If you're not from the midwest, there's a good chance you probably don't know very much about St. Louis. But there's much more to this city than that big silver Gateway Arch and baseball. St. Louis residents know how to do Christmas — and they go all out.
From a visit to the "North Pole" to an epic hill that locals have been sledding on for over 100 years, St. Louis offers plenty of reasons to feel jolly this holiday season. To make sure you don't miss a thing, we turned to local food blogger Spencer Pernikoff of and St. Louis interior designer to share with us everything that's on their holiday to-do list. And, we added a few favorite picks of our own.
WHERE TO EAT: Randolfi's and Público
Nothing says Christmas like an intimate, traditional Southern Italian restaurant with plenty of seasonally red decor. The pizza and pasta dishes at are irresistible and bound to warm you right up.
Plus, you can turn your holiday meal into a culinary tour by walking a couple of feet next door.
"I like to split an evening between neighboring sister restaurants Randolfi's and ," says Pernikoff. "Start things off with Randolfi's famous aged eggnog, then grab some food cooked over the wood-fire hearth at Público."
Público delivers all the same warmth and flavor as Randolfi's, but with a Mexican and South American-inspired menu (think ceviche and pork belly tacos). Plus nothing sounds better on a cold winter day than the smell of that smokey wood fire hearth stove.
WHERE TO DRINK: Olive & Oak
The "#69," with whiskey, lemon, lime, Big O ginger liqueur, egg, and torched rosemary.
is the place to go for creative seasonal cocktails in St. Louis, according to Pernikoff. Festive cheer is definitely on the menu at this restaurant and bar in the Webster Groves suburb of St. Louis.
Pernikoff recommends the "#48" with rye whisky, a cafe liquor, ginger liquor and allspice infused dry curacao.
"It's a neat cocktail that changes as you drink and let it sit on your palate," says Chelsea Little, bar manager at Olive + Oak. "First you'll get rye and spice Orange then that will fade to coffee and finish chocolate."
Also on the menu is the #21, a seasonal Pimm's cup with reposado tequila, citrus, and a honey and Chinese five spice syrup, and the #78 with pear, lime, fino sherry, scotch, gin and umami bitters.
WHERE TO SIGHT-SEE: Art Hill In Forest Park
Don't just see the sights, sled down them (or gleefully watch others sled) — it's a tradition that dates back to . "Nothing is more nostalgic in St. Louis than celebrating the season by sledding down in the center of the city's pride and joy," Miller says.
Plus, after you take a slide, you can head inside to warm up at the , which is located at the top of the steep hill and lends it its name. Or explore the rest of the attractions in the 1,371-acre Forest Park (that's way bigger than Manhattan's Central Park) like the , known as one of the country's most impressive, the and the .
WHERE TO SHOP: Antique Row On Cherokee Street
In the small, local shops that line Cherokee Street, also called Antique Row, you'll find unique gifts for everyone on your list, whether that's a one-of-a kind ornate mirror from , a hip, European-inspired furniture and décor shop, or a very-boho, handmade scarf from , a clothing, accessories and homeware boutique.
Plus, you know that inevitable crash you experience during a long day of holiday shopping? Avoid it altogether by heading to Antique Row during the first weekend of December for the 33rd annual . During the two-day event, stores offer complimentary cookies while you're browsing the racks, local musicians and carolers perform and there is even a visit from Santa.
WHERE TO TAKE THE FAMILY: Grand Hall At Union Station
Santa's going to be making plenty of special appearances around St. Louis this season, but there's only one place where the kids can get a full-on North Pole experience, and that's Union Station, a retired 19th-century train station and National Historic Landmark that's now a tourist attraction with a hotel, event spaces and shopping. Miller calls Union Station "the most glamorous place for the kids to see Santa."
The centerpiece of is "Santa's Express Train Ride," a real train ride that leaves from the "North Pole" with hot chocolate and Christmas cookies, and brings families to "Santa's House and Toy Factory." In the North Pole, children will also be able to build their own train car toys at "Santa's Workshop," mail a letter to Santa from the "North Pole Mail Room," and of course, snap a photo with the man himself. Other events include holiday dinners, and "reindeer rise-n-shine breakfasts," carriage rides, a holiday water and fire show, and ice tubing at "Glacier Park." The festivities run through January 6.
WHERE TO SEE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS: Winter Wonderland At Tilles Park
To experience out-of-this-world Christmas lights, Pernikoff recommends taking a drive or a horse-drawn carriage ride through at Tilles Park. You'll spot brightly colored elves, snowmen, reindeer and Santa Clause, and even drive under a massive wreath-shaped arch.
Winter Wonderland first began in 1986 and has become an annual tradition for local families ever since. The event features more than a million colorful lights and planning for the display begins months before. This year, the display officially opens on the day before Thanksgiving and closes New Year's Day.
WHERE TO FIND A GREAT PHOTO OP: Garden Glow
Visiting a garden in winter might seem like a strange thing to do, but Missouri Botanical Garden's is a can't-miss event, according to Pernikoff and Miller. Here, from November 19 to January 1, more than a million lights glimmer in multiple colors. There will also be music, food and drink at Sassafras café, translating to plenty of memories to capture.
Plus, on December 13, the Garden is offering a "Photographer Night" for anyone with a camera and tripod, whether you're an expert or beginner. The park will be closed to the public for 90 minutes for a self-guided experience capturing the glowing installations.