Central West End
Imagine the endless possibilities of a neighborhood that offers visitors the chance to imagine, create, explore, unwind and dream. The Central West End — where the familiar moniker of Eat, Play, Shop is too bland a description for this vibrant, elegant, diverse and eclectic neighborhood where visitors can meander down tree-shaded streets lined with iconic winged griffin lamp posts, flowers, and stunning historic homes that date back to the 1904 World’s Fair in Forest Park.
Located just west of downtown, the pedestrian-friendly Central West End is nestled between Forest Park and the Saint Louis University campus. Nearby are the Washington University School of Medicine, the BJC Healthcare campus, the St. Louis College of Pharmacy and the Cortex Innovation Community, a national leader in tech startups.
The CWE business district stretches just under a mile on Euclid and provides the perfect set-up for walking its entire length. The district is home to more than 75 restaurants, bars and businesses that will satisfy any vacation to-do list. From downtown take the MetroLink light rail to the Central West End station.
The area’s development began in the late 1800s following the dedication of Forest Park, the city’s 1,300-acre crown jewel. Many of the city’s wealthier citizens followed and built the beautiful single-family homes that still reflect an elegant charm from a previous era. Notable business leaders who have called the neighborhood home include Albert Bond Lambert, Joseph Pulitzer and Dwight Davis, to name a few. The area was named one of America’s Top 10 Great Neighborhoods by the American Planning Association in 2014.
What to do once there? Mingle at spacious, street-side patios next to antique stores that offer endless opportunities for “honey-do” projects back home. Create a stained glass window or scented body oil, sip a new whiskey, play chess with the locals on the sidewalk outside the Chess Club. Take pictures in front of the world’s largest chess piece – 14 feet tall — outside the World Chess Hall of Fame. Let the kids play with the life-size chess pieces on the patio outside – or join them.
Just down the street at the corner Euclid and McPherson is Writer’s Corner, which features metal busts of T.S. Eliot, Tennessee Williams, and Kate Chopin, all literary greats who hail from the neighborhood.
Dine on whatever food group strikes your fancy — sushi, crawfish, tacos, tabouleh, burgers and more. Order drinks at the rooftop bar at Mandarin Lounge back bar and take in the scene of the dancing fountain on the brick-lined side street below. Take the stairs down to Club Viva and learn how to salsa with the crowd inside; listen to live music on the street every Friday night in the summer outside the Coffee Cartel; window shop for that gift you’ll find nowhere else at Q Boutique; savor an ice cream cone with the kids from Jeni’s; read to your heart’s content at Left Bank books, the region’s oldest independent bookstore; peruse the treasures inside the district’s five art galleries; or rent a bike for the day at Mike’s Bike’s. For those interested in spending the night, check into the luxurious and historic Chase Park Plaza Hotel across from the park. Sip on drinks from the Chase Club as you lounge around the ornate pool.
Other unique experiences include eating breakfast or lunch among the plants while dining on organic, house-made selections at Bowood Farms’ Cafe Osage. The plant, home and garden gift shop occupies a former decaying automotive repair warehouse dating back to the 1920s.
Visit the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis (est. 1914) on Lindell Boulevard and tour the largest collection of mosaics in the world, located downstairs at the Mosaic Museum. Bike, jog or walk along the paved paths winding through Forest Park, stopping along the way to visit the St. Louis Zoo. Need to rest? Catch a movie in the plush red seats at the Chase Park Plaza Cinemas.
On any given night the neighborhood establishments are hosting trivia nights, free movies on Maryland Plaza, crawfish boils, music trios and wine tastings at the Vino Gallery, to name a few.
Annual festivals capture the ambiance and flavor of the Central West End throughout the year. These include the Central West End Cocktail party (June); the Make Music St. Louis Festival, part of a global event held in honor of the summer solstice (June 21); the CWE House Tour (June); CWE Summer Music Series, held every Friday evening May through September; and the Summer Sidewalk Sale (July).
The CWE also plays host to the city’s most legendary Halloween street party, a decades old can’t-miss celebration of the season. Festivities kickoff with daytime activities for the whole family including a kids costume parade, and even a dog parade. The afternoon features food trucks and music from local bands. The party continues into the late evening with an adults-only bash and costume-contest known for its elaborate, decorative and outrageous costumes.
Following Thanksgiving, the district celebrates Small Business Saturday featuring products from the neighborhood businesses. Each Saturday thereafter, leading up to Christmas, the CWE Window Walk showcases artistically decorated storefront windows. All CWE festivities are free and open to the public. Visit cwescene.com for more information.
Come alone, bring a friend, invite the family – stay for a day, or two.
Imagine. Create. Explore. Unwind. Dream.