St. Louis, Missouri Travel Guide

Visit St. Louis and frolic in the unique vibe of the Great Plains’ largest city. Baseball, bowling, beer, are some top attractions, but culture and history, much of it associated with the Mississippi River are an important part of the fabric. And there is also the iconic Gateway Arch that you have most likely seen in many pictures. Several music legends including Miles Davis, Tina Turner, Chuck Berry, and Scott Joplin, all started here and the variety of live music venues have helped to keep the flame burning. Here are the top things to do in St. Louis, Missouri.

Gateway Arch

This 192m long edifice soars over Downtown St. Louis and is easily the city’s most recognizable landmark. Finished in 1967 and constructed from stainless steel, it is America’s symbol of westward expansion offering visitors spectacular lights shows. Highlights at this place include a Visitors’ Center and you can take a tram to observation at the arch’s peak. The views from here are sublime.

Missouri Botanical Garden

Founded in 1859, the Missouri Botanical Garden is also referred to as ‘Shaw’s Garden’. It occupies about 79 acres some miles west of the Downtown area of Botanical Heights. It is a great place to spend time, featuring a dome that was the first air-conditioned greenhouse and the Seiwa-en Garden. But there is more to explore, including arbors lined with roses, English woodland gardens, and mazes.

St. Louis Zoo

This premier family attraction is also located in the St. Louis Downtown area. Built after the World Fair of 1904, this zoo has a narrow-gauge steam railway navigating through attractions like the River Edge, Caribbean Cove (where you will encounter sharks and rays), the primates, penguins, and bears of The Wild.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

Close to the Zoo, you will come across the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis’s beautiful exterior. Completed in 1914, this Catholic Church was built to replace the older cathedral. Once you step inside, you are in for a treat with the Basilica’s incredible set of mosaics. Depicting historical and biblical scenes and partly designed by Tiffany, the mosaics stretch here to cover up to 7,700 sq.m, making it the world’s largest.

City Museum

Located in the center of the city, this museum sounds like it should be a solemn collection of dinosaur bones and sculptures, but it is far from that. It’s actually a Downtown playground that is made from objects reclaimed from a shoe factory. Child-friendly, entertaining and wacky, the City Museum features a circus school, skateboard ramps, “Enchanted Caves”, pinball machines and vintage arcade games.

Sonoma Travel Guide

Sonoma is a county and city of extensive beauty and history. It is also the closest wine region to San Francisco. Sonoma is the ideal weekend destination in Northern California for exploring, eating, and relaxing. Here are the top places to visit in Sonoma, California.

Sonoma Plaza

To start your time in Sonoma, head downtown to the Sonoma Plaza. This area which has been here for over a century was the start of the Bear Flag Revolt which led to the Mexican-American war. This area is also home to the northernmost Spanish California mission, Mission San Francisco Solano. In recent years, Sonoma Plaza has become a haven in the valley for shopping, food, and wine. There are over a dozen stores around the plaza ranging from kitchen appliances and olive oil tasting to a cheese shop with free samples and my favorite store tiddlywinks vintage five-and-dime.

Lodging

For hotels, Cottage Inn and Spa is hard to beat. Located right behind the mission, this hotel is walking distance from the plaza, has an amazing fireplace lounge, and brings you hand-delivered pastries every morning. The city has a bunch of great restaurants; for breakfast head over to the Sunflower Café. It’s quick, easy, and there’s enough bacon for everyone. If you are here on the weekend, stop by the Eldorado kitchen for brunch. For lunch, head over to Hot Monk Tavern. It has a great vibe with live music on the weekends and tasty pub food. Lastly, the Girl and the Fig is another great place to eat. The French-inspired food is always top-notch especially the decadent duck confit and the warm fig bar for dessert.

Top Wineries in Sonoma

There are a lot of great wineries in Sonoma, here are a few to check out. Madrone Estate Winery is located a little off the beaten path but it is worth the effort. Upon arriving, you are greeted with a beautiful tasting room with stone walls and an open layout. The highlight is the stunning back property that has bocce, tables to relax at, and an amazing spot for weddings.

Buena Vista is California’s oldest winery and is a must-visit in Sonoma. It houses an impressive tasting room. A tasting room for Lake Sonoma Winery is located in Sonoma Plaza and has a casual layout with lots of great wines to try. If you are a fan of the outdoor seating with a fire pit and Jenga set, this is a great place to visit.

If wine is not your thing head over to Sonoma Springs Brewery. It has a casual tasting room with a good selection of beers and is a great place to watch the game with friends. If you are looking to relax, head over to MacArthur Place and Vista spa for aromatherapy massage or detox in the steam room. Don’t forget to play a little outdoor chess while there.

Jack London State Park

The historic Jack London State Park is a great place to hike in the Sonoma area. There are lots of great trails, tons of history, and the best hike is a short mile walk to the Wolf house. On the way out of Sonoma, you have to stop at cornerstone Gardens. It is the home of the Big Blue Chair which is now orange and there are dozens of gardens all with their own unique artistic twist. There is also the wishing garden where you can write a wish and you add it to the thousands of others already there. There is also a really nice place for a meal here called Park 121, the chef uses locally sourced ingredients for their mini fresh dishes.