With a unique blend of 19th century architecture, intriguing historic sites, and one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants, Historic Saint Charles, Missouri, is a place where the essence of history and life in a simpler time envelops you.
History buffs won’t want to miss the Lewis & Clark Boat House and Nature Center. This museum highlights the expedition and features Native American artifacts and Missouri River habitats encountered during the journey. The museum’s artwork, Missouri River Walk, is the largest indoor mural in the state. Be sure to see the full-scale replica keelboat and pirogues, and stop for a picture at the larger-than-life Lewis & Clark Monument near the site of their original 1804 encampment.
Also located within a stone’s throw of the Missouri River is the First Missouri State Capitol State Historic Site. This was the first seat of the state’s government from 1821-1826. Its rough-hewn timbers and dark wood floors whisper the tales of the state’s first legislature. Interpretive programs help visitors understand how the state’s government was formed and what life was like in the early 1800s.
Running parallel to the river, Historic Main Street is home to more than 100 one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants in restored buildings that date back to the 1800s. Once named the “Williamsburg of the West” by Southern Living magazine, the 10-block stretch of South Main is one of Missouri’s oldest and largest historic districts. Here you’ll find everything from colonial reproductions to floral arrangements, infused olive oils, handmade soaps and more. And if all that strolling makes you hungry, dine al fresco at one of the many patio cafes.
Once you’ve shopped down Main Street, stop in at The Foundry, an interactive, interdisciplinary art center located in what was once a train car factory. Studios with open glass fronts allow visitors to see the artists at work and interact with them as they practice their craft.
Throughout the year, Saint Charles hosts more than 70 festivals, plays, concerts and other special events. The biggest include Heritage Days, an authentic reenactment of Lewis & Clark’s 1804 encampment; the Festival of the Little Hills, voted Best Craft Fair in the Midwest in 2011 by Midwest Living; and Christmas Traditions, a month-long celebration featuring a cast of over 40 legendary Santas and storybook characters. Nightlife and casino gaming are also part of the St. Charles entertainment scene, and St. Louis’ attractions are just 20 minutes away.
The treasures of Saint Charles continue to the west in Historic Missouri Wine Country. This region became the first federally appropriated American Viticultural Area, a winemaking region prized for unique soil, microclimate and history. Share a bottle of award-winning wine as you enjoy the picturesque surroundings from a hilltop terrace.
Afterward, tour the Daniel Boone Home and Heritage Center. Stories of this daring man will offer a glimpse into family matters, risky adventures and hard fought battles. It was Boone who created Boone’s Lick Trail through the Saint Charles countryside, out of which grew the Santa Fe Trail and later the Oregon Trail.