Steeped in history and architecture, but without pretension or high prices, low key and friendly Saint Louis is unexpectedly great for design lovers. Between its deep German roots (read: lots of beer), and a strong undercurrent of the arts, there is lots to explore in the Brick City.
• City Museum (first picture above): Crazy climbable scrap metal sculpture park meets explorable underground cave meets St. Louis artifact museum. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. This place defies definition and should not be missed. Truly.
• Jefferson National Memorial: Even if you don't go up the funicular into Saarinen's famed arch, at least visit the grounds and see the steel structure up close. It's a mid century marvel.
• Forest Park: Bigger than that other park in New York City, Forest Park boasts green expanses, an Art Deco glass greenhouse, a boathouse, and golf courses. Much of it is free, including the art museum and Saint Louis Zoo. If you're there in winter, the Steinberg skating rink has both an outdoor fireplace and bar.
• City Garden (pictured just above): A jolt of welcome culture in downtown Saint Louis, playing host to fountains and sculptures by the likes of Tom Claassen and Jim Dine.
• Missouri Botanical Garden (pictured above): Extensive and beautiful grounds, and a kick ass Japanese garden.
• Anheuser Busch: Beer drinkers will enjoy a free factory tour of the famous brewery complex, with glasses of beer at the end. Even teetotallers will love seeing the signature Clydesdales up close and personal, in their pretty home stable. Look for the dalmation pup, who is often sleeping in the hay alongside the horses.
• Architectural Tours: Saint Louis has amazing architecture, so make a point to drive around some of the neighborhoods and gawk at all the brick homes. If you want more structure, view the city through the eyes of architectural historian Michael Allen. Email in advance for what's on the schedule.
• Cherokee Street: Walk down this design-minded street lined with homegrown art galleries, antique shops and Mexican restaurants. On any given weekend evening, there's bound to be multiple art openings.
• Firecracker Press (pictured above): Bright, modern posters and cards created on antique letterpresses on Cherokee Street.
• R. Ege Antiques: A fantastically curated hodgepodge of beautiful antiques and interesting oddities.
• STLStyle: This tiny shop sells Saint Louis themed t-shirts, featuring different neighborhoods, that are a great alternative to traditional souvenirs.
• MoModerne: A mid-century enthusiast's dream. You can see the owners' house tour here.
• Quintessential Antiques: This place is a bit out of the way, and has limited hours, but is worth it if you are looking for interesting, vintage finds. Like most shops of this kind, what you get depends on what day you're there.
• Vintage Vinyl: If you have ears, go here for both new and used music. Touring musicians often shop here before playing The Pageant or Blueberry Hill later that night.
• Iron Barley: Hearty food in a German meets Southern hillbilly environment. A unique and casual place in Saint Louis' South City. Try the seafood barley risotto or smoked salmon; both are simple, yet delicious.
• Taste by Niche: If you're feeling more fancy, head to the Central West End for local celebrity chef Gerard Craft's tasty pairings of handmade cocktails with food.
• Ted Drewes: Sure, you could leave Saint Louis without trying frozen custard, but why? To double down on local fare, sample the Tedad's: homemade vanilla custard with crushed oatmeal cookies from Dad's, another long-standing South City gem.
• Crown Candy Kitchen (pictured above): Step back to the past in this truly authentic soda fountain and candy shop, open since 1913. While you're there enjoying a milkshake, envision what old North St. Louis was like in its heyday.
• Sweetie Pie's: Prepare to let your pants out after leaving this Southern food cafeteria, because the fried chicken and mac and cheese is to die for. Wonderfully old-school, young men courteously carry women's trays to their tables. You can expect to see multiple church hats on Sundays. Don't be surprised if you see them filming their reality show, "Welcome to Sweetie Pie's", for Oprah's OWN network.
• Local Harvest: Yummy, organic local food. Thursday nights they have half off bottles of wine.
• Urban Chestnut (pictured above): A modern take on a bier garten, with great German style beer, imported communal tables and glassware.
• The Civil Life: The new kid on the block, tucked away on an assuming street. Housed in a generic pole barn, it's surprisingly custom and homey inside, with super friendly staff. The session beer itself, and relaxed vibe, is certainly worth a visit.
• The Royale: Solid food, but it's the well-made cocktails that are truly worth drinking on their large outdoor patio.
• Schlafly Tap Room: The largest and most established of all the micro-breweries, Schlafly is one-stop shopping for beer, pub fare, bar games and live music. The lovely historic brick building is a bonus.
• Dwell 912: This stylish and relaxed B&B is a welcome change from traditional hotels. Proprietor Jen Schoemehl shared her lovely home with Apartment Therapy readers back in 2011.
• Moonrise Hotel (pictured above): A young and friendly hotel, located in a college-centric area of town with many restaurants and venues. The rooftop bar is a great place to enjoy a drink on a beautiful night.
(Images: Flickr, used with permission; Terese Ramin; Far From Ordinary; American Classic; Dabney Frake; Nextstl; Moonrise Hotel)