LGBT Friendly Neighborhoods
St. Louis has grown from a 1764 fur-trading village into a major American city made up of distinct neighborhoods. St. Louis’ long history is reflected in the architecture, personalities, and events of each special part of town. And, it’s not surprising, that the most interesting areas are also among the most LGBT friendly. Hot spot neighborhoods include:
Rainbow flags proudly wave along Manchester Avenue in The Grove, the epicenter of St. Louis’ LGBT nightlife located on between Tower Grove and Chouteau avenues. The ever-expanding scene boasts more than a dozen friendly hot spots, each with a unique vibe and anchored by the always welcoming LGBT Center of St. Louis. You can enjoy a cocktail at Meyer’s Grove or chill at Erney’s 32°; mingle on the massive patio at Just John and the welcome-to-all atmosphere prevails at Novak’s Bar & Grill, Rehab and Atomic Cowboy. Nearby are JJ’s and Bad Dog, popular Levi/leather and bear haunts. A few blocks north, in Midtown Alley, The Fountain on Locust offers sinful ice cream cocktails, special Drag Shows and Lingerie Nights within the Art Deco-splendor of St. Louis’ old Stutz Bearcat Auto Showroom.
Central West End (CWE)
A LGBT favorite since the 1960’s, The CWE is arguably St. Louis’ most cosmopolitan neighborhood and beckons you to linger at sidewalk cafés, exciting galleries, trendy boutiques and cozy pubs. Take the St. Louis LGBT History Walking Tour created by The St. Louis LGBT History Project. What’s more, shop, dine or check in to one of the neighborhood’s hotels to get a feel for this vibrant and architecturally beautiful area. Stroll out the doors of the classic Chase-Park Plaza or recently opened Hotel Indigo to take in these amenities. Tree-lined private streets display stately turn-of-the-century homes, new high-rise condo towers, lofts and apartments. Playwright Tennessee Williams called this neighborhood home and based the setting for his classic, The Glass Menagerie, on the still-standing apartment building there. The awe-inspiring Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis and historic Forest Park are the anchors of this exciting neighborhood. Annual events include a popular house tour in the spring, the Taste of the Central West End food festival in June, a Greek Festival on Labor Day weekend and Halloween festivities in October. LGBT-centric shops and nightspots including the always popular Loading Zone and Latin-inspired Club Viva await visitors.
This wonderful neighborhood hosts St. Louis’ annual PrideFest and Pride parade. The area’s diversity is on full display as block after block along Grand Boulevard is alive with Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Latin and Chinese restaurants, ethnic groceries, boutiques, vintage clothing stores and Asian import centers. Popular LGBT-owned businesses include MoKaBe’s, the venerable coffee house at Arsenal and Grand; Absolutli Goosed, where mixologists make magic with martinis and Cheap TRX, the funky and fabulous LGBT shopping experience. Tower Grove Park, an elegant 19th- century Victorian walking park with original picnic pavilions, statuary, and mock classical “ruins,” abuts this neighborhood. The park, established in 1868 is a National Historic Landmark, one of only four municipal parks in the nation to achieve that status. Annual events include a Chinese New Year celebration in February, an April house tour, the Festival of Nations and Pride Fest in the summer, the Pagan Fest each fall and a holiday walk in November.
Named for an old streetcar turnaround, the always-changing neighborhood is home to one-of-a-kind stores and boutiques and more than 40 ethnic and American restaurants. The chicly retro Pin-Up Bowl, the Pageant concert nightclub and the Tivoli movie theatre provide plenty of opportunity for late night fun. Catch a concert by Chuck Berry (yes, THE Chuck Berry) at Blueberry Hill and saunter down the St. Louis Walk of Fame to learn more about the famous Americans (including LGBTers Tennessee Williams and Josephine Baker) that called the Gateway City home. The newest attraction in the neighborhood is the Moonrise Hotel for those who are having so much fun they just can’t go home.
Soulard & Cherokee Street
Just a few minutes south of the Arch, St. Louis blues music takes the stage in the Soulard neighborhood’s clubs and restaurants. Home to the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in the nation, Soulard is known for corner clubs where visitors can hear America’s greatest roots music. Elaborate courtyards offer outdoor dining from spring through fall. Soulard Farmers Market, operating continuously since 1779, is the neighborhood’s centerpiece where locals and visitors alike buy fresh produce, flowers, baked goods and exotic spices. Don’t miss a visit to Clementine’s, St. Louis’ oldest gay bar founded in 1978. Also be sure to storm The Bastille, another cozy LGBT establishment that serves decadent libations and held the title of #1 Gay Bar in St. Louis by a local entertainment guide.
Immediately south of Soulard, St. Louis’ attic is open for inspection on Cherokee Street, St. Louis’ antique row. Dozens of merchants sell items from the past in treasure-filled stores. The Greek Revival Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion and the Lemp Mansion – a restaurant and B&B known as one of St. Louis’ top “haunted” houses – are other popular stops. Follow Cherokee Street west of Jefferson to visit restaurants, groceries and shops in one of St. Louis’ emerging Hispanic neighborhoods.
St. Louis’ “other” downtown can be found in Clayton, the seat of St. Louis County government. MetroLink light rail makes it easier than ever to visit the neighborhood where dozens of tasty restaurants, fine art galleries and boutiques are joined by elegant hotels including the Ritz Carlton and the Tudor-designed Seven Gables Inn. The Saint Louis Art Fair, rated tops in the nation, attracts more than 100,000 people to Clayton’s streets each September, and the Taste of Clayton food festival celebrates the city’s culinary artistry every June.
Another longtime LGBT favorite, this elegant neighborhood is a blend of historic and contemporary. The Square surrounds beautiful Lafayette Park, named after the Revolutionary War hero who visited St. Louis in 1825. Stately French Second Empire homes that frame the square have been called the finest and largest collection of Victorian-era architecture in the country. B&B-lodgings, including gay-owned and operated Napoleon’s Retreat, provide luxurious resting places. Acclaimed modern restaurants like Vin de Set, SqWires and 1111 Mississippi sustain discriminating palates and wine bars, brew pubs and a craft liquor distillery quench your thirst. The annual House & Garden Tour and a Victorian Art Festival are held in June while the neighborhood’s Art Fair is an annual October event. Parlor tours take place during the holiday season, offering a peek inside the homes when they’re dressed in their finest.