborhood also boasts not one but two noteworthy swimming facilities: The Pointe at Ballwin Commons and the North Pointe Family Aquatic Center. The former houses an indoor swimming pool, lap lanes, a two-story water slide, an indoor water playground, a lazy river, and a vortex; the latter boasts its own lazy river, as well as a waterfall and a pair of two-story waterslides. Ballwin is also home to the Conquer Castlewood Competition, in which teams of two run, cycle, and paddle through Castlewood State Park. And SUP St. Louis hosts paddleboarding lessons and on-board yoga at nearby Simpson Lake, plus guided trips down the Meramec River.
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