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ST. LOUIS — LOTS TO SEE AND DO

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The first thing a visitor learns in Missouri is that this city's name is pronounced St. Louis, not St. Louee, as in: "Meet me in St. Louis, Louis; meet me at the fair."

Gateway Arch, Old Cathedral and Mississippi River with riverboats
Gateway Arch, Old Cathedral and Mississippi River with riverboats
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

"St. Louee makes the hair on the backs of our collective necks stand up," says one resident. "We won't allow it, whatsoever, except in the song."

Forest Park

The song, of course, refers to the 1904 World's Fair, a grand exposition which introduced its visitors to many firsts: iced tea, hamburgers, hot dogs and ice cream cones. More than 100 years later, the locals still talk about "the fair" as if it were yesterday.

The verdant fairgrounds (now called Forest Park) are larger than New York's Central Park, and home to tennis, golf and skating facilities, as well as the city's cultural institutions.

Museums

Missouri Historical Society showcases aviator Charles Lindbergh's flying coat, passport and other memorabilia from his 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic in The Spirit of St. Louis. St. Louis Art Museum is housed in a beautiful neoclassic building, the only structure surviving from the fair. St. Louis Zoo is home to more than 9,000 animals, as well as an insectarium with butterflies and leaf-cutter ants.

Girls use computers at St. Louis Science Center.
Girls use computers at St. Louis Science Center.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

St. Louis Science Center features a planetarium, Omnimax Theater and hundreds of hands-on-activities, which include microscopes, fossils and robots. And finally, the 11,000-seat Municipal Opera, (locally known as The Muny) offers entertainment, under the stars, in the oldest and largest outdoor musical theatre in the States.

Additional museums exist beyond the park's boundaries, exploring topics as diverse as dogs, bowling, toys, fire-fighting and the settling of the West.

The latter, the Museum of Westward Expansion, is located below the Gateway Arch, the futuristic 192-metre-high landmark that soars over the riverfront like a gigantic silver ribbon. The highest monument in the U.S. (both the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument could easily fit below it). Together, the Museum of Westward Expansion, the Gateway Arch and the Old Courthouse, comprise the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

Mississippi riverboats

The Mississippi, of course, is the city's second focal point. Several riverboats offer gambling, including the Casino Queen. Replicas of 19th-century steamboats, the Gateway Arch Riverboats, Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher also ply the river on daily sightseeing and dinner cruises.

After dark, St. Louis comes alive with music. (A fact that's not surprising, when you consider that Chuck Berry, Tina Turner, Miles Davis and Scott Joplin have all, at one time or another, lived here.)

Grand Hall in Union Station
Grand Hall in Union Station
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The historic Soulard neighborhood houses many popular clubs, such as Mike and Min's for blues, and McGurk's for authentic Irish music. Historic Laclede's Landing is home to numerous restaurants, shops and clubs, including Hannegan's Pub, which resounds with live jazz on weekends.

Union Station, the splendidly restored, century-old Romanesque train station, today offers shops, restaurants and entertainment. Its barrel-vaulted Grand Hall, filled with gilt work, stained glass, palms and statuary, is an ideal meeting place.

While "the fair" may have closed more than a century ago, people meeting in St. Louis today, will discover that they're more likely to run out of time before they run out of things to see and do.

Limited time in St. Louis?

  • One hour
    Board a five-seat capsule to climb, ferris-wheel-style to an observation area in the top of the Gateway Arch. The bird's-eye-view takes in the Mississippi and its riverboats, the Old Courthouse and Cathedral, Busch Stadium, and office complexes housing the headquarters of Fortune 500 companies.
  • Two hours
    Tour the Anheuser-Busch brewery, which opened in 1852. Visit the pampered Budweiser Clydesdales in their stables, decorated with stained glass, and a brass and crystal chandelier from the World's Fair. View a brewing video, then watch machines that can fill 2.6 million 12-ounce cans of beer a day. Finally, relax in the Hospitality Room with complimentary refreshments.
  • Half day
    Sample the Italian trattorias, mom n' pop bakeries, cheese and prosciutto shops on the Hill. Relax at an outdoor café in the Central West End, where trendy galleries and boutiques vie for attention with tree-lined streets of stately turn-of-the-century homes. Try two St. Louis food specialties: toasted ravioli and "concrete," a frozen custard that's so thick it won't fall out of an upside-down container.

TRAVEL INFORMATION

St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission: www.explorestlouis.com

More things to see and do in Missouri:

Andy Williams Show at Moon River Theatre in Branson Missouri

Branson Missouri - Live Shows, Entertainment, Silver Dollar City

Ride The Ducks in Branson Missouri