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East St. Louis

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East St. Louis, commonly abbreviated as "ESL", is a city in Southern Illinois located directly across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. It is a sprawling city with 26,708 inhabitants (2012).

While it attracts a few visitors who come mainly for gambling, East St. Louis is definitely not your typical travel destination. As of 2013, it was considered to be the most dangerous city in the contiguous United States, based on violent crime statistics. A visit to ESL could be considered a way of getting a first-hand glimpse of the challenges that poverty-stricken U.S. urban areas face today.

Get in[edit]


Four major interstates lead into East St. Louis. They are Interstate 70, Interstate 55, Interstate 255, and Interstate 64. Interstate 64 takes the most direct route into the city center. U.S. Route 40 connects East St. Louis to St. Louis, MO and runs through East St. Louis. U.S. Route 50 runs through ESL as well. Illinois Routes 3, 15, and 111 also enter and leave East St. Louis. The city is very accessible by road through many different routes.


The Metrolink train travels into East St. Louis on the blue and red lines. The Red Line begins at Lambert Airport in St. Louis, MO and ends in Shiloh, IL. The Blue Line begins in Shrewsbury, MO and ends in Fairview Heights, IL. Both of these lines run through downtown St. Louis and both stop at the same East St. Louis stations- which are named, East Riverfront, 5th and Missouri, Emerson Park, Jackie Joyner-Karsee Center, and Washington Park. For more information, fares, and schedules visit the Metrolink page.


There are many airports near East St. Louis. The largest nearby airport is the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport approximately 16 miles from ESL. The Saint Louis Regional Airport in St. Louis, MO is around 25 miles from ESL. A smaller airport is located in Mascoutah, IL called Mid-America Airport, about 22 miles away. Public-use airports closest to East St. Louis include: St. Louis Downtown Airport, Airport: Sackman Field, and St. Louis Metro East Airport. Taxis are available at all airports.


The Amtrak Train does not directly station in East St. Louis, but makes many stops nearby. The closest stop is in St. Louis, MO at the 16th Street stop, approximately 5 miles away. Other stops are the Kirkwood Amtrak Station (about 18 miles away) and Alton Amtrak Station (about 30 miles away). Taxi cabs are available at the station.

Get around[edit]

The Metro St. Louis website[1] contains information about public transport in ESL as well as in St. Louis. ESL is a sprawling town, and the risk of sore feet is just one of the reasons why you shouldn't explore it on foot without a plan (see the Stay Safe section).


The Casino Queen riverboat casino.
  • Katherine Dunham Museum - As one of the most famous residents of ESL, the Katherine Dunham Museum is centered around the life of this famous dancer. The Museum is home to many of her personal items collected from all over the world. Some of these items include African Diaspora, African artifacts, dance costumes, pictures, drawings, paintings, and Katherine's personal awards and accomplishments. Hours are currently on an appointment basis; contact Leverne Backstrom 618-795-5970 or
  • The Casino Queen is located on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River in East St. Louis. St. Louis, MO is directly across the river. The Casino Queen is known for its "loose slots" and is a major attraction for this area. It is open daily from 8 AM - 6 AM and features an array of games, a hotel, 4 restaurants, The Stage Bar, and a RV park.


Near the Casino Queen on the Mississippi River is the Gateway Geyser. The fountain mimics the St. Louis Arch directly opposite, both reaching a height around 630 feet (190 m). The Gateway Geyser is the world's second tallest fountain. The fountain runs daily from April through October from 12:00-12:15 pm and from 1:00-1:15 pm.

The Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center opened in 2000 in East St. Louis, IL. As a 6-time Olympic medalist in track, Jackie Joyner-Kersee began this project to help her hometown and encourage participation in sports.


Eat & Drink[edit]

East St. Louis has many of the typical fast-food restaurants, but for more upscale sit-down restaurants you're going to find a lot more if you cross the bridge to St. Louis.

  • Sandy's Barbeque & More, 200 N 8th St, +1 618 274-0300. Barbecue, mid-range price.
  • Mother's Fish, 517 Martin Luther King Drive, +1 618 875-7846. Seafood.
  • Tasty Burgers, 2700 State Street, +1 618 271-1722. Burgers, wings and fish.


The vast majority of travelers choose to sleep across the river in St. Louis, but there are some options in ESL and its outskirts.

  • Royal Relax Inn Fairmont City, 5280 Collinsville Rd, Fairmont City (two miles from Gateway Raceway and right off of the I-70, I-64, I-55, and I-255 interchange.). Motel outside ESL, on the way to Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site.
  • Indian Mound Motel, 4700 Collinsville Rd, Fairmont City. Another motel in Fairmont City just outside ESL, on the way to Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site.
  • Royal Budget Inn, 6016 Collinsville Rd, Fairmont City. Yet another motel along the same road as Royal Relax Inn and Indian Mound Motel.


Stay safe[edit]

While there are many friendly citizens anxious to preserve the community in East St. Louis, on the whole this is a very unsafe and dangerous area with high crime and drug rates. Visitors should avoid walking the streets at night. Make sure you are familiar with the area before arriving in East St. Louis, although there are areas that are secure. Do obtain clear and precise directions before driving around ESL, or use the security and reliability of mass transportation. The East St. Louis Park District and Illinois Southwest Tourism Bureau can assist with any questions.

Go next[edit]

Routes through East St. Louis
SpringfieldFairmont City  N I-55.svg S  St. LouisMemphis
O'Fallon, MOSt. Louis  W I-64.svg E  O'Fallon, ILLouisville
ColumbiaSt. Louis  W I-70.svg E  Fairmont CityIndianapolis
AltonGranite City  N Illinois 3.svg S  CahokiaCairo
END  W Illinois 15.svg E  BellevilleMount Vernon

This city travel guide to East St. Louis is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.