Unless you’ve experienced Missouri Days like most children raised in the Show-Me State, I’m sure you didn’t know that Saint Charles was Missouri’s state capitol for the first five years of the state’s existence. Les Petites Côtes (aka Saint Charles, or, The Little Hills) is an often overlooked historical landmark in our country’s history.
Saint Charles was the last “civilized” location Louis and Clark stopped at before heading West to explore the newly adopted Louisiana Purchase. So, while the Arch may be in Saint Louis, Saint Charles is the true gateway to the West.
I’m pretty passionate about the lack of credit my hometown gets when it comes to recognition for its contribution to U.S. history. The Historic District downtown is a quaint place that has managed to keep hold of its old time charm, while the area around it develops into a modern suburbia of Saint Louis. Main Street is probably the best location to truly experience the authentic throwback.
As a cobblestone street lined with family-owned shops, Main Street is the best place to truly experience Saint Charles, Missouri. With the Missouri River always in view, it’s a wonderful place to explore throughout the year. There are festivals on the lakefront during the summer, but my favorite time of year to visit is Christmas time. The streets are lined with carolers, chestnut roasters, and international adaptations of Santa Claus. Downtown quite literally turns into a Midwestern winter wonderland.
No matter what time of year you decide to stop by, I can promise you’ll find a unique store that you’ll fall in love with on Main Street. These are my must-stop shops when I go downtown for the day.
This store is my first stop every time I go to Main Street. This is mainly because it fuels my addiction to Lyons Irish tea and dark chocolate digestives. It also might just be because I love this shop.
When it comes to UK treats, the store has an amazing stock of Cadbury chocolate, Walker crisps, and other classic snacks that are not easy to come by in the States. The abundance of British delicacies can be found on one half of the store while modern and classic chinaware, British nostalgia, and football memorbilia (aka soccer) can be found on the other. There are hidden surprises around every corner.
Keep an eye out for the nods of British humor hidden throughout the store as well. Some of my favorites are the “kittens” for sale and the reminder to “Mind the Gap” at the front door.
This coffee shop is the closest things I’ve found to the real-life Central Perk from Friends. With insanely knowledgable baristas and its welcoming layout, this is the perfect cafe for any artsy individual.
Weather you’re a writer, an artist, or a musician, I know you’re sure to fit in at Picasso’s. Local artwork is always on display and available for purchase; you’re sure to find at least one writer hunched over their laptop any time you stop by. Even if you aren’t the creative type, this is an ideal place to grab lunch with friends (their hummus plate is killer).
At night, Picasso’s goes from a laidback coffee shop to a chill bar scene. Open Mic Nights are hosted Thursdays from 7 p.m. to midnight. If you stop in for coffee, give their Mocha Mona a try. If you’re there for a nightcap, they have a fantastic selection of specialty cocktails you won’t want to miss.
If you’re a foodie, look no further. This shop is the home of high quality olive oils and balsamic vinegars with a twist. They have a range of unique flavors you’ll have a hard time finding anywhere else. Each vinegar and oil can be sampled while you’re in the store, giving you the chance to taste the many possibilities for your kitchen.
My personal favorites are the Rustic Rosemary olive oil and the Double Dark Chocolate balsamic vinegar. I wouldn’t suggest mixing these two flavors, of course, but if you’re looking for perfect pairings, the staff and owner, Robert Palleja, are extremely friendly and knowledgeable. They are more than happy to answer any questions you may have about their products.
Don’t forget to grab copies of Sauce and Feast, two of Saint Louis’s premier food magazines, before you leave the store. Maybe add a fun kitchen gadget to your basket as well. Everything about this shop is sure to make your inner chef do a happy dance.
*Di Olivas is currently undergoing some exciting renovations and I can’t wait to see how they turn out.
Nothing makes my heart much happier than walking into a restored barn filled with quirky creations and antiques. I stumbled upon Joys with some friends from PA while they were passing through last August (their visit actually inspired the creation of this blog).
From boho chic clothes to jukeboxes, Joys is a gigantic chest of hidden treasures. I could easily drain my bank account here; it has everything I could possibly want to decorate my dream apartment. My favorite room in Joys is filled with old cameras, maps, frames, and books. I have to stop myself from spending an hour in that room alone when I go downtown.
Rummaging through all of the quirky antiques is a ton of fun, but there are also a lot of newly created items available for purchase, all of which were created by local vendors and artists.
When you step foot into this gallery, you can instantly sense the eclectic and collaborative nature of everyone involved in Missouri Artists on Main (MAOM). From handmade scarves to mixed media collages, there is something for every artistic taste. They even host art classes, ranging from beginner to advanced, giving anyone in the Saint Charles community a chance to be creative.
I could stay at MAOM for hours looking at the different artwork on display. Out of respect to the artists, and per request of the staff, I only took pictures outside of the gallery. I will say, though, that I’m always drawn to Purple Rain, a watercolor print by Judy Smith. It can be found on the first floor of the gallery, so be sure to take a peek inside. The craftsmanship used to create every item in this gallery will honestly leave you in awe and is sure to give you a taste of some of the true talent Missouri has to offer.
Did you sign up to bring dip to your next office party and need a quick and easy mix that is sure to wow your co-workers? Hit up:
Are you craving some Irish American pub grub? Grab a bite at:
Do you need a little bicycle expertise or just want to stock up on some new gear? Stop by:
Do you have a sweet tooth that just can’t be tamed? Nothing’s better than this Main Street classic:
Are you a self-proclaimed bookworm that loves indie stores? Main Street’s got you covered at:
As I’m sure you can tell, Saint Charles is a close-knit community that deserves more recognition than it already gets. Whether it’s just while you’re passing through or if it’s for an actual visit, I hope you find the time to stop by Main Street Saint Charles the next time you’re in the Show-Me State.