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While the city of St. Louis has plenty to offer, if you’re itching for an excursion, there are numerous great day trips you can take out of the city. There are many towns in and out of state to explore and stretch your legs. Here are some of the top nearby cities and towns perfect for a little road trip:
Ste. Genevieve, MO
If you truly want to feel transported, head to Ste. Genevieve. Driving just an hour south of St. Louis will take you to this French-colonial town on the west bank of the Mississippi River. Ste. Genevieve is a charming little town that also happens to be the oldest in the state. It was founded by European settlers in 1735 and is named after the patron saint of Paris. With its beautifully preserved history, especially the French-influenced architecture, it’s the perfect place to spend a relaxing afternoon walking about town. If you prefer a tour, you can take one at some of the historic homes like the Bolduc House (from 1770) and the Maison Guibourd-Valle (from 1784). There are also several French wineries in the area where you can enjoy an afternoon sipping and relaxing.
Speaking of wine, this town is known for being the gateway to wine country. In Washington, there are more wineries to choose from than you could ever fit into one trip and plenty of dining options to explore as well. It’s nestled an hour west of St. Louis on the Missouri River’s south bank. While you’re there, check out the Washington Historical Society Museum and the Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame. If shopping is what you’re after, they also have many antique shops and gift stores to peruse. If you can plan ahead, they host an annual August festival, “The Washington Town & Country Fair”, which is a spectacular family-friendly event.
A bit further west, about an hour and a half from St. Louis, you’ll find the German-influenced town of Hermann. It was established in 1837 by the Germans who previously came from Philadelphia, and the town has managed to retain its old world charm. It’s located on the Missouri River, making it a picturesque place to spend a day exploring. Check out one of the many local wineries where you can taste and tour, including German-influenced ones, like Hermannhof. Catch some live music typically on the outdoor terraces at the many wineries. If festivals are your thing, they host several exciting ones each year, including Maifest in May, Kristkindl Markt in December, and Wurstfest in March.
If you still want the buzz of city life, make the 90-minute drive to Illinois’ capital. History buffs will love to delve into Abraham Lincoln’s history here, as it’s home to the famed Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library. You can also explore the Old State Capitol building as well as the restored living history village of New Salem, a little north of Springfield. Finish off your Lincoln tour with a visit to Lincoln’s Tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery. There’s plenty more to see and do in this thriving city, like visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie-style Dana Thomas House or venturing through the Illinois State Museum and learning about the history of the Prairie State. When you’ve had your fill of attractions, there’s numerous shops and restaurants to enjoy in this city as well.
Just over a half hour north, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, lies Alton, a quaint river town with a lot of charm. It lies along the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway, or Great River Road, which is considered one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois. In this town, you’ll find plenty of wineries, award-winning restaurants, and antique and specialty shops galore. Minutes south in Hartford, you can get connected with the history of Lewis and Clark by hiking to the top of the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower. Your tower-top vantage point affords you stunning views of where the Missouri and Mississippi rivers converge.
Though there’s enough to keep you entertained without venturing outside of St. Louis, sometimes it’s nice to get a change of scenery. By journeying just a couple hours in any direction, you’ll find some unique and interesting Missouri and Illinois towns where you can get a fresh dose of history, culture, and even wine.