So, you’ve booked a stay with us and are ready to do some exploring in St. Louis, one of the country’s greatest hidden gems. You’ll hit the typically fun places like The Gateway Arch, Busch Stadium, the Saint Louis Zoo, and a variety of BBQ joints. However, this tight-knit community of 310,000+ is filled with super cool & unique destinations that appeal to both the curious out-of-towner crowd and its seasoned locals alike. To help you plan a well-rounded visit, we’ve put together a list of our favorite “unusual” spots. Enjoy!
Turtle Playground is exactly what it sounds like…a playground filled with turtles! These turtles are huge concrete sculptures ranging from 7 feet to 40 feet long. The playground opened in 1996 as a gift to the children of St. Louis and immediately became a favorite for kids who love climbing and playing on these giant reptiles. Visitors will see a snapping turtle, a soft-shelled turtle, a red-eared slider, a Mississippi map, three box turtles, and a stinkpot turtle. We also can’t forget to mention the concrete turtle eggs, baby turtles, and a snake!
Life Magazine once declared Lemp Mansion “One of the Most Haunted Places in America.” If you like ghost stories, family tragedy, and beer – this one’s for you. The Lemp family business began with J. Adam Lemp, a German immigrant who was a beer baron and a true American success story (he introduced St. Louis to its first lager. Enough said). The Lemps utilized the mansion, built in 1868, as both an office and residence while building their brewing empire. Unfortunately, a string of mansion suicides over the years plagued the Lemps; Prohibition later sealed their empire’s tragic fate. The family was forced to auction off everything. In 1975, the Pointer family purchased the deteriorating mansion and transformed it into a restaurant & inn. Today, mansion visitors report stories of apparitions, strange noises, and “feeling watched.” This one is worth a visit.
Union Station & its “Whispering Arch”
It’s easy to see why St. Louis Union Station has been a longstanding icon of downtown; it first opened in 1894 and in its heyday, was the largest passenger rail terminal in the world. After the final passenger train departed the station in 1978, the building later found new life as a mixed-use complex with restaurants, shops, event space, and a hotel. The elegantly renovated station still harbors some historical secrets – one of them being the “Whispering Arch.” This architectural error was discovered when Union Station was built in the 1890s. Lore has it that a workman dropped a hammer on one side of the arch, and a painter on the other side, nearly 40 feet away, heard him. Test the acoustics out yourself when you visit!
Compton Hill Water Tower
Visiting a water tower might not sound very cool, but we promise Compton Hill Water Tower is special. Today in the US, only seven standpipe water towers still exist (there used to be 400+ in the early 1900s). Standpipe water towers are set directly in the ground rather than raised up by legs or a pole. Built in 1898, this 179-foot tower is made of rusticated limestone, brick, and terracotta and its walls are adorned with mythical creatures and foliage. The city used it for over 30 years until its job was replaced by a larger, more efficient reservoir. Today, visitors can walk to the top of the tower via 198 iron spiraled steps. Awaiting is an amazing 360-degree view of the city’s neighborhoods, the Gateway Arch, and nearby Illinois.