The National Trust announced the winners of the annual contest Wednesday, but for the first time, the organization also invited the public to pick a "fan favorite" by voting online through Feb. 28 at www.PreservationNation.org/ddd.
The other 11 places on this year's list of Distinctive Destinations are Cedar Falls, Iowa; Marquette, Mich.; Fort Collins, Colo.; Provincetown, Mass.; Simsbury, Conn.; Rockland, Maine; Chestnut Hill, Penn.; Huntsville, Ala.; Bastrop, Texas; Sitka, Alaska; and The Crooked Road, a heritage music trail in Virginia.
The nonprofit National Trust, based in Washington, is dedicated to helping communities protect, enhance and enjoy authentic places. A competitive jury process selected the 12 destinations from many nominees. The Distinctive Destination program has been in place for 10 years.
Communities are chosen on the basis of their ability to "offer cultural and recreational experiences different from those found at the typical vacation destination," the organization said. Dynamic downtowns, stunning architecture, cultural diversity and a commitment to historic preservation are among the criteria.
The National Trust's announcement lauded St. Louis for the historic brick buildings that line its cobblestone streets, saying the city "lives up to its iconic status as the 'Gateway to the West.'"
Cedar Falls, Iowa, was highlighted for recreational activities ranging from kayaking on the Cedar River to shopping on Main Street in a dynamic downtown.
Marquette, Mich., which has also been named one of the 100 "Best Art Towns in America," was described as offering "wonderful views of the Lake Superior waterfront and an equally enchanting downtown."
In Fort Collins, Colo., the Rocky Mountains overlook Old Town Square, which "epitomizes the ideal of a bustling American main street."
Also on the list was Provincetown, Mass., a New England seaport town and popular vacation destination that offers art galleries and upscale restaurants along with stunning National Seashore dunes and beaches.
Simsbury, Conn., was highlighted for top-rated restaurants, historic sites and parks, and "real working farms that produce everything from wine to sweet corn to homemade ice cream."
Rockland, Maine, is known for its "maritime past and present," with great seafood, historic lighthouses and museums.
Chestnut Hill, Pa., features historic homes ranging from Federal to Modernist, a boutique shopping district, and nearby Wissahickon Valley Park.
Huntsville, Ala., preserves "the largest collection of antebellum homes" in the state, but is also famous for developing rockets early in the U.S. space program.
The Crooked Road, also known as Virginia's Heritage Music Trail, celebrates the regions Appalachian heritage and unique music culture.
Bastrop, Texas, was cited for "traditional Texas charm and historic buildings set along the banks of the Colorado River."
Sitka, Alaska, has a unique diverse culture that includes the heritage of native tribes, 19th century Russian settlers, and Alaska frontier history.
Richard Moe, president of the National Trust, encouraged travelers to seek out the designated communities. "These places have masterfully transformed colorful pasts and sustainable futures into the ultimate tourism experiences," he said in a statement.
The winner of the "Fan Favorite" contest will be announced March 1.