Vibrant Mardi Gras Celebrations in St. Louis’s Soulard Neighborhood
New Orleans might be the North American epicenter of Mardi Gras celebrations, but St. Louis gives the Big Easy a run for its money. St. Louis’s Mardi Gras tradition began modestly in 1980, when a group of friends dressed up in boas and beads and marched en masse to a nearby pub in Soulard, a historic French neighborhood just south of the city’s center. They were promptly turned away. More than 30 years later, thousands of revelers descend on Soulard to join in on centuries-old Fat Tuesday traditions of feasting, drinking, and dancing the night away before Ash Wednesday kicks off 40 days of Lent.
On the weekend of February 8–10, you’ll stay at one of the 10 available St. Louis–area hotels, which range from the centrally located Cheshire hotel to a DoubleTree in nearby Collinsville or Chesterfield. Those staying in Westport can board complimentary shuttles to and from the Mardi Gras events in Soulard. No matter which hotel you choose, you and three friends will enjoy daily breakfast, four drink vouchers, complimentary bead necklaces, and late check-out.
Though Mardi Gras officially falls on Tuesday, February 12, Soulard transforms its streets into a glittering party six weeks prior to the holiday, beginning January 6. You’ll get to experience Soulard at the height of its frenzy, on the weekend of February 8–10, just before Fat Tuesday. Festivities include a grand parade, main-stage concerts, and the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Ball on Friday night (tickets not included with this getaway).
St. Louis, Missouri: Urban Park Space and Brewery Tours in the Gateway City
The first thing you notice about the Gateway Arch is its height: at 630 feet, it's the tallest manmade monument in the United States, and it dwarfs the other buildings of the St. Louis skyline. Less obvious is the fact that the Arch is exactly as tall as it is wide, stretching out along the banks of the Mississippi River. You can take a ride to the summit for a bird's-eye view of the city's skyline and riverboats riding the Mississippi. Make sure you get to the Arch before 10 a.m.; after that, the lines start to get long, and tickets sometimes sell out in the afternoon.
Forest Park’s more than 1,200 acres of green space are also worth a visit. Contained in this space is the Saint Louis Zoo, which corrals hundreds of species in several different habitats; it's frequently cited as one of the best zoos in the country, and entrance is free. At high noon, sunbeams create a natural light show on the geometric façade of the Jewel Box, a 1936 art-deco greenhouse in the southeast quadrant of the park. To the north, there's the Boathouse, where you can rent a pedal-powered boat to explore Post-Dispatch Lake.
Though it was originally a hub for railroads and the fur trade, St. Louis eventually became known for being the headquarters of brewing giant Anheuser-Busch, which began producing there in 1852. On a tour through the red-brick brewery, you can sample beers and visit the stables where the company keeps its iconic clydesdale horses.