Autumn Action

The St. Louis economy gets a yearly boost from an array of spectacular fall sights and cool-weather activities, including Oktoberfest.


Story By Allison Babka
Visuals By Jeff Mahar, R.J. Hartbeck

As the flavor of the season changes from watermelon to pumpkin spice, St. Louis is poised to capitalize on its long-held reputation as a center for fall activity. With colorful forests, seasonal food and drink, and many Oktoberfest events, the entire region beckons residents and visitors alike to enjoy autumn. The Chicago Tribune includes St. Louis on its list of must-see destinations, and as the trees turn red and gold, it’s especially easy to understand why.

The region is well known for its colorful fall foliage that residents view from both the trail and the road — and they frequently shop and dine along the way, giving area towns a fourth-quarter boost. The Great River Road earns a huge portion of that fall traffic, with 2,000 miles of beautiful scenery stretching along the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Louisiana. The St. Louis-area section of this byway in Illinois is especially impressive. Here, the fall colors on the river’s bluffs and throughout the hills draw people to explore state parks, historic Native American sites, wineries, flea markets and orchards in Grafton, Alton and other Metro East cities as they cruise the byway.

A little further west in Missouri, St. Charles also is known for its vibrant scenery; in fact, CheatSheet says it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the United States for a fall vacation. Residents and visitors both enjoy the local section of the Katy Trail, the longest continuous rail-trail in the country, as it winds along the Missouri River near historic downtown St. Charles before heading toward Weldon Spring, Augusta and further west to Kansas City. During autumn, many cyclists and hikers plan their time in St. Charles around their ambitions on the trail, which the Chicago Tribune calls a fall dream thanks to its proximity to plenty of lodging, wineries and rest areas. The ever-increasing activity on the trail contributes to the St. Louis region becoming internationally known for cycling.

The St. Louis region is well known for its colorful fall foliage.

Great Rivers Greenway is developing a network of greenways that connect many of the region’s lauded outdoor spaces and offer plenty of options for bike commuters and casual explorers to enjoy the autumn scenery.

“There’s no better way to experience the St. Louis region’s annual display of fall color than on foot or bike, and the greenways are the perfect place to do just that,” says Anne Milford, communications coordinator for Great Rivers Greenway. “Rather than looking out the window of a car, you’ll be right in the middle of it all!”

Meramec Greenway, which runs between Sherman Beach Park and Glencoe in southwest St. Louis County, is especially colorful during the fall. With views of the Meramec River and soaring limestone bluffs, Meramec Greenway also is home to birds and white-tailed deer. Likewise, the Mississippi Greenway at Cliff Cave Park in south St. Louis County offers sweeping views of the Mississippi River from a 170-foot bluff. The paved greenway and natural paths in the upper section of the park provide up-close views of the changing leaves thanks to plentiful tree cover.

But the scenery isn’t the only draw to St. Louis in the fall. Cooler temperatures also bring October baseball, and the St. Louis Cardinals often are in the thick of it. In 2019, the Birds are expected to generate a regional economic impact of more than $303 million. That number only goes up when the Cards are in the postseason, with bars, restaurants, hotels and shops all enjoying a boost thanks to St. Louis’s massive fanbase.

St. Louis has earned a reputation for having some of the best Oktoberfest events in the country.

Fall weather also brings about a thirst for beer festivals. WalletHub’s hails St. Louis as one of the best cities in the United States for Oktoberfest celebrations, which pay tribute to German culture through beer, dancing and cuisine. It’s no surprise that Oktoberfest events play a big role in local fall activities, as data shows that more than 28 percent of area residents claim German ancestry. Many St. Louis neighborhoods still boast German-style architecture, including in Hyde Park (formerly called Bremen), Baden (Germantown) and Dutchtown, because of an influx of German immigrants in the 1800s. 

And of course, beer is an integral part of St. Louis’s history and economy, with Anheuser-Busch putting St. Louis on the national and, eventually, international beer production map starting in the 19th century. Today, the region also is known for its smorgasbord of smaller brewers — so many that USA Today’s readers say St. Louis has the best beer scene in the country. Many of those breweries celebrate Oktoberfest with beers focused autumnal flavors, such as Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale, 4 Hands’ Chocolate Milk Stout and O’Fallon Brewery’s Salted Caramel Pumpkin Beer

With so much to do in St. Louis this fall, we’ll drink to that — especially outside.

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