Next week, we have a family friend coming to town. He's from Texas and has NEVER been to St. Louis. Naturally, that means we want to show off the wonder that is St. Louis.
When you Google "St. Louis attractions," the first website that that comes up is ExploreStLouis.com and the top items that are recommended are The Arch, going to a game for whatever is seasonal (in this case, it would be to see the Blues!), to experience a "night on the town," to "shop 'til you drop," to go out to Six Flags, a large number of museums are listed, The Botanical Gardens, and/or to see if there are any fairs and festivals currently available.
While those are all wonderful ideas, the fact of the matter is that we're not only on a budget, but we need all of our choices to be handicapped accessible. That means, our question is, how do we show off St. Louis without breaking the bank—and provide entertainment for the whole family? We have one family member wheelchair bound, and one that finds themselves in a wheelchair for most outings that require a great deal of standing/walking.
What does that leave, then? It sounds so limiting... But a surprisingly large amount of options are still available! After just a bit of checking, I was shocked to see how much was still available to us.
Wheelchair Accessible Attractions in St. Louis
Not only is the St. Louis Zoo one of the only free zoos left in the country, it is entirely accessible, and it continually provides fresh entertainment with the animals and variety of historical information.
What else is free? The majority of Forest Park! Not only are there lots of lovely places to picnic, it is also known for the internationally recognized St. Louis Art Museum. The Steinberg Skating Rink is available in winter months and the Missouri History Museum is free with the exception of charging a minimal fee for specific exhibits. How about a trip through St. Charles Main Street? We can window shop throughout the beautifully preserved historic district, known for it's antique shopping, and over a hundred boutiques, restaurants and cafes.
The Foundry Art Centre, located at the north end of Main Street near the historic St. Charles riverfront, is a new complex that is a dynamic, interactive interdisciplinary arts center dedicated to the creation and presentation of contemporary visual and performing arts. Visitors interested in the visual arts will find four galleries that feature an ongoing rotation of special touring exhibitions. One gallery is designed especially for children and families, studios are available with glass front windows for visitors to see and talk with the artists as they work. A stage is available for performances and community concerts that will be the new home of the St. Charles County Symphony.
The St. Louis Contemporary Art Museum has a $5 admission fee, but on the first Tuesday of every month, from 9-10 a.m., a "stroller tour" is available to parents, children and caregivers. The contemporary exhibitions are continually changing, and the best place to get information on what's current is to visit their website.
For the 21+ crowd, a trip through the Budweiser brewery is also a free and a wheelchair friendly option. On their complimentary tour, you can learn how your favorite (at least it's MY favorite!) beer is crafted, by following each step of the brewing process. The tour is entirely handicapped accessible, but is a walk of approximately seven blocks—all down hill. Plan on spending just shy of two hours viewing the process that has been perfected since 1852, meeting the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales in their stables, and finishing up with a sample of the freshly made beer. The website even mentions that photography is welcome - so, bring your cameras and capture your fun experience!
Along these same lines, visiting Missouri Wine Country is also an option if you don't mind a bit of a drive. American's first wine region took root just west of St. Louis in the mid-19th century, and that wine culture still flourishes today. To list a few of these scenic wineries, most of which offer samples: Mount Pleasant Winery, Stone Hill Winery, St. James Winery, or the Tower Rock winery. For a more complete list of Missouri wineries, visit here.
Somewhere I am personally excited about visiting is the Lemp Mansion. It's near the Budweiser brewery, that we'll be visiting beforehand, and is most affordable at lunchtime for us, but it provides options for dinners, a Murder Mystery Theater, and paranormal "Ghost Adventures" that are available at night, but are not recommended for the faint of heart. The Lemp Mansion is quite rich in historical value, and some of the stories of the original families could even make your hair stand on end.
Another suggestion is to take a Riverboat Cruise. You can take a ride on a replica 19th century paddle-wheel boat that Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher would have enjoyed, lovated on the riverfront below the south leg of the Arch. The cruise offers narration for a historical overview of the area and the role the working river still plays. The boats offer one hour sight seeing cruises, dinner cruises, and a variety of specialty cruises.
Suppose it's a nice day, and you're tired of being cooped up? After all, this IS St. Louis. The fact that there's snow on the ground today doesn't mean it won't be 70 tomorrow! The Katy Trail State Park is a great choice for a half-hour stroll or a five-day bicycle journey across the state of Missouri.
Or, perhaps, a quick drive to Cahokia Mounds in Illinois. It is a historic landmark managed by the Illinois Historic Perservation Agency and has been designated a World Heritage Site for it's importance to our country's understanding of the prehistory of North America.
Faust Park, located in Chesterfield, MO, has a lovely Butterfly House and the St. Louis Carousel. The carousel is a 1920's Dentzel carousel from the Forest Park Highlands Amusement Park. You can ride a piece of St. Louis history!
Now, we can hardly show off St. Louis to our out-of-town friend without a little bit of St. Louis' night life. Downtown alone has a plethora of opportunity for entertainment. The Jive and Wail dueling piano bar is a cozy, upscale environment and a night of unforgettable entertainment led by professional piano players to perform your every request. Another dueling piano bar is the Big Bang. The plan there is simply to have FUN and it is referred to as a "Sing-a-Long" bar. The Broadway Oyster Bar and for a true taste of New Orleans with live music seven nights a week and some of the best Cajun-creole cuisine in St. Louis. Or, if we're in the mood for some comfort food, we can hit up BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soups for some St. Louis-style cuisine and—nightly—enjoy some of the hottest national blues and jazz acts.
Itineraries to Try
These are simply our suggestions for what to do in St. Louis on a budget, and providing wheelchair accessibility. If you're a history buff, an itinerary you may be interested in can be found here, or if you'd simply like to visit the most well-known highlights of St. Louis, this itinerary may be up your alley. For those of us that are already local and have done the things we're planning to show to our friend, St. Louis Magazine has a list of 101 things that we should do during specific times of the year.
I have no doubt that I'm missing several highlights of our great city. Please, feel free to leave us ideas that will allow us to show off the city to the best of our ability with our limited budget and special needs.