I have lived in Belleville, Illinois in the past and if you want to live in the St. Louis area without being in the city, this is a great option. Belleville lies across the river and about ten miles South East of the city of St. Louis and a majority of the residents of Belleville commute to the city for work. The homes in this area are generally cheaper when it comes to cost per square foot, but in general the homes are much more luxurious than the majority of St. Louis metropolitan area.
There are some great options when it comes to shopping and dining out. Belleville is a great place to raise a family, due to the fact that they have a low crime rate and are situated far enough away from the crime ridden streets of East St. Louis, but can still access the area for their various amenities. There are plenty of outdoor things to do in the city of Belleville, as there is a lot of farm land and open areas on nearly every side of the city. There are plenty of rivers and lakes in the area that make for great fishing and other outdoor activities, such as wake boarding and water skiing.
In general this is a pretty nice place to live, but it is one of those locations that are situated just outside of a major metropolitan area to get the best of both worlds. They don't have nice restaurants, a vibrant nightlife or high quality locations to shop at, but they are within a ten minute drive to nearly anything you could want. Additionally, they get the small town vibe, due to the fact that the city is separated and consists of just over forty thousand people.