St. Louis is a wonderful destination for travelers with plenty of things to see and do – many of which are completely free! The city is full of history, great food, friendly people, and first-class attractions like the world famous Saint Louis Zoo and Saint Louis Art Museum. Oh yeah, there’s the country’s largest monument there to greet you as you cross over the Mississippi River. But, you’re wondering can you see St. Louis in one day?
Well, sort of. There’s so much to do and so many things in both St. Louis City and the surrounding County that it’s impossible to see all of it at once. However, you can certainly check off some of the big items from your sightseeing list if you have a plan and stick to a schedule! I’m going to help you with an itinerary that will certainly have you running around – but you’ll get a great feel for the area and yes, see St. Louis in one day!
Start The Morning Downtown!
You should consider finding a hotel downtown if you want to see St. Louis in one day. That way you can start downtown, head out west, and then work your way back into the city at the end of the day.
The most popular photo-op in St. Louis is undoubtedly the Gateway Arch. It’s the tallest monument in the world and an instantly recognizable, iconic attraction. The arch grounds open at 5:00am if you want to get up and go early to watch the sunrise. Otherwise, the actual museum and tram to the top opens at 9:00am. Get your tickets ahead of time! If you’re not a fan of heights, you can still enjoy the free museum inside or simply take an obligatory selfie!
From the arch grounds, you can walk over to the historic Old Courthouse for a quick look around and then over to Ballpark Village if you’re a sports fan. The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the most notable sports franchises in the world and second only to the Yankees in number of World Series championships. There are cool statues of many of the great Cardinal players located around the stadium.
11:00AM – Head To Forest Park
Forest Park is the cultural hub of St. Louis. If you’re trying to see St. Louis in one day, this is where you’ll find some of the city’s top attractions like the world famous St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri History Museum, and the St. Louis Science Center. And all of them are absolutely free to visitors! (Even parking if you can find it, and don’t mind walking!)
What you choose to explore in Forest Park depends on your interests. The zoo is amazing if you have kids in tow. If you’re traveling solo, or it’s insanely hot and humid out – you might opt for one of the museum. Younger kids will love the St. Louis Science Center. If you’re feeling adventurous, stop by The Boat House and rent a canoe or pedal boat. (Keep in mind those things aren’t easy if you’re pedaling solo!)
Since it’s your first visit to St. Louis, be sure to take some time to just drive around Forest Park and soak up the beauty! It’s larger than New York City’s Central Park and full of history! This is where the 1904 World’s Fair took place where so many amazing things debuted for the first time.
1:00PM Head To “The Hill” For A Late Lunch
You’re likely to be starving by now! Take a drive over to the neighborhood that St. Louisan’s refer to as “The Hill”. It’s the area of town that Italians first immigrated to and established dozens of amazing small businesses. The Hill has a lot of great Italian restaurants and most of them serve two staples of St. Louis cuisine: thin crust pizza and toasted raviolis.
After lunch, if you have a sweet tooth – consider a ride over to Ted Drewes. Located on historic Route 66, this is the most popular spot in St. Louis for frozen custard and it’s really, really good! (Frozen custard is basically ice cream.) Order a concrete! Or whatever your heart desires from their long menu of choices.
Late Afternoon / Early Evening
Head back downtown and make a stop at St. Louis Union Station. At one time, Union Station was the busiest train station in the world – with over 100,000 passengers coming through each day. It has evolved over the years and currently is a wonderful entertainment destination with an aquarium, ferris wheel, mini golf course, soda fountain and restaurants.
Take some time to explore Union Station and if you can time it right, check out the amazing light show in Grand Hall that starts at 5:00pm. (It’s near the hotel area.) It’s really cool (and free) to watch the show that plays all over the ceiling. The Christmas shows are particularly neat. There’s a bar and a small menu if you’re planning on hanging out for awhile.
(Other ideas for the afternoon: A tour of the world famous Anhueser-Busch Brewery; or a visit to the City Museum)
You’ll probably want to head back to your hotel and get freshened up, or maybe even relax for a little bit.
Dinner plans and nighttime activities can vary depending on the time of the year and what you like. There are lots of restaurants downtown for all tastes.
If it’s summer time, a Cardinals baseball game is great fun. Winter time is a great time season to check out the world famous St. Louis Symphony or a show at the Fox Theater – one of the most beautiful theaters in the world! You can also hop over to the City Foundry for a bite at their Food Hall and a round of interactive mini-golf at Putt Shack.
You’re bound to be worn out but it’ll all be worth it as you managed to see St. Louis in one day!