Few places in the St. Louis area transport you back in time like St. Charles’s Historic Main Street. Right off the Missouri river, Main Street was an important trading stop that helped St. Charles become the Missouri state capital from 1821-1826. Most of the houses on Main Street date from the German influx in the early 1900s and, through preservation efforts, many have been converted into restaurants, antique stores, clothing boutiques, and other specialty stores.
My best visits to Historic St. Charles include dining at one of the many local restaurants and enjoying the unique setting. Many of the restaurants set the stage with water features, including a water wheel in front of Trailhead Brewing Company dating back to pre-Civil War days when the building was a woolen mill. The terrain is naturally hilly, which restaurants have used to their full advantage. Dining al fresco is popular with naturally tiered seating, fountains, and fire features for when there is a chill in the air. My favorite for outdoor dining is a newcomer to St. Charles, Salt and Smoke barbeque. I’ve always loved the space, even when it was Little Hills Winery, but now I love it even more!
Salt and Smoke started its flagship restaurant on the Delmar Loop in 2014 and St. Charles is its third location as the demand for this amazing barbeque continues to grow. I loved the melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork, but the sides are what went above and beyond expectations. The White Cheddar Cracker mac n cheese and the Barbeque Sweet Potato Chips were some of the best I’ve ever had and I can’t wait to go back and try their Pit Beans or Creamed Corn. The bestie deal allows two people to share, which is good because between my oldest daughter and I, we still couldn’t finish our meal. Unlike the Delmar location, this outdoor oasis looks out on a fountain, trees, and brick paved streets where I would be happy to spend all day!
Another popular outdoor space is outside Picasso’s Coffeehouse. Serving up hand crafted coffee, smoothies, beer, wine, and cafe style food, this coffeehouse delivers on taste while fostering community. On Fridays and Saturdays, they have local musicians, the inside displays local art, and Picasso’s sells other Main Street vendors’ treats!
There are many other fun eats to try here including Grandma’s Cookies, which features cookies that look like ice cream scoops and taste like they just came out of your family oven!
Besides food establishments, there are so many unique shops to peruse as well as several historical landmarks along the way. One of our favorites is the English Shop on 703 S. Main. Upon entering we were greeted by scone mixes, teas, and Cadbury chocolate, all of which practically teleported us to our trip to London! My husband particularly loves the football section in the back with all the Manchester United gear he could dream of!
My children and I love checking out independent bookstores and we have spent a rainy afternoon or two in Main Street Books on 307 S. Main. We pour over unique books about pirates, middle grade fiction,or whatever strikes our fancy that day by the upstairs couch and fireplace.
At Main Street Books, we also love their literary t-shirts, antique typewriter, antique style prints of maps, and more. I encourage you to wander in and out of the many antique stores, boutiques, and sweet shops of Main Street to find your family favorite!
At the end of Main Street, there is culture to be had at the Foundry Art Center.
The building that used to be a train car factory now functions as a gallery, a venue for events and performances, and working artists studios. The Baue Family Childrens Gallery hosts artwork from local schools (my own children’s work have been featured), while individual artists studios are open to viewing on the mezzanine level. While we were there, we got the chance to visit and speak with the owner of Argaman & Defiance, a clothing and textile designer. My girls were fascinated as the artist told them how she works with local farmers to get materials for her natural dyes. Art will become personal as you and your children get to know the artists.
If you are feeling like a more outdoorsy day, part of the Katy Trail is right next to Main Street, where you can walk right next to railroad tracks and the Missouri River in Foundry Park. The trails are paved and easy with views of the river, tall trees, and even gorgeous restaurant patios.
For more information on St. Charles check out A Locally Produced Guidebook to St. Charles by and for Locals by Justine Riggs and Vicki Berger Erwin. That is where most of the fact checking for this post came from.