Stipulated: the perfect travel time for a three-day weekend getaway is four hours. More, and you waste your vacation. Less, and you’re still near home. Hence our series: The Four Hour Rule, dedicated to revealing the best destinations that are far away, yet still close to home.
St. Louis: an underdog city at a crossroads both literally and figuratively, where once only river and railroad met, cast then, as it is now, by the spirit of discovery.
And this is the best time of year to do some discovering of your own there.
You’ll find said spirit in the city’s new National Blues Museum. In all the sweet, delicious BBQ. At the bottom of a beer can (and we don’t mean a can of “America”).
Also in that giant steel arch, of course.
And sure, it's a bit over a four hour drive for slowpokes, but the extra bit is worth it. Below, your guide on what to do, eat and see in the Lou.
Four Seasons St. Louis
St. Louis has a Four Seasons? St. Louis has a Four Seasons. It’s everything you’d expect from the moneyed hotel group, smack dab in the middle of Downtown’s revitalization efforts. You’re mainly here because of the epic Gateway Arch views (pro tip: request a room with an Arch-facing view). And while the hotel sits atop a casino, there’s no reason for you to step foot in it unless you’re taking the underground tunnel, dubbed the Lumiere Link, to access the Arch grounds and the rest of Downtown, which we suggest you do.
999 N. 2nd St. (map)
Also check out: Dwell 912
The National Blues Museum
Bridging the stories of St. Louis past and present, the blues and its worldwide influence, the National Blues Museum is the latest addition to a world-class (yet somehow criminally underrated) civic cultural scene whose highlights include Forest Park and the St. Louis Art Museum — which just saw a gorgeous $160 million expansion — as well as the Missouri Botanical Gardens, City Museum and City Garden.
It’s an ideal place to take the kiddos, with lots of interactive exhibits that’ll guarantee a toe-tapping time from start to finish. A must-visit for all music lovers.
615 Washington Ave. (map)
Also check out: The Luminary
Side Project Cellar
When you think of the St. Louis beer scene, you might think Anheuser-Busch — the sign with the eagle flying through the “A” — that sort of thing. But the world of St. Louis beer goes beyond that, as evidence by labels you're most likely familiar with like Schlafly and 4Hands. But if you're watching the clock, there can only be one.
Our pick: the gypsy brewing project of Perennial Artisan Ale’s head brewer Cory King aptly called Side Project Brewing. Dude’s work ethic deserves respect, and his wildly experimental rustic beers are revered. In short: beautiful brews. Bring home whatever they got available for take away.
7373 Marietta Ave. (map)
Also check out: Earthbound Beer
For dinner, head west of Downtown to University City, where chef Mike Randolph is turning out delicious hearth-driven Mexican grub at Publico. This spot’s the toast of the town right now, and one look at the menu will tell you why. Fresh, daring … and hey, tacos! Who doesn’t like tacos? The more adventurous might want to opt for charred sweetbreads and the catch of the day served fresh with crispy tortillas. But whatever you do, don’t miss chef Randolph’s selection of arepas (we like the higado, featuring liver mousse, fried sage and maple syrup): they’re enough reason for a return trip.
6679 Delmar Blvd., University City (map)
Also check out: Reeds American Table
Because you can’t leave St. Louis without sampling some ‘cue. Simple does, simple gets. Locals will tell you to go to Pappy’s. And yes, by all means, go there, too — but we especially Bogart’s because of it’s close proximity to the Soulard Farmers Market. Makes for a lovely afternoon. What you want: brisket. Ribs. All of it.
1627 S. 9th St. (map)
Also check out: Pappy's Smokehouse