You've explored downtown, visited the attractions in Forest Park, rubbed elbows with the cool kids in The Loop, prowled the galleries in the Central West End and soaked up the blues in Soulard's intimate clubs. How about a nice little road trip? We've mapped out 6 great day trips loaded with history, wine, festivals and fun. Start your engines.
St. Charles was Missouri’s first capital in 1821, nearly a quarter-century after Lewis and Clark passed through on their way to the Pacific, and the entire National Register Historic District (Missouri's largest) on the banks of the Missouri River has been preserved and restored. Historic South Main Street is lined with more than 125 specialty shops, restaurants, museums and attractions, including Missouri’s First State Capitol State Historic Site and the Lewis & Clark Boathouse and Nature Center. Be sure to visit the Foundry Art Centre at the north end of Main Street. Festivals include Festival of the Little Hills in August and Christmas Traditions in December. The visitor center is at 230 S. Main St. From St. Louis, take I-70 west across the Missouri River, North Fifth Street exit, right on Boone’s Lick Road to the riverfront.
Located just north of the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, Alton, Illinois, offers a day’s worth of sight-seeing, shopping, antiquing and, in winter, eagle-watching. Sites around town include the Lincoln-Douglas debate, Robert Wadlow (the “Alton Giant”), martyred editor Elijah P. Lovejoy, Underground Railroad, Confederate Cemetery, Alton Belle Casino, National Great Rivers Museum and the Piasa Bird. Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway (one of the official “Seven Wonders of Illinois”) takes you to the river towns of Elsah and Grafton (antique shops, restaurants and the Piasa Winery) and Pere Marquette State Park. Annual events include Lewis and Clark Departure Days, Haunted Alton Tours and concerts at Riverfront Amphitheater. The visitor center is at 200 Piasa St. From St. Louis, take Hwy. 367 north across the Clark Bridge.
Ste. Genevieve, the first permanent European settlement in Missouri, is located 60 miles south of St. Louis on the Mississippi River and includes a priceless collection of French colonial architecture. Attractions include the, Ste. Genevieve Museum, Beauvais-Amoureaux House (1792), Bequette-Ribault House (1780s), Bolduc House Museum (1770-84), Bolduc-LeMeilleur House (1820) and Felix Valle State Site (1818). The town offers nine B&Bs, in case you want to stay a little longer, perhaps to visit the nearby wineries (we heartily recommend Chaumette Vineyards). Annual events include the Jour de Fete in August and the Holiday Christmas Festival in December. The Great River Road Interpretive Center, with tourist information, is open daily 9 am-4 pm at 66 S. Main St. From St. Louis, take I-55 south to Hwy 32, east to Ste. Genevieve.
Once home to dozens of wineries, Augusta was designated America’s first official viticultural district in 1980. Perched on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River Valley (the river long ago meandered away from Augusta’s riverfront) the town’s steep streets lead to two wineries (Augusta Winery and Mount Pleasant Estates) and down to the Katy Trail, where bikes can be rented for a pleasant day’s exploration of wine country (there are quite a few more wineries within striking distance). Bakeries, gift shops and B&Bs are scattered along the town’s quaint streets. The Plein Air Event brings hundreds of artists to Augusta in spring, and the Christmas Candlelight Walk dazzles in December. Located off Hwy. 94 about 18 miles south of Hwy. 40.
Nestled on the south bank of the Missouri River, Washington, Missouri, serves as the gateway to wine country. Downtown features gift stores, restaurants, antiques, the studio/gallery of acclaimed history painter Gary Lucy, lots of dining options, the Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame and the Washington Historical Society Museum. Washington puts on one of the regions biggest festivals, the Washington Town & Country Fair, in August. The visitor center is at 301 Front St. From St. Louis, take Highway 100 west.
Established in 1837 by Germans living in Philadelphia, Hermann, Missouri, overlooks the Missouri River about 60 miles west of St. Louis and offers old-world charm, the Katy Trail, B&Bs, live music, Deutschheim State Historic Site, golf, seasonal events and walking tours. Hermann celebrates Maifest in May, Kristkindl Markt in December and Wurstfest in March. Wineries abound, both in and just outside Hermann, including Stone Hill Winery, Adam Puchta Winery, Hermannhof Vineyards, Dierberg Star Lane Tasting Room and OakGlenn Winery. The two slowest ways to get to Hermann from St. Louis, Highway 94 and Highway 100, take you past even more wineries. The quickest way is via I-70.