6 Must-Visit Destinations In St. Louis

Saint Louis, Missouri is a historic, independent city located on the west bank of the Mississippi River, with a skyline marked by the iconic Gateway Arch. Whether one wants to experience local history and architecture or see art and wildlife from around the world, the metropolis offers many worthwhile and entertaining sites. In no particular order, here are some places visitors shouldn't miss in the Gateway to the West.

At #1 is the Shaw Neighborhood, a historic district whose structure and character are protected by ordinance. The local Improvement Association assists in strengthening the community by providing communication to residents, promoting the neighborhood, and sponsoring amenities and events such as a dog park and the Historic Shaw Art Fair. The area contains a variety of housing, from grand old homes to spacious multifamily dwellings.

Tower Grove Park, located on the south end of the neighborhood, is a place to walk, bike, play tennis, take children to the playgrounds, or shop at the farmers' market. The Missouri Botanical Garden, or MBG, borders Shaw to the west, and is one of the oldest research botanical gardens in the United States. MBG hosts many signature events year-round that serve to educate and enrich people through music, culture, and nature's beauty.

#2 in our overview is the Campbell House Museum, a restoration of an opulent home that was one of the centers of Saint Louis society during the Gilded Age. The nonprofit that controls and operates the Museum not only preserves the house itself, but also the former owners' original furniture, fixtures, paintings, and thousands of pages of family documents.

The Campbell House Museum offers both tours of the building and special after-hours events. These include Snap Apple Night, based on a Scots-Irish autumn tradition, and Halloween Twilight Tours. The latter, a partnership with the Mourning Society of St. Louis, invites guests to experience period rooms dimmed to gaslight brightness and draped for a 19th-century wake.

At #3 is City Museum. This surreal public space was created by artists out of a former shoe company warehouse. The outside is surrounded by a 500-foot concrete and iron fence in the shape of a serpent, while the rooftop features an abandoned Ferris wheel, a decommissioned school bus, and the dome from the St. Louis Science Center planetarium.

Inside, the Museum has many unusual aspects, including lots of slides, an intricate winding structure called the Treehouse, an arcade of vintage pinball machines, and a collection of taxidermy animals in the Bug Room, with walls of butterflies, moths, and other insects. Visitors can also eat hot dogs while watching musicians at Beatnik Bob's, or experience visual art at exhibits of the work of local architects like Louis Sullivan, and artists such as KAWS.

Our #4 is the Saint Louis Art Museum, or SLAM, which stands in Forest Park. SLAM collects, presents, interprets, and conserves works of art, many of which are made available for viewing online. Painters featured include George Caleb Bingham, Claude Monet, and Ellsworth Kelly. Visitors can obtain food at a quick-service cafe or at Panorama, a full-service restaurant overlooking Forest Park.

SLAM exhibits objects from around the world, such as its collection of batik textiles from Java, the most populous island of Indonesia. The collection includes pieces made for royal and aristocratic clientele, ceremonial use, and everyday fabrics worn by men and women. The Museum also showcases items such as a coat with a long profile and epaulets that evokes European military uniforms, but made with materials that indicate Native American artistic practice.

In the #5 spot is the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum. It honors people who have made contributions to the medium, and preserves historic cameras and images to share with visitors. Inside, a permanent tribute to the Hall of Fame Inductees, including Ansel Adams, Diane Arbus, George Eastman, and Dorothea Lange, stands alongside rotating exhibits from IPHF and partner collections. Past exhibits have included Moment by Moment: The Photography of John Loengard, and a retrospective about Nanjing and Saint Louis as sister cities.

The Museum houses thousands of square feet of gallery and exhibition space in the Grand Center area of Saint Louis, which can be rented out by private individuals for weddings, cocktail hours, and corporate events and meetings. Projectors, screens, sound systems, catering, and tables and chairs are made available for use. The space also hosts film screenings and digital workshops.

Finally, #6 on the list is the Saint Louis Zoo, which contains acres of animal exhibits, attractions, and activities, plus shopping and dining. The Zoo has a mission to conserve wildlife and their habitats through animal management, research, recreation, and educational programs that encourage the support and enrich the experience of the public.

Sections at the Zoo include River's Edge, containing hippos and Asian elephants; the Wild, which has polar bears, puffins, and penguins; and the Discovery Corner, home to a geodesic dome full of butterflies. There is also an area called Red Rocks, which has big cats and hoofed mammals like zebras and antelope. Historic Hill, the oldest section, contains houses of birds, primates, and reptiles and amphibians.