Having traveled to St. Louis several times before, I am beyond excited to have traveled this time with Heather to find those hidden gems in the city of Cardinal pride. Cardinal baseball is iconic in the south and I have supported them since I was a little girl watching Mark McGuire break records. The downtown area is equipped with many historical landmarks and attractions for your added entertainment, but it is “St Louis off the beaten path” that we explored during our recent trip.
After reading this post, hopefully, this will entice you to visit St. Louis, Missouri to explore these hidden gems and experience the fine attractions and delicious cuisine options around ‘The Gateway to the West’. We strongly encourage you to book a hotel in the St. Louis area and take some time to explore everything there is to see off the beaten path.
Exploring Diverse Neighborhoods
The first stop we made on our trip after arriving in St. Louis was in a small neighborhood known as The Hill, which is located just south of Forest Park and interestingly got its name as it’s known to be the highest point in the city. The Hill is primarily an Italian American neighborhood and boasts in it’s Italian cuisine with an assortment of authentic Italian restaurants and bakeries.
The best way to experience The Hill is by foot – that way you can see for yourself how tight-knit this neighborhood really is.
The Delmar Loop
Next up on our road trip was exploring The Loop, a suburb of University City that gets its name from a streetcar turnaround that was located in the area over a century ago. Now, the Loop displays some of the most contemporary establishments in and around St. Louis.
With so much to offer, The Loop will not disappoint. The Loop offers a vast array of attractions such as restaurants, music clubs, coffee shops, and boutiques.
Benton Park and Tower Grove Park
We then decided to drive around and see what else we could find and in that, we found a couple of new neighborhoods and parks to explore – Benton Park and Tower Grove Park.
Benton Park, St. Louis’ second oldest park, is in a small neighborhood, also called Benton Park. Located south of the main downtown area of St. Louis, Benton Park has a small lake and a couple of rustic bridges made out of cast-iron, a perfect representation of its early history.
Tower Grove Park is located adjacent to the Missouri Botanical Gardens. This gem is hidden in plain sight, offering well shaded paved paths, tons of pavilions for a variety of different events, and not to mention spectacular landscaping.
Fitz’s Bottling Company
Before leaving The Loop, we had to make a pit-stop at Fitz’s Bottling Company. Not only is Fitz’s a restaurant, it’s also a microbrewery with many flagship flavors such as the iconic Cardinal Cream. Along with their full range of sodas to choose from, Fitz’s also offers classic American-style cuisine as well as various shakes, malts, and not to mention floats.
While taste testing their sodas, we were able to watch as they were being bottled right in front of us, which I must say was an unforgettable experience.
While exploring the Benton Park area, we discovered Gus’ Pretzels, which is a local third-generation pretzel shop situated in the shadow of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery and right next door to the Soulard area. Gus’ Pretzels offers a one-of-a-kind experience as you get to watch the whole production process take place.
If you love pretzels, then I’m confident that you’ll love Gus’. Gus’ not only offers pretzels, but they also have hotdogs and a variety of different sandwiches as well.
Next up is Imo’s Pizza, which you can only find in and around the St. Louis area. Imo’s is notorious for their “original St. Louis-style pizza,” which comprises of a thin crust and the use of Provel cheese – a combination of cheddar, Swiss, and provolone. I am not sure if the picture does this justice but this pizza was AMAZING!
Imo’s not only has outstanding pizza, they have pastas, salads, and sandwiches as well, so plenty of choice for everyone regardless of your tastebuds.
Imo’s has definitely made me a fan of their St. Louis-style pizza and I plan on making that a routine stop when returning to St. Louis in the future.
Ted Drewes Frozen Custard
After Imo’s, we decided to try out for ourselves a local frozen custard place that everyone had been raving about. Ted Drewes is located on Chippewa St. on historic Route 66 and when we got there, I was a little reluctant due to the amount of people in line. However, we were determined to try it and knew we were in for a real treat.
I can’t even begin to describe the amount of people that were waiting in line to order. Luckily, there were twelve different windows open, so it didn’t take long to get through. They have such a large selection of options plus an assortment of different toppings to choose from that it can get a bit overwhelming, but once you find the right combination, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
Ted Drewes is definitely a must-stop when you’re in St. Louis – you really can’t make a trip to the city without a visit to the best frozen custard around!
Other Finds Along the Way
Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate Company
While exploring The Hill, we knew we had to stop at a local chocolate factory when we heard that they were giving free tours. And no, you don’t have to have one of those golden tickets to get a peek inside. Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate Company (say that three times fast) went beyond our expectations.
Of course, we were concerned with the intricate details of how their chocolate was made, but what we didn’t realize was that in order to make their product unique, they needed a balance of all natural ingredients and artisan chocolatiers to enhance customer satisfaction. This is what makes Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate Company different than many renowned chocolate factories today.
Forest Park and the St. Louis Zoo
Before heading home, we decided to swing by Forest Park and make a stop at the St. Louis Zoo. Forest Park is one of the largest parks in the United States and is approximately 500 acres larger than Central Park in New York City.
Being at the “heart of St. Louis,” Forest Park is home to not only the St. Louis Zoo, but also the St. Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Museum, and the St. Louis Science Center.
Forest Park is without a doubt a gem that you won’t find anywhere else and always has tons of things to do and events going on all year round – whether it’s sledding down Art Hill during the winter or renting a paddle boat during the summer.
Of course, we couldn’t pass up going to the St. Louis Zoo, which is known to be one of the top zoos in the country. The St. Louis Zoo offers free admission and also offers some additional attractions at a small fee.
There are a wide variety of animals that range from giraffes and lions to monkeys and penguins – with penguins being both mine and Heather’s favorite.
If you’re in St. Louis, it really is a must that you stop by Forest Park and check out all the different attractions and events going on.
If you have never been to St. Louis before, you really are missing out on a great adventure. Not only should you visit some of the top attractions such as the Gateway Arch, Grant’s Farm, and Anheuser-Busch Brewery, you should also check out some of the hidden gems that we embarked upon.
On the other hand, if you have been to St. Louis before and have never had a chance to explore the city, I highly recommend checking out the above and even do some exploring of your own – you never know what you’ll find. I am delighted to have been able to discover many different hidden gems in the city and I hope that if you pay a visit, you will also take the opportunity to scout out some of these unheralded spots because you will certainly not be disappointed!
This post was written by Mallorie Deaton after we visited St. Louis, Missouri on a recent weekend trip together. Mallorie is a fellow Arkansan and we had an amazing time experiencing all of the hidden gems around St. Louis. Thanks Mallorie for putting together a great post highlighting our experiences together!
Nice round up of off-the-beaten-path places. It seems worth a visit!
I’m originally from STL but haven’t been back in almost 20 years! I still desperately miss Ted Drews and love this post. Definitely inspires me to take a trip back very very soon. Thanks for sharing.
I’m from St. Louis, and love all of these places! Next time you’re in town, check out Soulard Market and Crowns Candy Kitchen, you’ll be glad you did.
Thanks so much Tonia and thanks for the tips on those places!! Hopefully we will get back to St. Louis in the next month or so and we will definitely check those spots out. Any other recommendations?
This is a great post! Thanks for sharing. I’ve been looking up information for a potential trip there and am trying to find out both what to do and the nitty gritty details about the city.
[…] on numerous occasions but this year we decided to visit on a couple of occasions to explore ‘off the beaten path‘. We all know the iconic reasons why people visit St. Louis, but what about those hidden gems […]
you forgot a couple attractions in Forest Park, The Jewel Box ( seasonally decorated glass greenhouse with stellar rose garden), and The Muny Opera ( outdoor theater/ small concert venue), and the pavillions all built for the World’s Fair in 1904…..St Louis is known for many ethnic neighborhoods, ” a big city comprized of small neighborhoods”…..Merb’s corner candy store is worth the stop too for a “Bionic Apple” ( a variety of spectacular candy apples in the fall season).
I am going to be on summer break soon. (I am 11 years old) and live in Gateway. Love this post, but I don’t understand how you like Imo’s!!!!
[…] Whether you intend on spending a full day exploring this state park or perhaps some of the nearby natural attractions, there are plenty of options in this region. We opted to spend a couple of hours early in the morning hiking around Elephant Rocks State Park before taking the short drive north to spend time “exploring off the beaten path St. Louis.” […]
Most of these places are pretty mainstream… If you’re looking for more locations, check out the following:
Demun Avenue: a quaint strip of restaurants, bars, and a few little shops. I personally would recommend Sasha’s, a restaurant and bar with really good savory crepes; Seeds, a high-end vegan cafe with hella good smoothies; and Kaldi’s, a local chain coffee shop with good food and an atmosphere pretty great for getting some work done (don’t go at morning rush if you want a table, though!). There are almost always cute dogs on this street when the weather is nice. The surrounding areas are really beautiful, if you’re looking to walk around. Check out the park, and head up the path to walk around Concordia Seminary.
Old Knoll Park: a nice little park that not too many people know about. Old Knoll has a fountain with turtles, a really pretty area, and is great for a morning walk or an afternoon picnic. This is a few blocks away from Demun.
Washington University (and surrounding neighborhoods): a beautiful college campus next to the Loop and Forest Park. Wash U. is currently undergoing renovations, but I think they should be finished by 2020. Still, the campus has an amazing vibe. There are lots of little passageways to travel through, and you will be able to get some nice photos. My favorite street is actually off the campus; it connects the university to the Delmar Loop. I’m not sure the name of the street but it’s a cute little alleyway with a lot of foot traffic. Once you get up near Delmar, you will be able to walk through the neighborhoods filled with beautiful older houses. They will be on your left coming from Wash U.
Cementland: the second project of Bob Cassilly (the genius behind the City Museum) left unfinished from his death. Formally the Portland Cement Company, Cementland is a beautiful and truly unique place. Old industrial buildings, silos, passageways, lakes, a castle, Bob Cassilly’s one-of-a-kind touch, and time come together to give the property an unparalleled sense of forgotten beauty. Above all else on this list, I highly recommend coming here. Cementland is currently closed to the public, but once the property is opened, do not pass on this location.
The Chain of Rocks Bridge: one of the oldest bridges and prettiest in the city. The bridge goes right over the Mississippi, and it bends in the middle. It’s about a mile long, so bring some good shoes. This is right up the street from Cementland, so you should do both of these on the same day.
Lafayette Square: an extremely cute area with old houses, a pretty park, and a rich history. Bob Cassilly renovated some houses and started the revival of the area a few decades ago. If you plan on going here, park your car along the park and explore the residential streets. Some of them are incredibly beautiful. There also is a neighborhood-wide yard and antique sale that happens once a year, which I would highly recommend. For food in the area, check out Squire’s for great food and lemonade; you may need to make a reservation, because they sometimes do events. If you need a quick stop, Park Avenue Coffee has great coffee and gooey butter cake (it’s an STL thing).
The Broadway Oyster Bar: outdoor restaurant and bar with a good location and pretty good food. This place is downtown pretty close to the Cardinals stadium, so you may want to check if there’s a game the day you plan on going. My parents used to bring me here when I was little, and it was always my favorite. The walls have mosaics on them, there are cute lights above, and there is sometimes live music. My parents brought me here when I was little, and my favorite parts were the long wooden benches with thousands of names and one-liners scribbled over and the occasional train that passed by on the neighboring bridge. With or without kids, you should check this place out. Try the fried alligator for me!
These are the first “off the beaten path” places that come to mind. If you check them out, be sure to reply and let me know how they went 🙂
Hi Dylan, thanks so much for these awesome recommendations of “off the beaten path” spots in St. Louis! Hopefully, we will be back in St. Louis in the next few weeks and we will have the opportunity to experience some of these. Thanks again and Happy New Year! We hope you have a great 2018.
While in Lafayette Square, go to Baileys Chocolate Bar. We moved away from STL 20 years ago but visit home as often as we can, with the Chocolate Bar being a required stop every time we come.
Don’t forget the city museum! Its a must see!
I am really impressed to read your sweet explaination about ST Louis. It can help us to visit the place peacefully .I am very thankful to you for the guideness. After all thanks for all of your kind guideness.
The Benton Park and Tower Grove Park in St Louis looks amazing. Thank you so much for giving such a beautiful blog on St Louis.