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Ultimate St. Louis Holidays Bucket List

Imagine a holiday season where time pauses, and your wallet knows no bounds. Welcome to the dream holiday experience in St. Louis, a place where magical moments await at every turn. In this festive bucket list, I’m tossing aside the usual constraints of time and money, inviting you to indulge in the ultimate St. Louis holiday extravaganza. From the twinkling lights of the Botanical Garden to the extravagant feasts in the finest eateries, let’s daydream about a Christmas experience like no other.

Festive decorations during the annual Holiday Lights at Grant's Farm in St. Louis
Holiday Lights at Grant’s Farm/Photo courtesy Explore St. Louis

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See iconic St. Louis attractions’ aglow

I’m the kind of person who wants to see all the unique things a city has to offer when I visit. I would need a week (or more) to fit in a visit to all the places in St. Louis with holiday lights and decorations. Maybe more!

A tree is aglow with white twinkle lights during Garden Glow at Missouri Botanical Garden
Garden Glow photo by Ning-He/Photo courtesy Explore St. Louis

One of the big ones I’d love to see is Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden, which runs Nov. 19, 2023 through Jan. 7, 2024. We’ve only ever been to MoBot in the summer on a hot day, and I can only imagine the stunning turn the gardens take when there are 2 million twinkling lights — event adorning the Climatron — and beautiful projections throughout. It’s only open a limited time, in the evenings, and it is ticketed.

Any day is a good day to visit Saint Louis Zoo, but I think a night-time visit during the holidays sounds extra special. The U.S. Bank Wild Lights sounds epic with huge light displays and themed areas. The seasonal activity runs on select nights from Nov. 24 to Dec. 30, 2023, and is ticketed. In addition to the displays, there will be holiday carolers and other strolling performers, fire pits and see “The Polar Express” 4D at the 4D Theater. 

A colorful flamingo lights display at U.S. Bank Wild Lights at Saint Louis Zoo
U.S. Bank Wild Lights photo by Micah Usher/Photo courtesy Explore St. Louis

For the Holiday Lights at Grant’s Farm, there’s the option of driving through the holiday displays that are synchronized to holiday music or walking through it. Since it’s a bucket list, let’s just say I want to do both! And to make it extra, I’d add a carriage ride that takes my family through a special section of the property. I think the walk-through sounds great because you can then stroll around the German-inspired Bauernhof (AKA farm yard).

In addition to the festive light displays, the experience includes getting a photo with the famous Clydesdales, and of course, meeting Santa and Mrs. Claus. Holiday Lights at Grant’s Farm runs Nov. 25 to Dec. 30, 2023.


  • Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis, Mo.
  • Saint Louis Zoo, 1 Government Drive, St. Louis, Mo.
  • Grant’s Farm, 7385 Grant Road, St. Louis, Mo.
  • BONUS LIGHT DISPLAY: While not a year-round attraction, I heard that the Candy Cane Lane is a must-see for lights. Candy Cane Lane at 6500 Murdoch Ave., St. Louis, Mo.

Feel like a kid at Christmas 

Every time I go to City Museum, I feel like a big kid and love every minute of it (except crawling through the tunnels because my knees can’t take much of that these days). But after Thanksgiving, City Museum kicks the holiday spirit up a notch with Weirdly Wonderful Holidays and I’m ready for it.

I can’t wait to see how they decorate the already unique façade at night, which I hope I can see while I hang out on museum’s patio roasting up some s’mores. But I’m also interested in the inside, which I heard will also be decorated. And there’s going to be a pop-up Yeti Bar that will serve up some indulgent frosty specialty cocktails.

And for the kids, there’s a chance to meet Santa and hear stories read by Mrs. Claus. Sounds like a fun experience for the whole family. This experience included with admission.

Believing (or at least wanting to believe) in fairies is about as childlike as it gets, so I think it would be a truly enchanting experience to go to the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House to see Winter Jewels. The celebration features elaborate fairy gardens scattered among the butterflies’ exhibit. It runs Nov. 24 to Dec. 31, 2023, and is included with butterfly house admission.


  • City Museum, 750 N. 16th St., St. Louis, Mo.
  • Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House, 15050 Faust Park, Chesterfield, Mo.

Ride the Polar Express Train

Fitting for the category of “Feeling Like a Kid Again,” a ride on The Polar Express™ Train would be one of the ultimate bucket list items, right? So much so, it needs its own category. St. Louis Union Station has the fantastical experience this winter. This is very much a childhood dream of mine.

A child looks out the train window during The Polar Express experience in St. Louis
The Polar Express/Photo courtesy St. Louis Union Station

The experience includes interacting with characters (including Santa and elves), sipping some hot cocoa and nibbling on cookies. They encourage holiday jammies for the night, and since I’m such a sucker for that sort of thing, I bought my family matching pjs.


  • St. Louis Union Station, 1820 Market St., St. Louis, Mo.

Ice skate under the Gateway Arch

When I heard Winterfest takes place by Gateway Arch National Park, I immediately envisioned the ice rink right under the Gateway Arch. I don’t think that’s where it is, but close enough.

Ice skaters skate outdoors in St. Louis with the Gateway Arch in the background
Winterfest photo by Bailey Elizabeth Rogers Photography/Photo courtesy Explore St. Louis

Winterfest, presented by Bank of America and World Wide Technology, runs through Dec. 31 and the chance to ice skate underneath 100,000 lights — and hopefully, with the Gateway Arch in view — sounds magical. There are a lot of other things planed during the celebration, like character meet & greets and New Year’s Eve fireworks, too. And there will be igloos to reserve and s’mores stations…and now that I think of it, maybe my bucket list item is more of the “warm by the fire and eating a s’more” than ice skating.


  • Winterfest takes place at Keiner Plaza, 500 Chestnut St., St. Louis, Mo.

Celebrate the Howl-idays

The Endangered Wolf Center has a cheery event in December just intimate for the holidays. Deck the Howls – Winter Howliday Howl is Dec. 16, 2023 and is an evening of s’mores around the campfire, holiday refreshments, and singing carols with the wolves under the night sky. OK, the wolves don’t sing. But according to the center, “the howls from our American red and Mexican wolves are some of the rarest sounds in the animal kingdom, so you won’t want to miss this spectacular symphony.”


  • Endangered Wolf Center, 6750 Tyson Valley Road, Eureka, Mo.

Toast to the holidays with pop-up bar crawl

My bar hopping days are long gone, but I love the idea of a holiday pop-up bar with festive decorations and speciality cocktails. I’ve come across a couple such pop-ups in St. Louis.

The Chalet at Le Méridien St. Louis Clayton sounds fabulous, with three exclusive indoor/outdoor winter experiences: The Chalet Pop-Up Bar, The Chalet Experience, and The Apres Ski Holiday Experience.

The festive holiday decorations for LIT: A Christmas Pop-Up Experience at Molly's in Soulard
Photo courtesy Molly’s at Soulard

My next stop would be to LIT: A Christmas Pop-Up Experience at Molly’s in Soulard. The bar has had an immersive Christmas pop-up experience for four years now and it includes outrageous décor and a holiday-themed menu. It’s open Nov. 25 to Dec. 23, 2023 and it strikes me as a place that just demands you wear your best ugly sweater when you visit.

Somewhere in between the luxury of The Chalet and the over-the-top LIT is the pop-up at the Train Shed restaurant at St. Louis Union Station. During the holiday season, it’s transformed into Sleigh Shed, a glittering holiday pop-up bar with creative cocktails and food.


  • Le Méridien St. Louis Clayton, 7730 Bonhomme Ave., St. Louis, Mo.
  • Molly’s in Soulard, 816 Geyer Ave., St. Louis, Mo.
  • Train Shed at Union Station, 201 S. 18th St., St. Louis, Mo.

Shop ’til I drop in St. Louis

I’m a sucker for a holiday market. Give me all the Christkindl Markets. I love gift shopping, and it’s even better when I can do it while supporting small businesses and local artisans.

Holiday Market at the Foundry will have more than 100 local vendors selling goods at City Foundry STL. It’ll be outdoor with twinkling string lights overhead, live music, and the smell of roasted chestnuts in the air. Plus, heaters to keep us all warm. The market will be on Dec. 3, 11 and 17, 2023.

Colorful lights displays at St. Louis Union Station with the Ferris Wheel lit in green and red in the background
Union Station/Photo courtesy Explore St. Louis

Union Station’s Christkindl Market will be open through Dec. 31, 2023. My plan: Shop around while having a boozy hot chocolate from the O-Tannen Bar. Since my kids aren’t really into shopping like I am, they can play some of the games at Union Station while I check some items off my list.


  • City Foundry STL, 3730 Foundry Way, St. Louis, Mo.
  • St. Louis Union Station, 1820 Market St., St. Louis, Mo.
Discover the Magic of St. Louis! Dive into this amazing holiday bucket list and find out the best, most magical ways to celebrate Christmas in the city.

YOUR TURN: What would you add to this St. Louis holidays bucket list?

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