ST. LOUIS

St. Louis, Missouri, got the nickname "Gateway to the West" thanks to pioneers in search of a better way of life who pursued their American dream by making tracks to this unique river city. But that heritage is only part of the charm. St. Louis is where Scott Joplin rolled out ragtime tunes and jazzmen played the blues. It's also where Dred Scott filed his landmark lawsuit for freedom from slavery.

The city started with pioneers of American spirit and nurtured pioneers in transportation, space exploration and biotechnology. St. Louis has preserved enough of yesterday to convey a real sense of place and keep its pioneer spirit alive through high-tech industries of tomorrow. Think Chicago without the traffic, New York without the noise or Miami without the beach, as well as without the high cost of living or a long daily commute.

Traditional? Yes. Dull? Hardly. St. Louisans play as hard as they work, so there's an abundance of entertainment, education, and arts and culture—and they're rather fond of their sports teams. This vibrant, ethnically diverse region holds unexpected treasures. In many St. Louis neighborhoods, sidewalk cafes, ethnic restaurants, and new shops and galleries are reviving the city's distinctive character.

Highlights

Sights—The spectacular St. Louis Gateway Arch; the Japanese garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden; thousands of red-clad St. Louis Cardinals fans at Busch Stadium; the wildly entertaining and interactive City Museum; the funky wonderland known as The Loop; the 2.9-acre Citygarden sculpture park in the heart of downtown; the Clydesdale stables at the historic Anheuser-Busch brewery.

Museums—Renaissance, pre-Columbian and German expressionist art at the spacious Saint Louis Art Museum; historical St. Louis at the Missouri History Museum; outdoor sculptures and indoor galleries at Laumeier Sculpture Park; a celebration of everything that rolls, flies or floats at the Museum of Transportation; cutting-edge works at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis; the metamorphosis of butterflies at the Butterfly House; and the world's largest collection of hand-tiled mosaics at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.

Memorable Meals—Lobster albanello at Tony's; a "concrete" custard at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard; spanakopita and gyros at Olympia Kebob House and Taverna; veal saltimbocca at Dominic's on the Hill; unique cornmeal crust pizzas at Pi Pizzeria; the best burger in town at Blueberry Hill; authentic Irish fare at The Dubliner or John D. McGurks.

Late Night—Gambling at one of six area casinos; savoring the blues at the clubs in Soulard; dance clubs and lounges along Washington Avenue; DJ spins in The Loop.

Especially for Kids—Animals at the renowned—and free—St. Louis Zoo; animated dinosaurs and outer-space displays at the St. Louis Science Center and Planetarium; the three-story slide at Magic House, St. Louis Children's Museum; a riverboat ride on the Mississippi River; tour an ancient civilization at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site; thrill rides at Six Flags St. Louis.

Potpourri

Several popular American food items were introduced at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis: Iced tea, the hot dog and waffle cones for ice cream.

Baseball's Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola grew up across the street from one another on Elizabeth Avenue in the Italian neighborhood known as the Hill.

The first daily newspaper in the country was the St. Louis Herald, which was first published in 1834.

St. Louis' Wainwright Building, located on Seventh Street, was the world's first skyscraper. It was designed by architect Louis Sullivan and built in 1891.

The first Olympiad ever held in the U.S. took place in St. Louis at Washington University's Francis Field in conjunction with the 1904 World's Fair.

W.C. Handy, considered the father of the blues, wrote his classic song "St. Louis Blues" under Eads Bridge on the Mississippi Riverfront. "St. Louis Blues" is the most recorded blues song in history.

Toasted ravioli is a food unique to St. Louis. Accidentally invented in the early 1940s during a minor kitchen "accident," the ravioli are breaded, fried and served with marinara sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. You get the best toasted ravioli in restaurants in the Hill neighborhood.

Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the U.S. Spanning 1,293 acres, it is approximately 500 acres larger than Central Park in New York City.

Celebrities who reside in or come from St. Louis include Chuck Berry, the "Father of Rock 'n' Roll"; hip-hop star Nelly, who owns a recording studio educational center on Laclede's Landing; Olympic champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who was born and raised in East St. Louis; actor Kevin Kline; saxophonist David Sanborn; and dancer and singer Josephine Baker, who grew up in the north city area.

At one time, more than 50 local breweries, including Anheuser-Busch, stored their beer in the city's underground caves. Some historical homes in the area had cave access: Lemp Mansion's cave access included tunnels to the Lemp brewery, a swimming pool and an auditorium. Other caves held speakeasies, movie theaters and even an ice-skating rink.

 
 

Dos & Don'ts

Do feel free to ask locals for directions and dining suggestions. St. Louisans are a friendly lot.

Do pronounce all French-sounding names (Carondelet, for example) as non-French as you can (it's Ka-RON-da-LET).

Do utilize the MetroLink light rail system to get around. It's safe, convenient and environmentally friendly.

Don't plan on using MetroLink after "closing time." The trains stop running in both directions around 1 am.

Do refer to Interstate 64 as Highway "40," or no one will know what you mean.

Don't limit your beer choices to nationally known brands. St. Louis has become a hub of craft brewers and offers an incredible array of hops-infused options.

Do stop by one of the visitors centers located in downtown St. Louis, at Forest Park, St. Louis Union Station or in terminals 1 and 2 at the airport. They have plenty of maps, brochures and suggestions to help make your visit even more enjoyable.

Don't root for the Cubs – you are in Cardinal baseball land!

Travel 42

Copyright ©2017 Northstar Travel Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon

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