I have not attended a wedding since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, so I was delighted when my mom decided to invite me as her "plus one" for a wedding of a pair of TikTok influencers this summer in St. Louis.
Having only travelled to St. Louis a handful of times before on business trips and seen popular attractions downtown such as the Gateway Arch and Busch Stadium, I had never really gotten to know the city as a tourist, and I was excited to spend the weekend exploring.
Founded originally by the French, the city of St. Louis is named after the French King Louis IX, and there is a grand statue of the patron Saint Louis in front of the St. Louis Art Museum overlooking a vast expanse of Forest Park.
Both my mom and I arrived at St. Louis Lambert International Airport shortly after 12 noon on Friday, having left our respective houses in different cities at un-Godly early morning hours.
The wedding was on Saturday in Forest Park, one of the largest public parks in the entire United States. In fact, at an approximate size of 1,300 acres, Forest Park in St. Louis is even larger than Central Park in New York City.
The couple’s wedding website on TheKnot.com recommended The Element St. Louis Midtown hotel, which is in the Midtown neighborhood of St. Louis and about a mile from the east entrance of Forest Park.
After checking into the hotel, we were hungry for lunch and right across the street from our hotel was City Foundry STL, a food hall in an old industrial complex, which came highly recommended by our Lyft driver.
I love food halls, and City Foundry STL not only had a variety of interesting food options but also an interesting steampunk-style setting inside its industrial warehouse space.
I decided to try Indian food at Turmeric Street Style, which was super delicious, spicy and quite affordable.
For dessert, I had Patty's Cheesecakes, which was located next to Turmeric Street Style.
After a much-needed nap, we were off to the rehearsal dinner at Favazza’s on the Hill.
As our ride-share drove us through the Italian-American neighborhood of The Hill in St. Louis on our way to dinner, I was reminded of Boston's North End and New York City's Little Italy, albeit in a Midwestern setting.
The bride and groom had rented out the family-owned Favazza’s on the Hill's private banquet room for a dinner of fifty of their closest friends and out-of-town guests.
The three-course meal included salad and garlic bread as a starter.
For the main course, it was a buffet-style serving, where each table was allowed to approach the buffet.
The buffet included ziti with creamy alfredo sauce, fish, chicken parmesan, roasted potatoes and other items. The big guy sitting next to me definitely helped himself to multiple plates at the buffet.
For dessert, we each were served a raspberry cream cannoli and our choice of decaf or regular coffee.
That night, I rolled into bed stuffed like a tick and hoping I could get some outdoor exercise tomorrow.
Luckily, as the wedding festivities were not to commence until 4.30pm Saturday, my mom and I had ample time for exploring, and as it was a beautiful day, we decided to do our own walking tour of a few of the sights in nearby Forest Park.
First on our agenda was the St. Louis Zoo, open 9am - 5pm throughout the summer and fall.
Admission to the zoo is free; although, there is a $15 fee per vehicle for parking, and the line on a Saturday morning in the summer to get into the South parking lot stretched at least a half a mile.
Once inside, we spent a few hours walking around the zoo, highlighted by the River’s Edge section seeing elephants, hippos and other African wildlife.
If the lines aren’t too long, and a ticketed train ride for the family is in your budget, check out the Emerson Zooline Railroad, one of the St. Louis Zoo’s top attractions.
The Emerson Zooline Railroad offers a 20-minute narrated tour weaving through tunnels and past favorite animal exhibits on a 1½-mile round trip.
Leaving the zoo's northern entrance, we then walked towards the Boathouse in Forest Park (which is strikingly familiar to the Boathouse in New York City's Central Park).
Finally, we visited the World’s Fair Pavilion, which St. Louis hosted in the city’s heyday of 1904.
That afternoon, we congregated in the lobby of the Element to take a shuttle over to the wedding ceremony at The Jewel Box, which is a stunning renovated greenhouse also located in Forest Park.
The Jewel Box was an incredible backdrop for the wedding ceremony, and the bouquet of fresh flowers and greenery lent a sophisticated air of romance to the nuptials.
One new post-COVID wedding trend I had never seen before was the unveiling of a wedding time capsule box.
Apparently now all the rage at weddings in 2022, the couple had set aside items that were pivotally important to the progression of their relationship, and they spoke to the entire crowd about each item.
After the ceremony, the shuttles took us to the reception at Forest Park Golf Course, also located inside the vast environs of Forest Park.
Several hours later after many courses of food and beverages, the dance floor started to stir, and after 10pm, the reception moved back to the rooftop bar called UPBAR at the Element Midtown Hotel for the afterparty, which carried on until the wee hours of Sunday morning.
While there was no scheduled wedding brunch Sunday, we did see the couple at the free breakfast downstairs at the hotel the next morning.
We said our goodbyes to the happy couple and headed to the stately St. Louis Art Museum, also located in Forest Park.
Entrance to the museum is free (special exhibitions do require a fee), and the art on display is located across three massive floors.
With works ranging from European to African to Asian to American across numerous genres and periods, the Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the most expansive - yet approachable - museums in the country.
And you certainly can't argue with the price.
You can tour the entire St. Louis Museum of Art in about three hours, and the museum's upscale restaurant, Panorama, offers exquisite views of Forest Park as well as brunch on the weekends from 10am - 3pm.
Before our late checkout at the Element, my mom and I walked the grounds of nearby St. Louis University, which seems like a beautiful campus.
While there, I learned that the mascot of St. Louis University is The Billiken - which apparently is a mythical creature of good will. Sounds like a concept I can totally get behind.
As I boarded my flight back home to Austin from St. Louis that Sunday evening, I reflected.
St. Louis would not normally be in my regular travel plans; however, when visiting on a wedding weekend, I realized that enjoying St. Louis's food, art, culture and history allowed me a greater understanding of the city's unique part of American history.
Oh yeah, and I got to go to an amazing wedding too.
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