Much of Greater St. Louis' character and charm arises from its neighborhoods, which foster a connectedness among people that is rare today among large metropolitan areas. Whether it is to their immediate neighborhoods, to their schools, or to their particular municipalities within the 15-county region, St. Louisans tend to develop strong ties to their close surroundings.
There are hundreds of distinct neighborhoods and mini-communities in the area, far too many to list individually. Here's a snapshot:
- Within the city, a few of the more prominent include the downtown loft district, centered on Washington Avenue; Lafayette Square, with its gorgeous Victorian townhouses and mansions; Soulard, with its historic farmers' market and 19th century French-inspired architecture; the Hill, an historic Italian neighborhood that spawned baseball's Yogi Berra; the Central West End, whose eclectic combination of mansions, townhouses, restaurants and shops gave rise to many of St. Louis’s famous writers and artists and which formed the setting for “Meet Me in St. Louis”; Compton Heights, with its wide setbacks and spacious mansions, a National Historic District; The Grove, a vibrant and diverse community southeast of Forest Park; Parkview, and The Ville, which gave the world rock ‘n roll pioneer Chuck Berry and comedian Dick Gregory; South Grand, with its Vietnamese and Thai restaurants, among others; Cherokee, with its antique shops and Hispanic flavor; and Old North, known best for its landmark Crown Candy Kitchen.
- St. Louis County, meanwhile, features some of the most beautiful suburbs to be found anywhere in the United States; communities like Webster Groves, Kirkwood, Clayton, Ladue and many others feature outstanding homes in gorgeous settings. St. Louis County also includes University City, home of the Delmar Loop shopping and entertainment area and, at various times, of playwright Tennessee Williams, jazz trumpeter Jeremy Davenport, rapper Nelly, and two late Poets Laureate of the United States, Howard Nemerov and Mona Van Duyn. And nearby is Maplewood, which has recently emerged as a center of funky restaurants and shopping.
- St. Charles County, further out in the Missouri portion of the region, has been the fastest growing part of the area and one of the fastest in the country for many years. St. Charles County offers a range of lifestyles of its own. It contains two of the 10 largest municipalities in the state – O’Fallon and St. Charles – as well as communities with a rural feel and lovely wine country overlooking the Missouri River. Old Town St. Charles, along the Missouri Riverfront, offers historic flavor from the Lewis and Clark era combined with the charm of specialty restaurants, taverns and small businesses. Among the many outdoor recreation options are the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area near Weldon Spring and the scenic Katy Trail, which winds through the St. Charles County landscape and is a favorite for joggers, hikers and cyclists.
- The Illinois part of the region offers its own charms. Handsome, small-town Edwardsville, which in 2013 was ranked No. 1 among the “Best Cities in Illinois for Young Families,” is also a college town; it’s home to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, whose more than 14,000 students enjoy a large, wooded campus connected to 86 miles of bicycle paths within Madison County. Larger communities like Belleville and Alton, offer historic areas and other charms, and are all within easy reach of the downtown St. Louis area.