You have three days to spend in Missouri. What do you do, see, eat?? The possibilities are truly endless. But I have some options for you because I just returned from a trip to Missouri to visit my best friend, Christina, who is a travel nurse on assignment there. We had such an incredible time and I can’t wait to share it all with you! Keep reading for ideas for 12 things to do, see, eat and drink, and where to stay…and a slide show of my trip.
My Missouri Vacation
Christina is living in downtown St. Louis, which, oddly enough, didn’t figure into our plans (this time!). The things we planned to do, see, and eat were all driving distance away. The nice thing about St. Louis and the surrounding area, though, is that most things are pretty close to the city core. The furthest we drove was an hour west to Augusta, Missouri wine country.
I arrived on Monday night and the two of us decided that, rather than head straight to her apartment, she’d show me a little of the downtown St. Louis night life first. We headed to the Broadway Oyster Bar where a $5 cover got us in to enjoy some live blues while we sipped cocktails. I love listening to blues, especially live, and we even got up to dance!
On my first day, as the sun tried desperately to break through the clouds, Christina and I drove around so she could show me some sights. Her apartment is only a few blocks from Busch Stadium where the St. Louis Cardinals played against the New York Mets every day that I was there. It’s an open stadium and it was so much fun to be able to see the bleachers crowded with red-clad fans! We agreed on Mexican food for lunch and, because that just wasn’t rich and filling enough, Italian food for dinner.
South of the border comfort food for lunch
Christina recommended El Burro Loco Mexican restaurant in the central west end. You’ll find all the usual suspects on their menu, plus a HUGE selection of margaritas. We didn’t order margaritas, but saw that other people who had were brought what looked to be birdbath-sized glasses! We were seated quickly and the staff were all very friendly and accommodating. Apparently, they sometimes have mariachi bands in the evenings, which would be so much fun! Christina ordered a fajita burrito and I ordered an enchilada combo plate. We enjoyed our lunches, although it really wasn’t anything special and certainly not authentic. It is Americanized Mexican fare, which I do crave sometimes, so I wasn’t dissatisfied. The price was moderate.
As I mentioned in my post about my two days in Norfolk, Virginia, I love zoos. Lucky me: St. Louis has one! Guess how much it costs to get in to the St. Louis Zoo? NOTHING–admission is free! Their mission, “To conserve animals and their habitats through animal management, research, recreation, and educational programs that encourage the support and enrich the experience of the public”, is evident throughout this 90-acre zoo. There was much excitement about a brand new pair of grizzly bears and even more exciting are the 8 cheetah cubs born last November–a first for the St. Louis zoo. They aren’t allowed outside yet, but I imagine it won’t be long now.
Dinner on the Hill
Because there was a baseball game in full swing (hehe), we decided to look for Italian food on The Hill (a neighborhood on high ground south of Forest Park). We discovered Charlie Gitto’s on the Hill which had a warm, low-key atmosphere and friendly, attentive staff. The clientele appeared to be mostly business people in groups of four or more, but there were a few tables where dates were going on. Charlie Gitto’s on the Hill is known for their homemade ravioli and Christina chose the over-the-top rich lobster version. I chose chicken marsala which absolutely made my day! Dinner, side salads, wine, and coffee for two resulted in a surprisingly reasonable bill. We did have reservations, which we made earlier in the day when we chose this restaurant for dinner.
After a leisurely morning of coffee and biscotti at home, we headed west to wine country. From St. Louis to Augusta, the trip is about an hour. Living in Vermont can mean long drives to grocery stores, entertainment, and restaurants, so this particular drive didn’t faze us. Once we got out of the city and began heading into the country, the scenery changed from concrete to forest and meadows. It’s gorgeous and reminded me so much of Vermont. We didn’t pre-plan which wineries to go to–we just went where the roads took us and stopped when we felt it was right.
Our first stop was Defiance Ridge Vineyards in Defiance, MO. This is a new enough winery that they haven’t begun to harvest their own grapes, yet–that will happen this fall. Until that happens, they are offering Missouri and West Coast varietals. The historic farmhouse winery of Defiance Ridge is a set on 42 acres of rolling hills and dining terraces offer breathtaking views of the Missouri River Valley.
Even though the day was hazy and overcast, it was comfortably warm out so we opted for lunch on the terrace. We each chose a dry white to complement the Farmer’s Board we ordered for lunch. Cured meats, cheeses, olives, pickled vegetables, grapes, candied nuts, fruit preserves, and a smoked trout spread were exactly the right thing to kick off our wine country tour. Not only that, but Sirius XM’s The Bridge was playing. You have to know us to know how exactly perfect that was! Whenever we get together, we listen to that station or to Pandora stations we made that play the same genre of music: 1970’s easy listening. It’s like this first stop was predestined!
Next stop was Augusta Winery. This week Missouri was celebrating their 16th annual Plein Air Arts Festival. Plein air is a French term meaning to paint outdoors. As we tasted our wines, artists arrived and began to stake out territory all over the vineyard where they would spend the afternoon painting the beautiful Missouri wine country scenery.
Augusta Winery, an award winning winery that vints in small quantities, also teaches wine classes and has a separate building for events. Chris and I both chose a $5 tasting of 5 wines. We would never claim to be wine experts, but we found that the wines we tasted were a tad on the sweet side. The dry ones seemed a little sweet and the sweet ones were a little syrupy for our tastes. No matter–we still had a lovely time admiring the lovely tasting room, the art displayed for sale by the visiting artists, and the scenery from the deck.
Our last wine stop of the day was Montelle Winery, where we were treated to friendly conversation with the knowledgeable staff member who provided our tasting (I wish I’d gotten his name!). Oh, and The Bridge was playing there, too! The scenery from the deck outside the tasting room is absolutely breathtaking–probably the most beautiful view we saw during our time in wine country. And the wines we tasted were spectacular. Of all the wineries we visited during our two day tour of Missouri wine country, I would have to say the wines at Montelle Winery were far and away the best. I walked out of there with two bottles in hand and instructions to Chris to bring them back with her when she drives home in July. A tasting here is also $5 for 5 wines and you get to keep your glass.
A B&B Not to be Forgotten
I am so, so glad that Christina booked us a night at Stoneridge Farms Bed & Breakfast in Augusta. This was absolutely the highlight of our wine country vacation. Innkeepers Jeff & Jeannine purchased this B&B, located along the historic and scenic Lewis & Clark Trail, two years ago and have transformed it into a dream getaway estate. With Jeff’s business expertise and Jeannine’s interior design background and passion for the culinary arts, this is an inn that has planted its flag firmly on Missouri’s hospitality map.
We stayed in the Woodland suite ($219/night, accommodates 3 adults), which offers a king-sized bed and a twin day bed, a gas fireplace, satellite TV, and its own en suite bathroom with jacuzzi tub. Plush terry robes hang in the closet and organic soaps, bath gel, shampoo, and conditioner are made available. Downstairs in the common area, numerous books are available to read in the sitting room, along with games to play. More teas than I’ve ever seen in one place are on offer any time in the common area and healthy snacks were left in our room for us.
The grounds are expansive and scenic, overlooking a 14 acre lake and vineyards. We enjoyed our delicious breakfast in the 3 season porch while being serenaded by birds and frogs. After breakfast, we lingered on the porch and had fun chatting with Jeannine. We were sorry when it was time to pack up and go but we vowed to be back and we mean it!
When Christina booked our room at Stoneridge Farms B&B, she also reserved a table at The Silly Goose in Augusta. “Dedicated to provide the highest quality food on the market while utilizing the freshest and most local ingredients possible”, Silly Goose’s comfortable, inviting atmosphere enhances its mouthwatering meals.
It is incredibly hard to choose from the Southern-style offerings on the menu, but I went with the Chicken and Waffles (which Jeannine had highly recommended) and Christina chose the Chicken Fried Steak. We started with the appetizer special, Fried Green Tomatoes, which was topped with crab, much to my delight.
Chef/Owner Anastasia Adelman, featured in Feast Magazine, was at the helm the evening we ate there. She seated us, took our orders, prepared our food, served us, and charmed us with her sweet and friendly nature. For drinks, an appetizer, and dinners, our bill was shockingly reasonable. Definitely another reason to go back again.
Our last winery stop before heading back to St. Louis was Noboleis Vineyards. I was struck (again!–this is a reoccurring theme there) by how friendly and engaging people are in Missouri. We had such a nice conversation with the staff and we wound up staying to enjoy the sun that was gracing us with its presence. We again chose a 5-wine tasting for $5 (and the glasses were ours) and then we chose our favorite to have a glass of out on the lawn overlooking rolling vineyards. And we could even see Stoneridge Farms from there! The wines we tasted at Noboleis Vineyards were delicious and I chose a couple more for Chris to bring back to Vermont.
My favorite wine at all the wineries was the Norton, which is made from the nation’s oldest native grape. It has a fascinating history and I encourage you to read about it. According to Winemaker, “Many folks like to compare Norton with Zinfandel. Like Zin, Norton has a spicy, brambly character, but it is more deeply colored, and it often emphasizes dark fruit, coffee and chocolate-like flavors. The texture is medium-to-full-bodied and it can range from somewhat rough to silky smooth.”
Let’s Wrap Things Up with Some Art, Shall We?
Back in St. Louis, we made one more stop before heading back to Chris’s apartment to collapse in satisfied exhaustion: The St. Louis Art Museum. As I mentioned in my Two days in Norfolk, Virginia post, along with zoos, museums are always something I seek out when I visit new places. St. Louis is a wonderful place to visit if you’re on a budget because so many of its attractions are free, including the art museum. I was astounded by the number of works there–over 34,000! Some of the collections include African, American, Asian, and European art; contemporary art and Native American art; and photos, sculptures, and textile art. Set aside a few hours to wander around. Chris and I were tired and the museum wasn’t going to be open much longer when we got there, so we only spent an hour. Next time I’m in St. Louis I’ll make it a point to spend more time admiring all the museum has to offer.
Wow, my three days in Missouri flew by! But what a trip it was. I got to spend time with my bestie and we had an incredible adventure tasting wines, delicious foods, visiting animals and art, and the piece de resistance: our stay at Stoneridge Farms. Chris said that if she hadn’t been assigned to the hospital in Missouri, she doesn’t think she’d ever had gone there. And I, in turn, would never had thought to visit Missouri if Chris hadn’t been there on assignment. What an opportunity her assignment afforded both of us. Missouri is a beautiful state with absolutely lovely people. And St. Louis has so much to offer–much of it free! I’m definitely going back.
The Missouri Round-Up: Things to do, places to eat, wineries to visit, and where to stay
Restaurants to try
- El Burro Loco, St. Louis MO
- Charlie Gitto’s on the Hill, St. Louis MO
- Defiance Ridge Vineyards, Defiance MO
- The Silly Goose, Augusta MO
- Broadway Oyster Bar
Free things to do
- St. Louis Zoo
- St. Louis Art Museum
Wineries to visit
- Defiance Ridge Vineyards, Defiance MO
- Augusta Winery, Augusta MO
- Montelle Winery, Augusta MO
- Noboleis Vineyards, Augusta MO
Where to stay
- Stoneridge Farms Bed & Breakfast, Augusta MO
I hope I’ve inspired you to visit Missouri. It’s a beautiful state and you definitely won’t be bored. Especially if you love wine! 😉 Happy travels!
Slideshow – Three Days in Missouri