20 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to St. Louis

Welcome to St. Louis, known as the Gateway to the West and one of the county’s “little big cities.”

This historic Missouri location is full of vintage buildings, ample cultural attractions and beloved major-league teams. It’s known as a place with a low cost of living and has a booming start-up scene. It’s in the heart of the midwest and sits between the two longest rivers in the country: the Missouri and Mississippi.

Before you relocate to St. Louis, here are 20 things to know about living in the city that will help you feel at home fast.

1. Lost? Ask yourself, Where is the Arch?

If you feel yourself turned around, look for the Gateway Arch—or imagine where it is. Since St. Louis runs alongside a river, which happens to have a 600-plus foot monument near it, it’s always easy to determine which way is east.

2. When they say Highway 40, they mean Interstate 64.

The sign says Interstate 64, but everyone told you to take 40. Should you keep looking? Nope! Highway 40, or just “forty” when people give directions, means Interstate 64.

3. St. Louis City and St. Louis County are two different places.

St. Louis City and St. Louis County sound the same, but they’re actually separate. While some have fought to rejoin the two, the “City” and “County” are disconnected and you’ll see separate St. Louis City and St. Louis County public services and elected officials. The County is made up of a variety of suburbs such as Kirkwood, Ballwin, Olivette and Brentwood, and they’re often referred to with extra geographical information (North County, South County, and West County.) On a similar note, East St. Louis is not the eastern part of the city but rather a separate city in Illinois.

4. Speaking of Illinois, it’s very close.

St. Louis is nestled alongside the Mississippi River, which means Illinois and its closest cities (known collectively as the Metro East) are merely minutes away. It’s fairly common to live in this area and commute into Missouri for work. When someone says a person or business is “just across the river,” it typically means they’re located in Illinois.

5. Prepare to find your inner philanthropist.

St. Louis has been previously named America’s Most Charitable City by Charity Navigator, with the 2017 ranking of No. 3. Pick a local nonprofit and start donating or volunteering!

6. Get ready for free cultural attractions.

From the Saint Louis Art Museum to the Missouri History Museum to the Saint Louis Zoo, the Gateway City is full of free cultural attractions! Parking and special exhibits can have a cost, but keep an eye out for frequent free days or free parking outside of the main lot.

7. Beer is king in STL.

Craft beer is huge in St. Louis, but the biggest beer influence is from Anheuser-Busch. Typically referred to as “AB,” this historic brewery influences or is connected to much of St. Louis life.

8. We have the best fans in baseball…

Ask any Major League Baseball fan, and they’ll tell you the best fans in baseball belong to the St. Louis Cardinals. The vast majority of the city follows the team, and baseball always pops into conversation.

9. …And our hockey fans are great, too!

The Cardinals aren’t St. Louis’ only major-league team. The St. Louis Blues, a National Hockey League team, are also beloved in St. Louis.

10. We do holidays a little differently.

Get ready to celebrate! St. Louis is known for having one of the largest Mardi Gras celebrations outside of the Big Easy. In the summer, the Fourth of July means fireworks—they’re illegal in St. Louis City, but available nearby, which means fireworks can be heard all summer. And come autumn, you’ll discover trick-or-treaters actually tell a joke in order to get their candy.

11. Sweet tooth? Meet gooey butter cake.

Do you like treats with that slightly underbaked, melt-in-your-mouth consistency? You’ll love gooey butter cake, a St. Louis staple. This sweet and moist snack looks a bit like a blondie, but tastes like extra-buttery yellow cake with a gooey filling.

12. Toasted ravs are the appetizer of choice.

Mozzarella sticks are good. Hot wings are tasty. But in St. Louis, if you’re ordering a savory snack for the table, the clear choice is toasted raviolis. These “ravs” are actually deep fried and typically filled with meat or cheese.

13. Get ready to hear about the World’s Fair.

The 1904 World’s Fair was held in St. Louis, and it brought a reported 20 million people to the city. While little remains from the fair (the Art Museum is one of the few exceptions), it had a huge impact on St. Louis and is referenced frequently.

14. People will ask you where you went to high school… a lot.

St. Louis is one of those cities where high school is brought up regularly. While it may be a conversational filler or an attempt to find common ground, many say it’s a roundabout way to ask about someone’s financial background and general upbringing. Being a transplant means you can tap out of the conversation entirely.

15. You know New York Style and Chicago Style, but you’re about to try St. Louis Style pizza.

When ordering a pizza, be sure to ask if it is St. Louis style or not. This style of pizza, popularized by local chain Imo’s, is ultra thin and cut into squares. Instead of typical mozzarella, it’s topped with provel cheese.

16. Ted Drewes is your new BFF.

You probably won’t met the man himself, but the advertisements will make you feel like Ted Drewes, Jr. is your long-lost bestie. The Ted Drewes you’ll actually hold dear is the frozen custard sold at the iconic treat stand. Prepare to visit often.

17. Taste foods from around the world.

St. Louis has the largest Bosnian population outside of Bosnia, which means it is peppered with a plethora of delicious Balkan food. Looking for something else? Cherokee Street is known for its plentiful and authentic Mexican food, and The Hill is home to a myriad of popular Italian eateries. (You’ll know you’ve arrived when you spot the Italian flag fire hydrants.)

18. Don’t forget: You pay city earnings tax now.

Come April, you simply need to pay federal and state income taxes, right? Wrong! If you live or work inside St. Louis City limits, you must pay a 1% city earnings tax. Some employers remove this automatically, but it’s important to check to avoid late penalties.

19. Feeling lucky? Casinos are everywhere.

Whether you like to play the slots of try your hand at cards, St. Louis has a myriad of casinos. Look for a river and you’re likely to spot one on or by it.

20. You will get lost in Forest Park at least once.

Forest Park, the 6th most visited U.S. urban park, is a 1,300-acre destination with 45,000 trees. Since it’s so large—and has so many features, from golf to paddle boats—you’re sure to lose your way once or twice. Don’t get lost on your way to Forest Park, though; if they say turn right at the Amoco sign, never fear that you’ll miss it, as this nearby local landmark is the largest of its kind. (And since Amoco stations are a thing of the past, it’s on top of a BP gas station. Go figure.)

Julia Cain