Ste. Genevieve: An Hour Away but a World Apart

History comes alive with demonstrations of traditional skills at the Rural Heritage Days festival on October 26.

History comes alive with demonstrations of traditional skills at the Rural Heritage Days festival on October 26.

Settled by the French in the early 1700’s, Ste. Genevieve still has the charm of an Old World village, featuring narrow streets, secluded gardens, and a nice variety of restaurants, quaint shops and bed-and-breakfasts.   Located only an hour’s drive south of St. Louis on I-55, this charming town is perfect for a getaway weekend or a mini-vacation. This historic river town has been welcoming travelers of all types for more than 250 years and they are well known for their hospitality.  In fact, in 2012 Ste. Genevieve was chosen as one of the “10 Coolest Small Towns in America” by Budget Travel Magazine and it was selected in the “Dozen Distinctive Destinations” program in 2008 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Quaint shops in Ste. Genevieve’s historic district provide a warm welcome to visitors.

Quaint shops in Ste. Genevieve’s historic district provide a warm welcome to visitors.

The Historic District

A delightful array of shops, art galleries, charming boutiques and a tempting selection of restaurants will keep travelers busy and well-nourished as they explore the town’s National Historic Landmark District.  A ‘sense of place’ runs deep in this town, which is apparent in the residents, inn-keepers, tour guides and shop owners, all ready to answer your questions or direct you to the area attractions.

Among the unique historic attractions that should not be missed are the circa 1806 Jaques Guibord House, the Cathedral-like Catholic Church, the Ste. Genevieve Museum, the circa 1792 Louis Bolduc House and gardens, the state-owned Felix Valle house (circa 1818) and the 1792 Bauvais-Amoureaux house which features a diorama depicting the town in 1835.  Several of the most unique properties are open for guided tours and a discounted ‘passport’ ticket is sold at the Welcome Center on Main Street.

According to researchers, local lore, diaries and other records, Ste. Genevieve remained a stronghold of French culture and traditions well into the 1800’s.  Visitors can still experience this during signature local events such as the Annual Kings Ball, the French Heritage Festival and the annual ‘Jour de Fete,’ which is the largest outdoor crafts festival in the Midwest.

Other local traditions, those of the mid-1800’s, are celebrated each fall during Rural Heritage Days.  Set for October 26 this year, this festival celebrates rural skills and folkways with living history demonstrations of plowing, folk dances, outdoor cooking, food preservation, fur trading and games.  This is a family-friendly event that offers something for everyone.

Scenic wonders and wine country treasures

As a destination, Ste. Genevieve County offers many other pleasures and treasures in the rolling hills that surround the city.  Tucked into the scenic countryside are award-winning wineries, micro-breweries, a spa, a golf course, a tiger sanctuary and picturesque farms.  For active travelers, a thirty minute drive gives access to the hiking trails and spectacular scenery of Hawn State Park, Pickle Springs, Magnolia Hollow and the Audubon Trail.  To the east, just a mile from Ste. Genevieve’s downtown attractions, the banks of the Mississippi River beckon to visitors with the steady ebb and flow of one of the world’s great rivers.

Fall is the perfect time for a visit to Ste. Genevieve’s wine country.

Fall is the perfect time for a visit to Ste. Genevieve’s wine country.

For a pleasant afternoon’s diversion, there are more than a dozen award-winning wineries and microbreweries within thirty miles of Ste. Genevieve’s historic district.  On any given weekend, you will find live music and spectacular scenery in the rolling hills surrounding the town. In addition, Ste. Genevieve nurtures its connection to France with the aptly-named Route du Vin Wine Trail.  Five times a year, local wine trail organizers plan special events to enhance the wine tasting experience while leading guests on a progressive experience.  Each wine trail event showcases one wine and a food pairing included in an event ticket valid for each of the participating wineries.

After you have shopped, sipped, hiked or toured each of Ste. Genevieve’s treasures, make plans for dinner at any of a variety of dining establishments.  Ranging from gourmet meals to dinner buffets or an all-American bar and grill, the dining selection offers something for everyone.

Ste. Genevieve awaits your exploration.  For options on where to dine, shop or stay in Ste. Genevieve, go to VisitSteGen.com or call the Ste. Genevieve Welcome Center at 800-373-7007.

Written by Sandra S. Cabot, tourism director for the Ste. Genevieve Welcome Center.

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