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St. Louis City Guide
St. Louis packs a lot of city into this city. You can tell just coming in from the airport. It’s only about 15 miles to the downtown area and the river front, and the route takes you past the site of the 1904 World’s Fair as well as the nearby jumping off point for the Lewis & Clark Expedition 100 years earlier.
It won’t take you long to realize why the city’s claim of “Gateway to the West” is really true. There’s a lot to see and do, in fairly close proximity. For the most current goings on, go to explorestlouis.com.
It’s pretty hard to miss. The Arch itself stands 630 feet tall overlooking the great Mississippi River. Designed by world famous architect Eero Saarinen (the original futuristic TWA flight terminal at JFK in New York) and completed in 1965, using 900 tons of stainless steel. So, it’s sturdy. But don’t just look up in awe when you can take a tram ride all the way up to the top. Folks say the ride can feel a bit cramped, but the views won’t disappoint.
The Arch is actually part of a much larger park area dedicated to the foresight of President Thomas Jefferson who steered the country westward from here with his Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The site became a National Park in 2019, and it’s part of the largest public-private renovation project ever undertaken by the Park Service. The park itself is a nice place to find some peace and quiet, along with superb views of the Mississippi River.
Hopefully, the nearby Old Courthouse makeover will be completed. It was the site of the first two trials that later became the infamous Dred Scott decision from the US Supreme Court. There’s history here, and also a museum underneath the Arch. For info check out www.nps.gov/jeff.
This is where the 1904 World’s Fair was held. That makes sense since it’s over 500 acres bigger than Central Park in New York. The only remaining building is the old Palace of Fine Arts, which is now the St. Louis Art Museum. There are works from Klee, Matisse and Monet, but also Gerhard Richter and Giacometti. The range of artists is expansive and new exhibitions are always on the calendar. Plus a sculpture garden for strolling.
Still within Forest Park, you’ll find the Missouri History Museum (with a replica of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, of course) and the St. Louis Zoo (home of Kali, their famous polar bear). With everything walkable within its nearly 1400 acres, Forest Park is a pleasant getaway for a couple of hours.
They’re not far apart, but you might want to choose between them depending on your interests. There’s the National Blues Museum where you can pay homage to hometown favorite Chuck Berry and learn about the roots of American music working its way up the Mississippi River. Many female blues singers are featured.
For something a little different, try the City Museum, a huge converted old shoe factory filled with unique exhibits like the Museum of Mirth, Mystery & Mayhem and a seven-story slide.
There’s also the St. Louis Science Center for dinosaurs, a planetarium, and IMAX theater, pretty much similar to lots of other science museums around the country.
As legend has it, a junior executive for a competing ad agency overheard a disappointed thirsty customer tell a bartender “When you’re out of Bud, you’re out of beer.” The line was picked up for a different brew, but when you’re in St. Louis you’re in Budweiser territory. Although the locals might still be a little grumpy over Anheuser-Busch being bought by a non-American company, but there’s still plenty of Bud-associated history in town.
Start with the brewery, one of the largest in the world. A tour will most likely lead to some tasting, not to mention viewing the stables where the famous Clydesdales are gloriously kept. Not far away is the rebuilt Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals and a ton of baseball history. Tours are available even when the Cards aren’t playing. Naturally, the new retro exterior has a red tone and the first game in the new stadium was actually against the Milwaukee Brewers. There might even be a concert at the park when you visit.
But beer lovers can’t live on Bud alone. Check out stlhops.com for a list of craft brewers, like 4 Hands and Urban Chestnut, plus other beer-centric activities in town that should satisfy your thirst.
It all depends on how far back you want to go and how far you want to travel. The Griot Museum of Black History (in town) honors famous African-Americans like Josephine Baker, Dred Scott, Martin Luther King, Jr. and George Washington Carver with life-sized wax sculptures and displays. A “griot” (gree-oh) was a respected storyteller in Africa.
The Scott Joplin House (also, in town) offers a glimpse into the life of the “King of Ragtime,” with a working player piano and some of his 70 songs.
And just 20 miles north of St.Louis is the town of St. Charles where the explorers Lewis and Clark set off on their mission to map the Pacific Northwest. The town has a museum and reenactments of the start every May 21. It sits where the Missouri River flows into the Mississippi offering a path to the Pacific.
— Missouri Botanical Garden
— Laclede’s Landing for drinking and nightlife
— St. Louis pizza with special Provel cheese (Imo’s, with over 50 locations)
— Ordering “toasted ravioli”
— Gateway Arch Riverboats
— Economics Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
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