State 9: Missouri | Saint Louis

I’ve been to Saint Louis twice. Well technically three times since I was at the airport on a layover once, but that doesn’t really count. This post will combine both my visits to the “Show Me” state. My first visit was with my boyfriend on one of our long weekend new state trips. At the time, we didn’t really think we would be going back any time soon, but then about two years later we received a wedding invitation from a college friend who was getting married there. His wife grew up in Missouri so that was the natural location to host their big day.

One thing I wish I knew when I visited is that there is a train from the airport to downtown right by the baseball stadium that is only a few dollars versus the expensive taxi ride. So if you are staying downtown, look for the airport train.

Gateway Arch
Gateway Arch

The first time we went, we stayed right by the iconic Gateway Arch and found an amazing deal at a four-star hotel. There was a knitting convention going on when we visited so it was pretty crowded and we were in for a rude awakening once we got to our room (not knitting-related). We walked into the room and thought it was beautiful and huge, almost the size of our apartment back at home. However, the first time we flushed the toilet, it started overflowing immediately and water was pouring out onto the floor. I’ve never had this happen to me before at a hotel and immediately called down to the front desk as the whole bathroom was flooding. Thankfully we had not put any of our personal belongings out in the bathroom yet. The hotel took care of the issue, but what a way to start out the weekend.

This Way to the Arch
This Way to the Arch

We were able to walk to the Arch and we went up to the top. I loved that the sidewalk directed you straight to the landmark. It was cool, but not what we expected and not for anyone who is claustrophobic. You wait in line and then get into a little pod that almost reminded me of a smaller version of a ferris wheel car, but it’s completely enclosed. Up you go and then when you reach the top you can get out and stay as long as you’d like, marveling at the landscape below.

On this first trip to Saint Louis, we discovered that Uber was not readily available in the city yet. The only option was Uber Black, which we quickly learned was too expensive for our everyday travels. We found a local taxi company that we would call to pick us up. The drivers were always reliable and the rides were reasonably priced. By the time we came back for our second visit in 2018, Uber was available everywhere we went.

Saint Louis Zoo
Saint Louis Zoo

Our first stop was the zoo. By now you should know I try to go to a zoo in every new city I visit. This one was sprawling with 90 acres of exhibits and attractions. Walk over to the Red Rocks if you’re a cat lover like me. There you will find jaguars, tigers, leopards and pumas, to name a few. Another highlight was the polar bear exhibit, sea lion show and penguin and puffin coast.

Botanical Garden
Botanical Garden

After the zoo, we headed over to the Missouri Botanical Garden and this is actually where my love of flower photography blossomed. Since visiting this botanical garden, I have developed a strong affinity for taking up-close floral photographs. To this day, the wallpaper of my cellphone is still one of my favorite flower pictures that was taken at this botanical garden. Over the years I have gone to numerous flower exhibits, gardens, fields and shows and I owe it all to this garden for piquing my interest. Luckily the weather was nice out and wasn’t too hot yet, so we meandered through the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, English Garden and Victorian District. The garden sits on 79 acres so there is no limit to exploration.

Botanical Garden
Botanical Garden

As I mentioned, since Uber was not available on our first visit, we walked to find restaurants for breakfast to avoid spending too much on transportation. We are so happy we found Rooster. A few months before this trip, we had gone to Isla Mujeres, Mexico and ate at a similar restaurant with the same name. Working in the advertising and branding industry, I couldn’t help but notice that the font of the logo looked strikingly similar to the one I had seen just a few months before. There was a line when we walked in the restaurant in the heart of downtown, proving that it was a popular choice for both visitors and locals alike. We found out it wasn’t directly related to the restaurant of the same name in Mexico, but the food completely exceeded our expectations here. We even liked it so much, we decided to go back the next morning. I tried the Nutella banana crepes craving something sweet and they were so light and delicate, I devoured them. Another yummy sweet treat was the roasted apple and cinnamon crepe. Later on craving something a little heartier (and healthier), I opted for the vegetable scramble.

We learned this restaurant does not take reservations, so on weekends it is best to get there early if you can. That’s what we did on our second trip to Saint Louis (third time at Rooster) when we went with a large group of six or seven friends when we were all in town for our friend’s wedding. Most of our friends had not been to the city before so they were happy to take our breakfast recommendation. Everyone loved their meal here and was glad that we shared our “Saint Louis secret.”

For dinner on our first trip, my boyfriend and I tried a tapas restaurant and wine bar that was close to the (now former) Rams stadium. On our second trip, we went to a pub called Wheelhouse just across from the hotel where we were staying for lunch. It was just what we needed in between wedding festivities, something quick and easy. Surprisingly, we actually got caught up in another wedding who was having a cocktail reception there. The hostess thought we were part of it, since we were dressed up having come right from our own friends’ wedding ceremony. We quickly realized the mix-up and found our own table. I was not expecting this at this type of restaurant, but I had some of the best brussel sprouts at Wheelhouse. They were cooked and seasoned perfectly and were a delightful, healthy complement to my grilled chicken wrap.

The wedding reception we attended was held at Schafly Tap Room. It was a unique and fun wedding venue. We had the entire upstairs to ourselves which was marvelous. As dinner was winding down and the desserts started to be brought out, the donut cake caught my eye. Earlier in the day, we ventured to the other side of the city in search of the “famous” donut shop called Strange Donuts. I had a classic glazed, but other friends tried the gooey butter flavor, which they are known for. I avoided it since it was too much dairy for me, but I of course had a second donut at the wedding reception. I couldn’t believe we scoured the city for these donuts, then they ended up right under our nose. Two donuts in one day…good thing I had the brussel sprouts instead of fries as my side dish at lunch!

Strange Donuts
Strange Donuts

The night before the wedding we went to City Museum. I hadn’t been here on my first trip to the city, although I did pass by it. At first glance, we thought it was a children’s playground. With a huge airplane and slides coming from the top of the building, you don’t know what to expect. It’s not a traditional museum, it is very interactive and there are levels and levels to climb through with different themes. My favorite was the aquarium section with fish tanks all around you as you bob and weave your way through. Some sections get quite small and narrow. There are about ten stories and also a rooftop. There are slides to go down from various levels. This is truly something to experience unlike anywhere else in the country I have heard about or been before.

Before departing to the airport once we finally discovered the train, we went to brunch at a quaint French bistro. I had the traditional French breakfast (minus the cheese) which was served on a wooden board. We tried to go to a rooftop bar to see the sights, but unfortunately it was closed. Maybe next time if we’re ever in the area!

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