No matter how much you think you know about St. Louis, there are likely hundreds of fascinating places to go and things to do that have escaped your notice. Local author Amanda Doyle offers an insider’s guide to the city’s high-profile attractions and plenty of below-the-radar treasures in her new book, 100 Things to Do in St. Louis Before You Die. Doyle spoke with Ladue News and shared some of her personal favorite backyard adventures.
How did you decide what to include when compiling your list?
This book is for natives, as well as for those who are new to the area; and since I moved here 15 years ago, I have the best of both perspectives. Some of the items on the list may seem obvious, but I tried to bring something fresh to those essential experiences. For example, everyone’s been to the zoo, but many of us haven’t been in the wintertime when they let the penguins out.
Where in St. Louis do you take out-of-town guests?
I live in Tower Grove South, so I like to show off my neighborhood, the Missouri Botanical Garden and Tower Grove Farmers Market. The City Museum just blows people’s minds, regardless of age. I also like to show off our architecture, because St. Louis has so many different styles and eras. Really, I just try to convince my guests to move here!
How should locals spend a day exploring St. Louis?
A tour of Bellefontaine and Calvary cemeteries offers so much illumination about this city and the people who made it what it is—the politicians, the literary figures, the beer barons. I also recommend revisiting places you might have been to on field trips as a kid, like Powder Valley Nature Center and Cahokia Mounds. For a really quintessential St. Louis experience, you can take a riverboat cruise down the Mississippi with live blues music and dancing. And if you’ve never gone up in the Arch, it’s high time.
What are some of your favorite annual events around town?
I try to go to the International Institute’s Festival of Nations every year, and I love all the neighborhood celebrations like the Annie Malone parade, the Shaw Art Fair and the Loop Ice Carnival. Something I’ve never done but that definitely is on my list is the Kirkwood-Webster Groves Turkey Day Game, which has such an epic history and is so emblematic of this area.
What surprised you about St. Louis when you were writing this book?
I didn’t really appreciate all the outdoor activities and natural wonders we have, like these amazing rivers and forests and the beauty of the Ozark foothills. Also, because St. Louis has such a modest profile, it’s easy to take for granted its world-class attractions. I get stuck in a rut as much as anybody else, so I hope the book gives readers the same sort of kick in the pants that writing it gave me. I've never been bored in St. Louis!
Based on suggestions from Amanda Doyle’s 100 Things to Do in St. Louis Before You Die, we sent LN photographer extraordinaire Sarah Crowder around town to capture some of the highlights:
CHUCK BERRY CONCERT AT BLUEBERRY HILL
“Our homegrown international rock ‘n roll sensation is on the far side of eighty…you don’t have forever. Pick a month, get your tickets early, and appreciate the genius that endures.”
PADDLE AROUND THE PARK
“Cast off, at least temporarily, from the bustle of Forest Park in a paddleboat built for two, three or four. You might surprise yourself with how far you can get htrough the interconnected system of lakes and lagoons…When your legs give out, steam back into port and enjoy lunch or a drink dockside at the Boat House…”
SPLASHING AND STROLLING AT CITYGARDEN
“The ultimate “build it, and they will come” project, this interactive sculpture park and water-filled oasis smack dab in the heart of downtown bring together wading kids, sun-seeking escapees from the nearby high-rises, curious out-of-towners, and the rest of life’s rich pageant…”
GET YOUR GOAT (OR CAMEL) AT GRANT’S FARM
“The goats at Grant’s Farm have terrorized generations of St. Louis children; why should yours be any different? Tip: Pony up a little more than $200 (for a group of 12 or fewer) and take the Grant’s Farm Private Expedition, which includes a private vehicle safari through Deer Park, hand-feeding of animals and fish, and a visit to the Clydesdale stables…”
JAPANESE FESTIVAL AT MISSOURI BOTANICAL GARDEN
“…this annual Labor Day Weekend gathering is one of the oldest in the United States devoted to exploring the history, culture and people of Japan...From ikebana (the Japenese art of flower arranging)…to exclusive Teahouse Island tours and tea ceremonies, the weekend is a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds and experiences visitors won’t soon forget.”
SEE A SHOW AT THE SHELDON
“Renowned far and wide for its acoustics (to say nothing of its handsome, wood-paneled stage and rich stained glass), The Sheldon is a perfect concert experience. Best bang for the buck is the ‘Notes from Home’ series, featuring local standouts on select weeknights for a low price.”