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Experience St Charles Missouri: Where the Historic Meets the Contemporary in the Midwest

Hiding in the shadow of St. Louis, St. Charles Missouri is a city steeped in history as the site of Missouri’s first state capital and a major player in the westward expansion of the United States. But St Charles is also a contemporary town, making it a perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts, foodies, shoppers, history buffs, and antique hunters.

From its beautiful historic district to long-running festivals to its access to the scenic Katy Trail, St. Charles is a must-visit Midwest destination with a diverse array of activities to keep visitors of all ages entertained.

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St. Charles Missouri I photo credit: Malachi Jacobs / Shutterstock

Getting to Know St. Charles Missouri

Situated northwest of St. Louis on the Missouri River, Saint Charles remains one of the most historic cities in the Show Me State — it’s actually the third oldest city in Missouri.

Founded in 1769 as Les Petites Cotes (the Little Hills in French) by Canadian fur trader Louis Blanchette, the city served as Missouri’s first state capital from 1821 to 1826 and played a significant role in the country’s westward expansion.

It is also famously known as the starting point for Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s famous expedition in 1804.

Today, St. Charles is known for its beautifully preserved historic district, Main Street — one of the state’s oldest and largest historic preservation districts. Along brick-paved streets, locals and visitors alike can stroll by unique restaurants, shops, and boutiques housed in historic buildings, seamlessly blending history with modernity. 

Katy Trail-Missouri
Katy Trail | photo via terrahydrojett

Outdoor Things to Do in St. Charles

Take a Scenic Bike Ride and Explore the Katy Trail

St. Charles is a cyclist’s dream with scenic trails, ranging from short, easy rides to longer state trails. Riders can start their journey with a visit to the Bike Stop Cafe on Main Street and continue to the Katy Trail.

The 240-mile-long Katy Trail State Park is the country’s longest recreational trail and starts in St. Charles. Visitors can enjoy casual bike rides — e-bikes and tricycles are available to rent — past historic landmarks and horseback riding is permitted on certain portions of the trail as well. 

Learn About St. Charles on Historic Main Street Tours

One of the best ways to appreciate St. Charles’ rich history is by taking a stroll down Historic Main Street on a self-guided walking tour. The buildings along Main Street date back to the town’s earliest days and the area has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

St. Charles also offers two Hit the Bricks tours where visitors can walk in the footsteps of saints, legislators, explorers, and many others.

Popular stops on Main Street include the First Missouri State Capitol State Historic Site to see a restoration of Missouri’s first capitol site. The Lewis and Clark Boat House and Museum is a history buff’s delight, offering a chance to learn more about these famous explorers.

Ride the St. Charles Trolley

An easy alternative to driving in St. Charles is riding on the St. Charles Trolley, which offers a fun way to see the city. Numerous stops are positioned around the city, allowing riders to hop on and hop off easily.

Relax and Recharge at Forget-Me-Not Park

Visitors who want to slow down for just a few minutes to relax can visit this friendly pocket park along Historic Main Street. It’s the perfect spot to rest, play a friendly game of chess, enjoy a picnic lunch, and take time to recharge before exploring more of St. Charles.

Riverwalk Farmers Market-Missouri
Riverwalk Farmers Market | photo via t.r.woodruff

Buy Fresh Goods at the Riverwalk Farmers Market

From April through November, travelers can visit the Riverwalk Farmers Market on Saturdays to support artisans and local farmers and peruse and purchase artisan coffee, crafts, jewelry, produce, homemade breads, and more.

Discover the Legacy of Daniel Boone

Famed frontiersman Daniel Boone is legendary in St. Charles and his home at Lindenwood Park offers a glimpse into his fascinating life. Curious travelers can also snap a selfie with an iconic sculpture of Boone, which can be found near the intersection of Water and S. Main streets.

The Soda Museum-Missouri
The Soda Museum | photo via billaroundtheglobe

Indoor Things to Do in St. Charles

Explore the French Historic District

Just north of Historic Main Street, visitors can dive headfirst into the Frenchtown Historic District, a growing arts area that’s some to artisan coffee shops, antique shopping, a climbing gym, and a cafe and wine bar.

Visit Historic Sites Around St. Charles

Believe it or not, over three dozen places in St. Charles County are on the National Register of Historic Places — a testament to the city’s important place in history.

Fans of historic homes can visit the Darius Heald Home, the Hays Home at Matson Hill Park, and the Historic Daniel Boone Home at Lindenwood Park.

The Zumwalts Fort, Commemorative Air Force — Missouri Wing Museum, the National Horseshoe Pitchers Hall of Fame (in Wentzville), and Fast Lane Classic Cars (which also buys and sells cars) are also great places to soak up the area’s history and a little bit of pop culture.

Be a Kid Again at Main Street Arcade/Soda Museum

Visitors of all ages can explore two floors of fun inside this unique spot. The main level is home to The Soda Museum which offers numerous exhibits related to different sodas and a nostalgic experience.

The lower level is home to the Main Street Arcade, which features games from the 1930s to the 1990s such as vintage pinball machines and arcade favorites like Pac-Man and Galaga.

Explore the Haunted Side of St. Charles on a Paranormal Tour

St. Charles may be a historic city, but it can also be a spooky place for those who believe in the paranormal with plenty of mysterious occurrences. Visitors can take paranormal tours to experience unexplained sights and sounds for themselves as they learn about St. Charles’ history.

Hunt for Treasures on the St Charles Antique Trail

Antique novices and seasoned experts can take a delightful journey through the past as they explore the St. Charles Antique Trail. Within a distance of less than 2 miles, visitors can explore over a half dozen shops where trinkets and treasures can be found around every corner.

St. Charles’ antique shops include:

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St. Charles | photo via 320sycamorecandles

Shop Til You Drop in St. Charles

In the midst of exploring history and antiquing, visitors should make time to explore St. Charles’ many fun shops. Not only can shoppers find unique goods, but it’s also an easy way to support local businesses. Some of the best shops include:

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Cat Zen Cafe | photo via steelcityneon

Relax with Cats at Cat Zen Cafe & Lounge

Cat cafes are some of the coziest places to unwind and Cat Zen Cafe & Lounge offers visitors a chance to spend quality time with adoptable cats. Come enjoy your favorite snack in the cafe and spend time with the cats. If you bond with one, you may end up taking a new furry friend home.

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St. Charles | photo via pocochrisgram

Festivals in St. Charles

St. Charles blends modern culture with history so well and the best examples of that can be found during the city’s many festivals.

Residents and visitors can enjoy the August Festival of the Little Hills — one of the Midwest’s largest craft fairs — which features live entertainment, talented artisans and crafters, and food vendors.

Christmas Traditions — one of the nation’s largest living history Christmas festivals — ushers in the holiday season on weekends from late November through Christmas Eve. The festivities include photos with Santa, carolers, holiday decorations, a performance of A Christmas Carol, and more.

Other major festivals include:

Once Upon a Valentine: In February, characters like Cupid and the Queen of Hearts turn Main Street into a hub of Valentine’s Day activity.

Oktoberfest: At Frontier Park, visitors can enjoy a wiener dog derby, a classic car show, live music, and more. 

Riverfest: This two-day July festival celebrates the Fourth of July with fireworks, patriotic displays, a carnival, and more.

Legends and Lanterns: Each October, Edgar Allan Poe and other spooky characters turn Main Street into a Halloween haunt.

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Burger Underground | photo via wowjustsaying

Places to Eat in St. Charles

St. Charles has no shortage of attractions and no shortage of places to eat, so when cravings hit, there’s something to satisfy every tastebud. Some of the best places to go include:

  • 3 Sisters-Whimsical Brews: Enjoy boba tea while perusing loose-leaf teas and an apothecary section. 
  • SugarBot Creamery: Treat yourself to something sweet and indulge in gourmet hot cocoa with made-from-scratch marshmallows, ice cream, or a milkshake at this retro soda fountain.
  • Savor: Indulge in culinary delights like maple-glazed Brussels sprouts.
  • Grandma’s Cookies: Savor the flavor and smells of melt-in-your-mouth cookies including chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, and seasonal favorites.
  • Sugarfire Smoke House: Famous for its cheesesteaks, ribs, brisket, and spiked shakes.
  • Big Woody’s BBQ: Offers classic tasty BBQ options like pulled chicken, brisket, ribs, and more.
  • Woodson Stonefire: Choose from numerous mouthwatering pizza creations, including the Veggiesauus, Rattlesnake Pepporoni, and Stuffed Mushroom.
  • Augusta Winery: St. Charles and the surrounding area is right in the heart of Missouri Wine Country and Augusta Winery is one of several spots where visitors can relax and sip award-winning wines.
  • Burger Underground: With burgers, wings, sandwiches, and a self-pour tap wall, there’s something here for everyone.
  • Bugatti’s Steak & Pasta: Located inside the Ameristar Casino, this is the perfect spot for a taste of fine dining. 
  • Third Wheel Brewing: Offers a tasty mix of comforting, fruited sours that are perfect on warmer days.
  • St. Charles Coffee Trail: Conquer all 11 shops and try their top drink recommendations.
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Festival of the Little Hills | photo via frandcompany

Indulge Your Inner Explorer in St. Charles Missouri

St. Charles Missouri is more than just a historic river city; it’s a vibrant hub of activity with something for everyone who visits. Whether you’re visiting for a day or staying for a week, this charming town will keep you busy with its rich history, fun festivals, unique shops, and outdoor fun along the Missouri River.

So pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable experience in the heart of the Midwest!