By Molly Hammond, Storage.com

When people think of moving to the big city, they’re often talking about places like New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. What they might not know is that St. Louis, Mo., is brimming with the same arts and culture but with a more affordable price tag! Whether you’re moving to St. Louis, simply stopping in StL for a visit, or have been a Cardinal your whole life, you’ll love this list of things to know about the Gateway to the West!

17. NO PLACE FOR PANERA.

Photo by michaelfranks6
Photo by michaelfranks6

The fast casual cafe that much of the country calls “Panera” was founded in a suburb of St. Louis and originally called “St. Louis Bread Company.” While it’s known as Panera everywhere but St. Louis, there’s no quicker way to out yourself as a visitor than to slip up when talking about St. Louis Bread Co.

16. ALMA MATER MATTERS.

Photo by Paul Sableman
Photo by Paul Sableman

Every region has idiosyncrasies when it comes to language, but one of the most noticeable questions asked by native St. Louisans is, “Where’d you go to high school?” It’s not hard to see why. There are more than 75 schools in the St. Louis Public Schools district, which educates more than 23,000 students each year—and that’s not even counting all of the private schools in the area. This question is an easy way for locals to suss out mutual acquaintances or commonalities. Whether you hate the question or ask it of everyone you meet, you know you’re in St. Louis when it’s the first thing that follows learning your name!

15. GET YOUR MOTOR RUNNING.

Photo by bk1bennett
Photo by bk1bennett

With all of the cool opportunities, there’s no reason to be bored in St. Louis. For gearheads, there’s Kemp Auto Museum, which is brimming with incredibly maintained classic cars that showcase the evolution of the American automobile. Better hurry and check it out, though, since Kemp will be closing its doors later this summer! If you prefer to ogle motorcycles or trains, St. Louis still has you covered with The Moto Museum and the Museum of Transportation, two fascinating places to check out some wheels.

14. THE PRICE IS NICE.

Photo by Bryan Werner
Photo by Bryan Werner

Though St. Louis is one of the largest cities in the Midwest (with a metro population near 2.8 million) and home to major corporations like Peabody Energy, Monsanto, and Express Scripts, it’s still super affordable compared to other cities of its size. According to Forbes, the cost of living is a whopping 5.6% lower than the national average! The cheaper you can get the staples, the more money you have to spend exploring.

13. CLAIMS TO FAME.

Photo by DisneyABC
Photo by DisneyABC

While plenty of people will be quick to list rapper Nelly as St. Louis’ most famous export, the truth is that Mound City has been home to several notable people, from film stars to athletes and academics. Authors Maya Angelou and William S. Burroughs were both St. Louis natives, along with musician Miles Davis and baseball player Yogi Berra. Chuck Berry was also born in St. Louis, and he even performs there monthly at famed restaurant and concert venue, Blueberry Hill. Jon Hamm, John Goodman, and Ellie Kemper all grew up in St. Louis, too, and that’s only scratching the surface…there must be something in the water!

12. SCIENCE RULES.

Photo by Jinx!
Photo by Jinx!

The real draw for studious St. Louisans is the Science Center, a planetarium and science museum that’s (pardon the pun) out of this world! The McDonnell planetarium, with a dome more than 80 feet wide, is home to the projection of more than 9,000 stars and hourly planetarium shows. The museum itself contains a number of interactive and educational exhibits for adults and children, from an aquarium to dinosaurs and “Cyberville,” a place to learn all about technology. The best part? Admission is free!

11. IT’S A WINTER WONDERLAND.

Photo by Dave Herholz
Photo by Dave Herholz

For as tiresome as snow can get once you’ve reached February and March, there’s no better place to revel in winter fun than St. Louis. The holiday season kicks off with the Festival of Lights, which features performances by choirs, a fireworks display, the light of the Salvation Army Christmas Tree, and has tons of activities for families. Winter fun doesn’t stop once the holidays are over, though—St. Louisans can embrace the weather at the Delmar Loop Ice Carnival in January, which celebrates ice sculptures, hot chocolate, and sled-dog racing. Of course, if you’re just looking for the perfect place to indulge in some sledding, look no further than the local favorite, Art Hill in Forest Park.

10. REAL SWEET SPOT.

Photo by Brandon Shea
Photo by Brandon Shea

Did you know that St. Louis is responsible for the Dairy Queen Blizzard? It’s true! The Blizzard was inspired by the iconic Ted Drewes Frozen Custard‘s signature treat: the concrete. This blended frozen custard is so thick it can hold the spoon when turned upside down! But it’s not all about ice cream in St. Louis. Locals will be quick to tell you about another treat that’s just as important as frozen custard—gooey butter cake. The name tells you a lot about this cake: flat, gooey, and buttery with a dusting of powdered sugar and the occasional fresh fruit. There’s some variation to the history of this cake, which was created by complete accident! While people often modify the recipe when making it at home, it’s easy to find the real deal at almost any bakery or grocery store, though people go crazy for Lubeley’s and Gooey Louie.

9. SAVORY SPECIALTIES.

Photo by Eugene Kim
Photo by Eugene Kim

Though St. Louis isn’t usually considered a region with a distinct barbecue profile, like Kansas City, the city does have a soft spot for the stuff. What’s unique about barbecue in St. Louis is the meat of choice: pork steak. This cut of pork is usually cooked low and slow until supremely tender then finished on the grill and slathered in sauce. Once you taste St. Louis BBQ—particularly Ms. Piggies’ Smokehouse—you’ll wonder why it’s not more popular. St. Louisans are also proud of their contribution to Italian cuisine in the form of toasted ravioli, which can be breaded, fried, or baked with different mixtures of meat and cheese and always served with a marinara dipping sauce! You can try the original at Mama’s on the Hill or venture to other celebrated versions like those at Mama Toscano’s Ravioli or Trattoria Marcella.

8. HISTORICAL HUB.

Photo by Mike Schmid
Photo by Mike Schmid

Arguably the most iconic thing about St. Louis is the Gateway Arch. After all, it’s the Gateway Arch that gave St. Louis one of its truest nicknames: “The Gateway to the West.” But what you may not know about the history of St. Louis is just how instrumental it was in bringing us some of the things we know and love today through the 1904 World’s Fair. The fair was held in St. Louis as a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase, and exhibits were mounted from more than 60 nations and almost every state in the union. In fact, Dr. Pepper made its worldwide debut at the fair, and the waffle cone was created by an inventive ice cream salesman who’d run out of cups. Thanks, St. Louis!

7. MOBOT IS BEST.

Photo by Michael Bouman
Photo by Michael Bouman

Missouri is home to the nation’s oldest botanical garden, The Missouri Botanical Garden, known as MOBOT. In addition to nearly 80 acres of gorgeous landscapes, Missouri Botanical Garden operates the Sophia M. Sach’s Butterfly House, a breathtaking butterfly habitat. The garden also includes a Japanese strolling garden, a children’s garden, and is ideal for picnicking, exploring, and even having brunch! The garden puts on many events throughout the year. The Lantern Festival is an awe-inspiring collection of lights and lanterns designed to honor botanical research in China, and the annual Japanese Festival celebrates Japanese culture (and is a beloved MOBOT tradition).

6. ARTS AND CULTURE.

Photo by Paul Sableman
Photo by Paul Sableman

St. Louis is the perfect place for people looking to indulge in the arts! The Opera Theatre of St. Louis performs high-caliber classics, as well as works sung in English during its spring festival. The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis brings unbeatable stage shows to life each season and is responsible for The Imagination Theatre Company, which takes shows for children and tours them around the area to engage young people in the arts. The Fox Theatre, a former movie house known as the Fabulous Fox, offers a combination of live musical performances and Broadway tours in a beautiful venue. As for music, The Pageant is the area’s premier concert venue, and there’s the STL Symphony. St. Louis also has a long history with the blues, so there are plenty of places to hear jazz and blues. Blueberry Hill is an easy choice, but locals will also point to The Beale on Broadway or BB’s Jazz, Blues, and Soups.

5. ST. LOUIS IS SMART.

Photo by Chris Campbell
Photo by Chris Campbell

We’ve already mentioned the wealth of schools in St. Louis for everything from kindergarten to high school, but St. Louis is also well-known for its institutions of higher education. Washington University in St. Louis is home to a renowned medical school along with its undergraduate program, St. Louis University is a competitive undergraduate school and law school, and Webster University is a highly-respected school for musical theatre. The medical school at Washington University and law school at St. Louis University were some of the first to be established west of the Mississippi River and have the long-standing reputations to match! In addition to these schools, St. Louis is also home to a number of seminaries.

4. THE SLICE OF YOUR LIFE.

Photo by Daniel Zemans
Photo by Daniel Zemans

Everybody knows about the great pizza debate that embroils Chicago and New York, but did you know that St. Louis has their own unique style to add to the mix? St. Louisans take their pies with a heaping helping of Provel cheese, a local favorite that’s a mixture of cheddar, Swiss, and provolone. Provel smothers a tomato sauce with extra oregano on top of on a crust that’s cracker-thin. A far cry from Chicago’s deep-dish and still thinner than New York’s thin crust, the trademark crust of St. Louis style pizza is totally unleavened, which makes it super sturdy for supporting a ton of toppings. The crispy crust also gives St. Louis pizza its shape. These pizzas are cut into squares rather then traditional triangle slices since they don’t fold as well. (Also, it’s almost universally agreed that the only place for true St. Louis slice is Imo’s Pizza).

3. YEAR-ROUND SPORTS TOWN

Photo by Phil
Photo by Phil

St. Louis is a great town for sports fans. The Cardinals are one of the most successful franchises in professional baseball, and St. Louisans are always ready to pack Busch Stadium—there’s no question that the whole city bleeds Cardinal red! Fortunately, the fun stuff doesn’t stop when baseball season ends because St. Louis has teams in both the NHL and NFL. The Rams have called St. Louis home for more than 20 years, and fans love spending Sundays at the Edward Jones Dome. The Blues round out St. Louis’ professional sports calendar, and their local fanbase is completely devoted! While people might give all the hockey credit to more northern franchises, nobody loves hockey like St. Louisans love The Blues.

2. SERIOUS PLAY.

Photo provided by Magic House
Photo provided by The Magic House

While people might assume that the City Museum and The Magic House are attractions just for children, there’s no age limit on the fun you can have at these St. Louis staples. The Magic House is dedicated to encouraging curiosity and creativity among children with interactive exhibits, from a “Jack and the Beanstalk” exhibit spanning three floors to the well-known Electro-Static Generator that will make your hair stand on end! The City Museum is a popular destination, too. Don’t let the word “Museum” fool you—this place is part playground, part funhouse. From a life-sized whale that guests can walk through to a ten-story slide through the “caves,” there’s something for everyone to enjoy!

1. AND…


Did we touch on everything that makes St. Louis great, or did we miss something? Let us know!

All images have either been provided by a listed organization or are licensed under the Creative Commons.
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