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. You can enjoy a cocktail at The Monocle or chill at Erney’s 32°; mingle on the massive patio at Just John and the welcome-to-all atmosphere prevails Atomic Cowboy. A few blocks north, in Midtown Alley, The Fountain on Locust offers sinful ice cream cocktails 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. Stroll out the doors of the classic Chase-Park Plaza or comfy CWE Holiday Inn Express to take in these amenities. Tree-lined private streets display stately turn-of-the-century homes, new high-rise condo towers, lofts and apartments. The awe-inspiring Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis and historic Forest Park are the anchors of this exciting neighborhood. LGBT-centric shops and nightspots including the always popular Sub Zero and Latin-inspired Club Viva await visitors.
This wonderful neighborhood 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; Brickyard Tavern, 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.
Named for an old streetcar turnaround, the always-changing neighborhood is home to over 145 one-of-a-kind stores and boutiques and 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. 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. Stay in the funky Moonrise Hotel.
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. 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.