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RVer’s Guide to St. Louis, Missouri

IMG_0452Of all the cities we have visited over the years, we have probably shared St. Louis with more of our friends than any other. Chris’ parents both grew up in the area, and he went to college at Washington University. His folks still keep a summer home south of St. Louis, so it’s a frequent stop over for us.

I have to admit, when I first heard St. Louis could be a frequent nomadic port for us – I wasn’t thrilled. I had always heard it was one of those ‘fly-over’ places. Over the years however, I’ve become quite smitten and look forward to each return visit.

We rarely do city guides. But this is one city I feel qualified to encourage our RVing friends to visit.

First, a little map to orient you around town:

The city is quite large! (Click to enlarge the map)

The city is quite large! (Click to enlarge the map)

RV Parking Options

One of the hardest parts of RVing is staying close to city centers in big urban areas. However, this is where St. Louis excels. There are three RV Parks that will keep you close to downtown and many of the St. Louis’ offerings. And, they’re all pretty nice.

Unfortunately, those three options are about the only options in the entire area – making it difficult to explore other parts of the city.

Casino Queen RV Park

The Casino Queen RV Park

The Casino Queen RV Park

Sitting right on the banks of the Mississippi, the Casino Queen keeps a well maintained RV Park in their back parking lot. From your spot, you can get great views of downtown St. Louis, including the Arch and the neighboring Gateway Geyser. The hotel and casino provides round the clock security, and shuttle service to the front of the facility. Here, you will have access to the hotel’s pool, fitness center and of course, the casino.

The East Metro Metrolink station is also right in the front parking lot, making public transit from this location a breeze. You can also walk over the Eads Bridge (when it’s not under construction) to access many of downtown’s treasures.

The biggest downside is the frequent trains that stop and start right behind the park – which can get on your nerves after a while.

4th of July Air Show, with front row parking!

4th of July Air Show, with front row parking!

All of this access of course comes at a price, with rates starting at $55/night. Their park is laid out by size of RV, and the larger your RV, the higher you pay.

Discounts are offered for many camping clubs, and undisclosed weekly & monthly rates are available as well. All of the spots are pull-thru full-hook-ups and also on the small and tight side. Forget the picture of nice grassy areas that are displayed on their website – they were replaced with gravel on our last pass through.

They do shut down for the winter months.

More Info: Casino Queen RV Park

Tip: This is the PERFECT spot to be for 4th of July. St. Louis hosts 3 nights in a row of fireworks in front of the Arch, and an air show! You get front row seats right from your RV. (The Arch grounds is under construction for 2015 and 2016, so 4th of July celebrations are likely impacted for a couple years.)

Cahokia RV Parque

It’s not butter.. it’s Parque!  Ok, I couldn’t resist an obvious joke. But we sure did resist this park for years because of the location and name. Say ‘Cahokia’ to St. Louis natives, and they’ll warn you away from the bad side of town.

The 30A spots at Cahokia RV Parque.

The 30A spots at Cahokia RV Parque.

But really, it’s not that bad. This is the Village of Cahokia, and the park is actually quite pleasant and well maintained. If you want access to other parts of St. Louis than just downtown, it might be the most convenient of the options too. Located right along Route 3, you can easily explore downtown or pop right onto I-255 for access to South St. Louis (where our family is.)

The park tends to have a mix of long term residents who need to be in the area and transients like ourselves just visiting. The park is open year round.

Rates start at $40/night with discounts for many of the RV club memberships, with weekly rates at $240+ and monthly at $530+.

More Info: Cahokia RV Parque

Tip: The Sawmill BBQ is also right on site, and they give discounts to RV Park customers (and it’s quite yummy). As a bonus, the restaurant draws in many of the local law enforcement – so if you are concerned about safety, there’s a constant show of force.

St. Louis RV Park

If you want to concentrate your time on downtown St. Louis – then the St. Louis RV Park might be your best bet for location. Located within walking distance of some of our top picks, this RV Park is basically a fenced in parking lot with hook-ups.

It’s not much on it own, it’s all about the location here. They are open year round.

Rates start at $40/night, with discounts only given for military personal. There’s no mention of weekly or month rates available on their website.

More Info: St. Louis RV Park

As we’re usually coming into St. Louis for family, who live to the south of town, we’ve not had reason to stay here ourselves – but we have had friends stay here who were happy with the location.

Other area options:

  • Horseshoe Lake State Park – If you don’t need hook-ups of any sort, this Illinois state run campground to the north in Granite City might be a good bet. At just $10/night, it’s definitely the most affordable option.
  • Elks Lodge – If you’re an Elks member, there are two lodges in the area that offer RV Parking. The Oakville lodge is located right by the JB Bridge (I-255) in South St. Louis with easy access to shopping and more. They request a $15/night donation for parking in their lot with 15A electric provided.  The Florissant lodge to the north of the city also offers 3 parking spots.  (On our last pass through St. Louis, we applied to become members and stayed at the Oakville Lodge.)
  • KOA Granite City – The KOA in Granite City is also close enough to town to be considered local to St. Louis.
  • Walmart – There are several Walmarts in the area that allow overnight parking, and there are several that don’t. Check your favorite resource for finding the ones most suitable for your stay, and of course, ask permission.
  • Outside Town – There are other parks on the outskirts of town if you’re willing to drive in from further away. Check your favorite campground locater service to find them.

What to do in St. Louis

Ok, so now you’re parked. Where should you go?  Here are our favorites for sharing with visiting family & friends:

Downtown:
  • One of the pods to the top - designed to hold 5 people.

    One of the pods to the top – designed to hold 5 people.

    The Arch – Yes, it’s the iconic symbol of St. Louis and it may seem cliche and overly touristy to include. But just do it. It’s so worth it. The Arch (more accurately known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial) is an incredible piece of architecture, and it’s absolutely breathtaking to stand underneath. It’s free to tour around outside and oogle over, but the ride to the top is well worth splurging the $10 (or $7 with an America the Beautiful pass). The views from up there are amazing, and I just love seeing the construction from the inside out as you lumber your way to the top. If you can’t convince yourself to cram inside a small ferris wheel like egg to ride to the top, you can tour the museum and watch the documentary underneath the arch for just $3 (free with pass). You can also tack on a sightseeing cruise up and down the Mississippi River for just $18, which is a fun perspective on the city. Book in advance online to secure a boarding time for the Arch ride.

  • Great views from the stadium.. and oh, there's baseball!

    Great views from the stadium.. and oh, there’s baseball!

    A Cardinals Game at Busch Stadium – You don’t have to love baseball to enjoy this. Heck, I generally disdain sports ball events, and we almost always catch a game while in town. The stadium is pretty nifty to explore, and offers some fantastic views of the city. St. Louis is a baseball town to the core, and this is a city to experience it in.

    Hint: Make a donation at any area Goodwill, and you’ll be offered a coupon for 50% off game tickets. On our last visit, we scored $12.50 infield tickets.. sweet! Us RVers always have stuff ready to purge, so lighten your load and save some bucks (don’t worry, the stadium will make it up with high concession stand prices.)

  • The Montrocity - the outdoor section of the City Museum.

    The Montrocity – the outdoor section of the City Museum.

    City Museum – Ok, first of all.. this is not exactly a museum like you might be thinking. It’s a 10-story high playground for kids and adults (it’s open until midnight on weekends, sometime with live music and bars) with outdoor obstacle courses routing through plane fuselages and steel slinkies…  and indoor mazes taking you through the ceilings, floor and down a 10-story spiral slide. There’s a ferris wheel on the roof, and a bus lurching over the edge of the building. It’s amazing, and in our opinion – a must visit for anyone. It’s what might happen if you gave Peter Pan a blowtorch. There’s no where else on earth like it. Well worth the $12 admission fee. Bring knee pads.  (Click for our previous review and video.)

There’s many other delights to be found in downtown St. Louis, it’s a great city to walk and explore with hidden art displays, cafes and nightclubs throughout. There’s also the Schafly’s Tap Room, if you’d like to experience one of the country’s first (and in our opinion, finest) microbrews.

Around town

If you’re up for venturing out of downtown, St. Louis has a lot of great things to explore – and most of them are cheap to free. Here’s some of our favorites:

The Jewel Box

The Jewel Box

Forest Park – The site of the 1904 World’s Fair, Forest Park is one of over 100 public parks within St. Louis – and its largest. Inside the park you’ll find an incredible Science Museum, Art Museum, History Museum, Jewel Box botanical center, the St. Louis Zoo, the Muny outdoor arts center and miles of trails. It’s just incredible. I wish there was RV Parking convenient to it, I could spend days here just exploring. But it is quite accessible from the downtown camping locations by the Metrolink, or a decent drive away. Most of the facilities are free admission (including the museums and zoo), and some have just a parking fee. But free parking can be found throughout the park. This is a true treasure of St. Louis, and I think, embodies the spirit.

Delmar Loop – Located near Washington University, the streetcar (which is now being rebuilt) used to turn around here. Through time, this street has become a cultural hub of history, restaurants and tributes to the greats of St. Louis.  Here you’ll find Blueberry Hill (of Chuck Berry fame), Fitz’s Root Beer restaurant and several shops, theaters and other venues. If you’re looking for a bite to eat after touring Forest Park, this is an easy next destination.

No visit to St. Louis is complete without a stop at Ted Drewes.

No visit to St. Louis is complete without a stop at Ted Drewes.

Ted Drewes – After a day touring Forest Park, then lunch on Delmar Loop – the next stop I recommend is Ted Drewes. It’s along Route 66 and an icon of St. Louis since 1930.

Oh, why would you come here? Frozen Custard of course, some of the best I’ve ever had. Whether it’s freezing cold out or blazing hot – you have to come here. On a warm summer night, the lines can be substantial, requiring crowd control from the local law enforcement. There is a second location in the town, but the one on Chippewa St. is considered the classic.

The lovely Japanese Gardens.

The lovely Japanese Gardens.

Missouri Botanical Garden – It took me eight years of coming to this fine city to finally make it to the botanical gardens. Why on earth did I wait so long? It’s one of the best I’ve experienced across the country with miles of beautifully landscaped trails to explore as you pass through different styles of gardens.

The Climatron, a geodesic glass sphere creating a conservatory is beyond imagination. Admission is just a measly $8. We plan to come back this summer and visit the temporary display Lantern Festival.

Beer Tour!

Beer Tour!

Anheuser Busch Brewery Tour – St. Louis is a town built on beer, and this is where it all started. While Anheuser Busch is now owned by InBev and the tour has been diluted down a little – it’s still part of the St. Louis experience. Free tours happen throughout the day, and give you a rapid walking experience and a bit of the history. They end up in the beer garden, where you’re gifted one full size sample. There’s also premium tours that can be taken for an additional charge.

Grant’s Farm – The 200+ acre ancestral home of the Busch family. You start with a tram ride through their wildlife preserve, which drops you off at their small zoo. On the other side of the parking lot is also the Clydesdale Stables. It’s worth coming out there, especially if you have kids – but heck, us kids at heart enjoy it too. If you have limited time in the area, I’d personally skip this one in favor of other attractions we’ve mentioned given how far out of the way it is. Admission is free (with some activities charging a small fee), but it does cost $12 to park. There’s also free beer in Bauernhof area for those over 21.

Lewis & Clark Historic Site

Lewis & Clark Historic Site

Lewis & Clark State Historic Site – At the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, this site commemorates the winter camp setup by the Lewis & Clark expedition team. This is a great stop if you’re heading north out of town, there’s ample daytime RV Parking in the lot while you explore the museum and trails around the area. It’s also a great first stop if you’re following the Lewis & Clark trail out of St. Louis, which we did on our westward journey in 2013.

The above are some of our top picks, but here are some others that might strike your fancy:

Food

And then of course, there’s food. St Louis has some unique regional styles that you should seek out and try. Most of these options are far from being Cherie-friendly (being that I’m gluten free and mostly-vegetarian):

  • St. Louis style pizza is a super thin crust made without yeast and uses Provel cheese – a super yummy blend. You can find them in authentic St. Louis pizzerias like Imo’s or Cecil Whittakers.
  • Toasted Ravioli tend to be a meat stuffed pasta packets that are breaded then toasted. They can be found on most appetizer menus at local restaurants.
  • Gooey Butter Cake is a local style of cake, that may have its roots in a botched cake recipe. It’s super gooey and super buttery. You can find them on desert menus and in bakeries around town.
  • BBQ has its own unique flavor in St. Louis too, which involves direct grilling instead of smoking. We love Pappy’s mouth watering turkey (which runs out daily).

So, that should get you started in exploring the gateway town of St. Louis.

If you’ve been before, what are some of your favorites? We’re always looking for new things to explore when we’re in town!

Past St. Louis Posts:

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24 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. Really enjoyed this tour guide from you. Question: What is the nearest rv park to get to the metro to go to the Arch. We will be a group of 3 motorhomes & want to all stay together to go see the sights. Thanks.

  2. We’re making our travel plans and St. Louis is on the calendar for November 20th – 22nd. I remembered this earlier post about St. Louis and it is a GREAT resource for us for this up-coming trip! Thank-you!
    Jacquie & Chuck

  3. Sorry to not have welcomed you to Missouri when you arrived. Your guide to St. Louis is wonderful. I shared a link to folks that subscribe to our blog. Having lived in Missouri for 52 years, there is not much I’ve not visited in our historic state. I’m looking forward to returning to the St. Louis Zoo which has been rated in the top five in the country.

    Our daughter attended MU in Columbia so we had a few chances to run down I70 to St. Louis when visiting her in school. Lovely town it is.

    Safe travels – thanks again for the guide to St. Louis.

  4. […] We had lunch together. Karen and I headed back to our home in Excelsior Springs Missouri.  It was a wonderful visit and hope to meet up with the couple again soon.  They are on their way to Colorado for a summer workamping job.  Kenny gave us a copy of Workamper News and Escapees Magazine. I subscribe to a video cast put on by Technomadia and asked what magazine would be great to have in hard copy. They recommended Escapees. It’s a little off topic but Technomadia happened to recently be in St. Louis Missouri and drafted up a great guide to RVing in St. Louis. […]

  5. I grew up in St. Louis. High school and all that. All good picks. Even though I swore I would never go back, you make it sound interesting. From a different point of view.

  6. What a great guide for the area. So wish I’d had this back when we first visited in 2010. I still remember that the very first comment I got from you guys on my blog was a post I made about City Museum. I’m definitely bookmarking this for a time when we come back to the area.

    Nina

  7. Don’t forget Purina Farms, about 30-45 minutes outside of St. Louis. They have nice camping (some is free), shows and tours. It’s also near Six Flags

  8. St Louis RV Park may be okay for rigs 36′ or shorter without slideouts but we tried to get a 40′ motorhome with three slides in there with no luck. The roads are narrow so no good turn radius. The sites are very close together so lots of back and forth trying to get straight in the site. Then they were so narrow that had we fully opened our slides we would have actually touched the sides of the neighbors. We left and will never return.

  9. I was there on business a few years ago and stayed within walking distance to the Arch. While I did stand under it I had no idea you could ride to the top! Not sure my issue with closed in tight places would have got me past closed the door, but it is good to know it’s a option 😉

  10. I live 15 miles east of St. Louis, so it’s kind of “ho hum” for me. Nice to read another perspective. Must mention the Zoo. It’s really great –and free admission!

  11. Fun locations that I did either in field trips or Girl Scouts growing up. Jeff and I did a running tour of downtown a couple weeks ago that was awesome. Ran 6 miles and learned a bunch about the city I grew up around. Fun!

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