One of the best St. Louis neighborhoods to spend the day exploring is the Tower Grove area. Locals will divide this up into South Grand, Tower Grove Heights, the Missouri Botanical Gardens, and the Shaw neighborhoods, so don’t be confused in your excursion when you hear these references.
This area is home to a fabulous park, a diverse range of restaurants, coffee shops, shopping and a glimpse at some gorgeous St. Louis architecture. The entire area is very accessible despite its historic age and recently the South Grand strip underwent a renovation which improved sidewalk and parking accessibility.
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Tower Grove Park is the second largest park in St. Louis at 289 acres. For information on parking, see the Getting There section below. The park has so much to offer from trails, brunch, wildlife, playgrounds and festivals. The park has a lot of repurposed architecture. In the late 1800’s as buildings throughout the city where demolished or renovated columns, blocks and other decorative stone and iron work where moved to the park as decoration. There are buildings scattered throughout the park for your viewing pleasure. My favorite is the Piper Palm House, the oldest standing greenhouse west of the Mississippi, where you can enjoy a brunch buffet on Sunday mornings. Accessible parking is located a short, flat push away. The palm house is accessible with no stairs and a large bathroom with ADA height toilets. It is full of light, gorgeous history, and palms! Then head outside to enjoy the lily pound, fountain, and the ruins (old limestone bricks moved in to resemble castle ruins). A flat, paved trail runs around this area. Another building, the Stupp Center, is host to lecture series throughout the year. You can find upcoming lectures on the park website
The park has mostly flat, asphalt trails that run around the perimeter and throughout the center. There are numerous areas where there is no curb cut if you want to go into the road to cross to another section of the park. There are a few trails that are crushed gravel that are maneuverable if it has been dry for a few weeks. One of these areas runs through the bird sanctuary located at the North West corner of the park.
The center of the park includes tennis courts, a wading pool and a bandstand. The St. Louis Symphony performs each year for free! The main accessible restroom is located here, but there are other accessible restrooms throughout the park. See the map for more information.
Throughout the spring, summer, and fall there are tons of events to attend.
Tower Grove Farmers Market (each Saturday from April – November) you can browse the farmers market that has much more to offer than just fresh farm produce. Food trucks and local artisans are on hand to show you what St. Louis is made of! There are also activities for the kids.
The local food magazine puts on Food Truck Fridays once a month. Music and kids activities will entertain you while you eat. So bring a blanket and a lawn chair and fill up. Festival of Nations hosts over 40 ethnic food booths, music, dancing, arts and crafts.
Missouri Botanical Gardens main entrance is not technically located in the Tower Grove neighborhood, but the back of the Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBOT) meets Tower Grove Park. MOBOT is a 79-acre historic landmark and the nation’s oldest, continuously operated botanical garden. Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate. A large parking lot with 10-15 accessible parking spaces is connected to MOBOT. Almost every pathway through the garden is paved. Some areas have slight inclines and the Climatron has some steep areas. The main building is multi-level, elevator access with a café, gift shop, and well planned accessible bathrooms. MOBOT is a must see if in St. Louis. Check the website as throughout the year festivals move in and out including the Orchid show, the Japanese Festival, Chinese Culture Days, the Desert Show, the Gardenland Express (holiday train and flower show), and Garden Glow (Christmas lights!). If you are visiting St. Louis in the summer (June – August), every Wednesday evening MOBOT is free for the Whitaker Music Festival. Bring a picnic basket of snacks and drinks & enjoy an evening of music under the stars.
Scattered within a few blocks of Tower Grove Park are a number of neighborhood gems worth your time. Stroll down Morganford and you’ll find a number of restaurants that are accessible and delicious. There are a few parking lots with accessible spaces on this road as well. One of my favorite stops is the London Tea Room (3128 Morganford Rd), a well-made ramp is located on the side of the building. High quality, loose leaf tea and English pastries, say what! While on the South side of the park, travel a few blocks down the road to Hartford Coffee Company (3974 Hartford St). The epitome of a local, community coffee shop with delicious treats, sandwiches, and all day breakfast! The entire shop is accessible with a large restroom with ADA height toilet and horizontal grab bars. A small front patio and a large back patio let you enjoy any good weather days, the main area also has a play area for the kiddos, and if you want peace and quiet head to the back annex. The staff are friendly and helpful and will carry your favorite beverage wherever you want to go.
Just a block away from MOBOT is a little area with more great food and shopping. Union Loafers offers delicious bread and sandwiches with an accessible main entrance, Olio is a grown up wine bar with delicious food all in a renovated Standard Oil Filling Station. If the front garage door is down, you’ll find the accessible entrance through the side patio. La Patisserie Choquette is a peanut free, gluten free French bakery run by Simone Faure who you may have seen on Food Network. The side entrance has a poured concrete ramp that is a little steep. My favorite storefront on this block is Union Studio, the accessible entrance on the side by the driveway. This store is full of local St. Louis artists. You’ll find jewelry, clothes, toys, soaps, decorations, artwork and more.
Another favorite activity in this neighborhood is to just take a walk. You really can’t go wrong with any street you pick coming off of Tower Grove Park. St. Louis is home to some amazing brick and stone architecture. The Shaw neighborhood, on the north side of Tower Grove Park, has everything from single family homes to mansions. Park on the street at Ices Plain & Fancy (stop in for some ice cream made on the spot with liquid nitrogen) and head off in any direction. The sidewalks in the area of curb cuts, some better than others, and most of the sidewalks are in good repair. Just East of Grand Ave is the Compton Heights neighborhood, founded in 1888, this neighborhood has been home to some of St. Louis’ well known families. An oasis in the middle of the city with lots of green spaces and curving streets. Park on the road near Russel and Longfellow and take a stroll through the neighborhood.
If you start your journey at the southern border of Tower Grove Park, you’ll have six eclectic blocks of restaurants, coffee shops, and retailers to explore. The bulk of places to visit begin at South Grand and Arsenal and continue down South Gran to Humphrey Street. The sidewalk on this section of Grand is almost entirely flat (there is a very, very slight downhill grade north to south) with sidewalks that are well maintained and even. Easy rolling for a manual wheelchair user and wide enough for a powerchair user to roll alongside someone.
Café Mochi is a reasonably priced, tasty little sushi stop. The store boasts double doors with a completely flat entrance. There are approximately 5 tables inside and a few booths near the back, so I recommend going for lunch or just before/after the dinner crowd as it can get tight during the winter with so few tables. However, if the weather is nice, Café Mochi as a nice patio with amble seating and is a great place to people watch. The happy hours sushi specials are a great deal too! The restroom here is one large room (big enough for a powerchair) with an ADA height toilet and sturdy horizontal grab bar.
Zee Bee Market is South Grand’s place for handcrafted, Fair Trade, sustainably produced gifts,. The entrance has a concrete “ramp” which was probably a quick fix for a small step a one time. The “ramp” is a little steep but manageable for those with good upper body strength. If you are uncertain, a knock on the window will quickly bring out the owner who is more than happy to help. Mostly, the store has room to move between displays but a few spots are tight. However, alternate, wider routes exist to the same area of the store. Expect to find beautiful handmade jewelry, bags, clothes, housewares, kids clothes, coffee and more.
Lulu’s Local Eatery started as a food truck but was so delicious they have a brick & mortar store now! Lulu’s was recently voted the best vegetarian restaurant in St. Louis but even carnivores should visit. Delicious, locally sourced food. The restaurant has a wide, not steep ramp with plenty of room inside. They have one of the best patios on South Grand which doubles as their vegetable garden. No stairs here at all.
Gelateria Del Leone is a coffee and gelato lovers dream! Now, don’t freak out when you get to the front door and a large step looms blocking your gelato desires. Roll south just one store front and make a right onto Wyoming Street. You’ll find a gate with a walkway at the end of the building, head down this walkway and you’ll find yourself smack in the middle of the Gelateria’s super cute patio. I’m a sucker for a fountain and patio lights! Here is where the accessible door is, no stairs! I recommend tasting a number of flavors before settling on your pic or just stay a few hours and have more than one. The Gelateria has plenty of space to move around, tables, comfy chairs and even games if you come with friends. After coffee and gelato you’ll probably need a restroom, theirs is wheelchair friendly. One large room with firm, horizontal grab bars and roll under sink. The commode fits within the ADA height guidelines but is on the shorter end of that spectrum.
*Besides Gelateria Del Leone, the block between Wyoming St and Connecticut St has many stores & restaurants with a small step up. This is where the historic beauty of this neighborhood can be difficult. Both Rocket Century (mid-century modern furniture) and Basil Spice (delicious Thai) have these small steps which are manageable for a manual chair user who is good at wheelies or has an exploring partner to help bump up.
Parsimonia’s tagline is “vintage for the modern world.” Looking for some vintage clothes, housewares, accessories or local goodies, then this is the store for you. However, there is one medium step to get into the store. I often go with a friend who can bump me up.
Tree House (vegetarian & vegan), Wei Hong (Chinese, specializes in BBQ), The Vine Café & Market (Lebanese/Mediterranean), and Lemongrass (Vietnamese) occupy the block between Connecticut & Juniata. All of these restaurants have either newly created, well done ramps or flat entrances.
Across the street is Jay International Food Co which is an international grocer. Flat entrance with a parking lot dedicated for their customers. The majority of aisles are wide enough to navigate. If you’re like me, I think of international grocery stores as an adventure.
King & I offers up great Thai food, their door system is a little confusion. The main entrance has a step to enter but the corner entrance (which one would think is the main entrance looking at the building) is flat with no stairs and double doors. You can simply knock on this set of doors and the staff will let you in or send a friend in the main entrance. King & I also has a small patio on the side street. The restroom here has ADA height toilets, a grab bar, and may be a little tight but doable for a powerchair.
Rooster is one of my favorite restaurants. The South Grand location is new and has a long, but not steep ramp to enter. Rooster has a parking lot with one accessible spot behind the building. There is a family style front dining area and a private table back room both offer plenty of space to maneuver. Rooster has huge glass walls but a warm, comfy feel while they serve up brunch, crepes, and delicious entrees. There are two single use accessible restrooms on the main floor. Both with ADA height toilets, firm horizontal grab bars and a roll under sink.
Dunaway Books is one of the few remaining locally owned book stores. Easy, flat, stairless entry with a wide doors takes you into a large main floor. Dunaway sells mostly used books. The majority of aisles are large enough to navigate using a wheelchair. There is an upper level that is accessible only by stair way.
The corner of Grand and Arsenal is home to Tower Grove Creamery, Mokabe’s Coffeehouse, Qdoba, Panera, Guerilla Street.
The Tower Grove area is a quick 5-10 minute drive south on Grand Avenue from either I-64 or I-44. The park and surrounding neighborhoods have amble free parking. There are 2-3 designated accessible parking spaces inside the park near the main pavilion/center, however there are many roadways through the park which all allow parking, are extra wide and low traffic. So no matter which section of Tower Grove Park you decide to park in, you should have plenty of options.
The South Grand strip has 2 free lots both with accessible parking but these can fill up. Thanks to a recent overhaul on the sidewalks, curb cuts, and parking there is safe meter parking right on South Grand. Every block has at least one accessible spot always located on the corner. In this spot, the sidewalk has been bumped in leaving extra room to unload a wheelchair without feeling you are going to be run over by passing traffic. Also, they have poured a mildly sloped ramp from the spot up to the sidewalk. No more rolling along the edge of traffic to get to the curb cut! Metered parking is free on the weekend and after 7 pm on weekdays and these meters do take credit cards (be careful, not all St. Louis neighborhoods have these fancy meters yet!).
This neighborhood is easily accessible by public transportation. The metrolink train system has a stop on Grand in between I-64 and I-44 from here you can catch the Grand bus and get off at the park or multiple locations along the South Grand strip area.
During good weather months, this is by far one of my favorite neighborhoods to spend the day exploring.