Day Trips from St. Louis: St. Charles for the Win!

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Are you looking for fun day trips from St. Louis Missouri? Well, just a short drive from the bustling city lies the charming small town of St. Charles, MO. With its rich history dating back to its founding in 1769 by French-Canadian fur trader Louis Blanchette, St. Charles offers a delightful blend of old-world charm and modern attractions making it a perfect choice for one of my favorite day trips from St. Louis.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed several day trips to this enchanting town, discovering new spots and revisiting beloved favorites. St. Charles is also perfect for a quick weekend getaway, offering plenty of fun activities for all ages. Whether you’re interested in exploring historical sites, enjoying outdoor adventures, or simply savoring a leisurely stroll along cobblestone streets, St. Charles provides a refreshing break from city life.

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Historical Sites and Attractions of St. Charles, MO

The history of St. Charles, MO is quite interesting. The city was founded in 1769 and was originally named “Les Petites Côtes” or “The Little Hills,”. St. Charles played a significant role in the westward expansion of the United States, serving as the starting point for Lewis and Clark’s famous expedition.

As the first state capital of Missouri from 1821 to 1826, St. Charles has preserved much of its historical charm, with well-maintained cobblestone streets and beautifully restored 19th-century buildings that transport visitors back in time.

shops along Main Street in St Charles MO

Main Street St. Charles

The first place you’ll probably encounter on your day trip to St. Charles is Main Street. I’d recommend parking your car (we found it easy to find free street parking) and getting out to walk. The street is brick-lined and has dozens of interesting and unique shops and restaurants on both sides.

On my last visit, my teenage son and I were visiting while on a soccer trip, and with an entire afternoon and evening to spare, we still didn’t have time to check out all the stores or see all the sights! We did really enjoy the multiple antique stores as well as a few fun specialty stores such as an English/Scottish shop and a darling candy store.

First Capitol building of Missouri in St. Charles

First Missouri State Capitol

One of the fun facts about the history of St. Charles MO is that it was actually the first Missouri State Capitol. So, you can visit the First Missouri State Capitol Historic Site. It’s right downtown and they offer hourly tours most days between 10 and 3 (check the website for current tour times).

The site is located on Main Street so it makes for a short but interesting shopping break. You’ll definitely want the guide to show you around as you’ll not only get to see how it would have been furnished when it was the state capitol but also learn a little bit about how the government was run at that time.

First Missouri State Capitol Historic Site, 200 S Main Street

Lewis & Clark Boat House and Museum in St. Charles MO

Lewis & Clark Boat House and Museum

Another wonderful museum well worth your time when visiting St. Charles, Missouri is the Lewis & Clark Boat House and Museum. You’ll find the large building right along the river behind Main Street in downtown St. Charles.

If you spent some time visiting the museum at the Gateway Arch National Park, you should already know a little bit about Lewis & Clark. At the museum, you’ll be treated to a movie, and quite a few very well-thought-out exhibits and you’ll get to view the river where the journey began. It’s a super choice for any history lover!

Lewis & Clark Boat House and Museum, 1050 S. Riverside Drive

Katy Trail State Park Sign

Outdoor Activities in St. Charles, MO

Being located right along the river means that there are plenty of terrific outdoor activities in St. Charles, Missouri. So if you are looking for something a little active, the town has you covered!

Katy Trail State Park

Katy Trail State Park in St. Charles, MO, is a must-visit for anyone who loves the outdoors. This long and winding trail stretches for over 240 miles, making it perfect for hiking, biking, or just taking a leisurely stroll.

The trail follows the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad line and offers a fantastic way to explore the scenic beauty of Missouri. The trailhead in St. Charles is a great starting point, thanks to its easy access to the charming downtown area. The trail is well-maintained and flat, making it a great choice regardless of your fitness level.

Frontier Park in St. Charles MO

Frontier Park

If you just want a little relaxation (or a place for the kids to burn off some energy), Frontier Park is a fantastic spot by the Missouri River. Conveniently located right along the riverfront, the park is adjacent to the Katy Trail, which also makes it an excellent stop for anyone exploring the trail.

The park offers wide open spaces perfect for picnicking, playing, or just soaking up the sun. It’s a favorite for families, with plenty of room for kids to run around and playgrounds to keep them entertained. Thanks to its walking trails, benches, and stunning river views, Frontier Park is an ideal place to unwind and enjoy some fresh air.

Frontier Park, 500 S. Riverside Drive

Bike Rentals

One thing I noticed on my last visit to St. Charles is how convenient it is to rent bikes so you can explore the Katy Trail and Frontier Park on two wheels. Just across the street from access to the trail is the Bike Stop Outpost. With everything you need to plan your biking trip, it makes it super easy to enjoy a day (or multiple-day) ride.

At the shop, you can rent bikes, arrange a shuttle to pick you up at a later location if you are planning a long ride, get repairs done, or do a little shopping for new seats, gear, etc. There is also a connected cafe which is a fun place to grab a bite to eat before or after your ride.

Bike Stop Outpost, 610 South Main Street

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Family-Friendly Spots in St. Charles, MO

Are your kids with you on this St. Louis day trip to St. Charles, Missouri? I’ve visited St. Charles with and without the kids and had a blast either way, but there are definitely a few spots that are big hits with the kids.

cats playing at Cafe Zen in St. Charles MO

Cat Zen Cafe and Lounge

Cat Zen Cafe and Lounge was such a fun find for my teenage son and me on our recent weekend trip to St. Charles, MO. As we are both cat lovers, it was a terrific activity that we could enjoy together and we had the best time playing with the cats and then talking about their different personalities over dinner later that evening.

There were about a dozen cats when we visited and it was so much fun to interact with them and learn a little bit about them. From playful to sleepy we enjoyed them all. Of course, I love that cat cafes are a fantastic way to not only enjoy cats when you aren’t at home, but they are a wonderful resource for helping cats find forever homes. We’ve visited several through the years and this was a particularly fun one!

Cat Zen Cafe and Lounge, 319 N. Main Street

Foundry Art Centre

As a huge fan of introducing art to kids, I think that the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, MO, is a fantastic place to visit. This exciting arts center, located in a repurposed train car factory, offers a mix of creativity and history that both adults and children will love.

Inside, you’ll find a variety of art exhibits featuring local and national artists, along with interactive displays that make art fun and accessible for kids. The center also hosts art classes and workshops designed for young artists, providing a hands-on experience that sparks creativity. With its welcoming atmosphere and engaging activities, the Foundry Art Centre is a perfect spot to inspire your kids and enjoy a creative activity while you are visiting St. Charles.

Foundry Art Centre, 520 N. Main Centre

Soda Museum and Arcade sign in St. Charles MO

Soda Museum

Do you and your kids like quirky? If so, then consider stopping at the Soda Museum located right on Main Street in St. Charles. This unique museum houses 17,000 square feet of soda memorabilia. It contains a 35+ year collection with items all the way back to the 1800s.

Definitely let the owner walk you through the museum – like most labors of love such as this one you’ll get way more out of it with a guided tour. And, save time for the arcade in the lower level – it’s a fun way for teens to compete with their parents and blow off a little steam.

Soda Museum, 126 N Main Street

My Favorite Dining in St. Charles

There are so many delicious places to eat in St. Charles, MO that you aren’t going to go hungry, so instead of trying to cover them all, I’m just sharing my favorites.

Breakfast: From Coffee to Crepes

Sometimes for breakfast, I just want a really good cup of coffee, but sometimes I want a full breakfast. Luckily, St. Charles delivers both.

Picasso The Art of Coffee sign in downtown St. Charles

Picasso’s Coffee

If you want a great cup of coffee to enjoy while sitting along Main Street or to take with you while strolling the riverfront, stop in at Picasso’s Coffee. This place is exactly what I love in a local coffee shop. Delicious coffee (REAL coffee), simple pastries and breakfast sandwiches, and terrific indoor and outdoor seating. Even if you don’t end up there for breakfast, consider an iced coffee afternoon treat!

Picasso’s Coffee, 101 N. Main Street

Avocado Toast

La Belle Vie Cafe

Sunday morning on our latest visit we had a late game and wanted to enjoy a nice brunch somewhere, so my son found La Belle Vie Cafe on Yelp. It’s not on the main street in St. Charles like almost everything else, but it is in a cute little area called Frenchtown so we got to see a different part of the city.

You order your coffee and breakfast at the counter (think delicious coffee drinks, mimosas, avocado toast, egg dishes, crepes, etc.) and then find a seat. Since the weather was lovely we opted to sit outside on the patio which was relaxing and quiet. The food and coffee were delicious and I could see why it was so busy – everything was perfect!

La Belle Vie Cafe, 1200 N 2nd Street

Lunch options abound on Main Street

I guarantee you’ll have a tough time selecting a place to eat for lunch if you are spending your time shopping and strolling downtown because there are so many options!

Lewis & Clark

Stick with your St. Louis theme and enjoy lunch at Lewis & Clark. This three-story restaurant has a nice variety of food so it’s a great choice if your family likes different things.

Note that they are closed on Tuesdays, so keep that in mind. If you can request a table on the 3rd floor outside deck you’ll get a wonderful view to enjoy while dining. It reminded me a bit of the outside dining we recently enjoyed in New Orleans.

Lewis & Clark, 217 South Main Street

sign for Mr. Meowski's Sourdough in St. Charles MO

Mr. Meowski’s Sourdough Bread

For something a little bit different for lunch, stop by Mr. Meowski’s sourdough bread and pick up one of their delicious loaves of sourdough. It’s expensive but so good – you won’t be sorry! Then, head over to the nearby Aldi for some meat, cheese, and fruit and enjoy it either at one of the local parks or back at your hotel.

We did this one morning when we had a soccer game at a weird time. Too late for just breakfast, but too early for lunch. So, I got up a bit early, headed downtown, and picked up our supplies and then we just grazed in the hotel all morning. It was honestly one of the best meals of the weekend! And, we had enough leftover bread to last me for the next few days at home.

Mr. Meowski’s Sourdough Bread, 107 N. Main Street

Dinner Favorites

Like lunch, there are plenty of options located right on Main Street – many with excellent patios or views of the river, so I don’t think you can make a bad choice. However, here are a few of our favorites.

Hendrick’s BBQ

If you are visiting St. Louis, you probably ought to enjoy BBQ at least once, and if you decide that will be on one of your day trips from St. Louis, give Hendrick’s BBQ a shot. The building is super cool (old St. Charles water works building) with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating and they serve all the standard BBQ fare.

With its convenient location on Main Street, Hendrick’s is an easy choice if you are in the mood for some tasty BBQ!

Hendrick’s BBQ, 1200 S. Main Street

sushi boat sushi in St. Charles MO

Sushi at Sushi Boat

One evening we decided we wanted something light and delicious and sushi sounded like the ideal choice. So, I sent my son to Yelp to find the best sushi restaurant in town and I must say his searching delivered! We had a wonderful dinner at Sushi Boat.

Although small, we were lucky enough to arrive at just the right time to grab a table (the restaurant was busy all night so this was definitely luck on our part!). My son ordered one of the sushi boat’s which came with sashimi and sushi in a wooden boat (adorable). I ordered a spicy salmon roll, some edamame, and miso soup. Everything was wonderful – exactly what we were craving.

Sushi Boat, 1500 Elm Street

St. Charles historic main street sign

Seasonal Events and Festivals in St. Charles MO

St. Charles, MO, is known for its numerous special events and festivals, making it an even more exciting destination for a day trip. Throughout the year, the town hosts a variety of celebrations that cater to all ages and interests. For instance, the annual Christmas Traditions festival transforms Main Street into a winter wonderland with carolers, Santa sightings, and charming holiday decorations.

Riverfest, held in the summer, offers fireworks, live music, and family-friendly activities along the beautiful riverfront. Then there’s Oktoberfest, where you can enjoy German food, music, and culture in a lively atmosphere.

Planning your visit during one of these events can add an extra layer of fun and excitement to your trip. You’ll have the chance to experience the local culture and community spirit while enjoying unique activities and entertainment. These festivals offer something special, whether you’re exploring vendor booths, watching parades, or participating in themed activities. It’s a great way to make your day trip to St. Charles even more memorable.

Getting to St. Charles from St. Louis

Reaching St. Charles from St. Louis is both easy and convenient, making it an ideal destination for a day trip. The most common way to get there is by car. The drive is straightforward and scenic, taking you westward along I-70. In less than 30 minutes, depending on traffic, you’ll find yourself in the heart of St. Charles, ready to explore its historic streets and attractions.

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If you prefer a more active mode of transportation, biking to St. Charles is a great option. The Katy Trail, one of the longest rail-trails in the country, offers a picturesque route from St. Louis to St. Charles. This trail is perfect for cyclists of all levels and provides a unique way to experience the natural beauty of Missouri.

couch at Courtyard St. Peters MO

Where to Stay when Visiting St. Charles

There are plenty of places to stay in St. Charles if you want to extend your day trip to an overnight visit. On my last visit, we stayed at the nearby Courtyard by Marriott. It is a newer property so very nice and just a short ten-minute drive to Main Street.

If you want to be in the center of the action, book a night at the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson. It is RIGHT on Main Street downtown so you can walk to most of the activities, restaurants, and shops. Super convenient and it gets excellent customer ratings!

FAQs: Day Trips to St. Charles from St. Louis

Why should you visit St. Charles?

St. Charles is one of the best day trips from St. Louis with terrific shopping, restaurants, and activities.

What city is close to St. Louis?

St. Charles is a short drive from St. Louis but feels a world away!

Does St. Charles Missouri feel like an extension of St. Louis?

Nope – although it’s quite close it has an entirely different feel.

Statue of Pierre Cruzatte in Frontier Park in St. Charles, MO

Conclusion: Day Trips from St. Louis: St. Charles

St. Charles, MO, truly offers something for everyone, making it a perfect choice for one of your day trips from St. Louis. With its lovely and historic Main Street, and a variety of family-friendly activities, this charming town provides a refreshing escape from the city. Whether you’re exploring historical sites, enjoying outdoor adventures along the Katy Trail, or indulging in delicious local dining, St. Charles never disappoints.

Consider planning your visit during one of the town’s many special events or festivals to add an extra layer of excitement to your trip. With easy access from St. Louis and plenty to see and do, St. Charles is an ideal destination for making lasting memories with your family. So add an extra day or two to your St. Louis trip and escape to St. Charles!

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