St. Louis is the kind of town that welcomes you with open arms offering authentic hospitality, innovative cuisine, art, music, sports…and oh yeah, beer. Many of the activities in St. Louis are free like the Zoo, the Missouri History Museum, Grant’s Farm and others.
A little history…. St. Louis, the gateway to the West, has a long and storied history that dates back to 1764 when French fur traders established the city. Because of its prime location on the river, St. Louis became a bustling harbor, once the 5th largest city in the country. It joined the U.S. with President Jefferson’s plan for expansion West through the Louisiana Purchase.
You’ll still find the French influence throughout St. Louis with French Creole architecture, historic sites, street names, and fleur de lis images everywhere! That’s the reason the city was nicknamed “Paris of the West.”
Today, St. Louis is a vibrant city with a small-town feel that’s filled with family-friendly activities and good old-fashioned fun. Be sure to drive through Soulard, St. Louis’ oldest neighborhood with its red brick row houses, blues music clubs, and tiny taverns. Check out the oldest farmers market in America here which runs Wednesday – Saturday, both indoors and out.
Union Station – Where St. Louis Comes to Play
Once the largest and busiest railroad depot in the country, Union Station has been transformed into a mega-entertainment district with dining, attractions and a historic hotel. With more than a dozen venues, you can spend hours in the station and never leave.
Let’s start with the 120,000-foot St. Louis Aquarium which takes you along the freshwater rivers and the oceans, especially the Mississippi and Missouri waterways. Get the party started with an amazing ride that combines the train with the rushing waters, narrated by John Goodman. My favorite exhibit was the Moon Jellies Touch Tank where you can put your hands on the jellies as they glide by. Other touch tanks let you feel a shark or stingray, if you dare!
Have fun at the Mirror Maze, Ropes Course, Mini-Golf, Carousel and more. Soar to new heights on the St. Louis Wheel, reaching 200 feet in the sky with 42 enclosed, air-conditioned cars. The views of the St. Louis skyline are fantastic, and it’s so refreshing on a hot day.
Hungry? Try the Train Shed for great appetizers, salads, main courses, and gooey butter cake, a St. Louis favorite. Plus, you’ll have a ringside seat to the Fire & Light Show. Treat yourself to an awesome Birthday Cake Freak Shake at The Soda Fountain, topped with ice cream, Snickerdoodle Cookie, rainbow sprinkles, funfetti cupcake, and rainbow pop. The Soda Fountain offers a full menu of ice cream, shakes, floats, plus hamburgers, chicken strips and more.
Union Station Hotel Remains a Timeless Tradition
You’ll know you’ve arrived someplace authentic as soon as you walk up the stairs. With its massive lobby, arched ceiling, and original flooring, this classic 4-star, Curio Collection by Hilton offers a luxurious stay with more than 560 rooms. I was a guest in the Clock Tower and was impressed with the size of the room, bathroom, and all of the luxury amenities. I also appreciated the room doors, which featured the names of the actual ticket agents, so clever.
The hotel also boasts a 24-hour fitness center and a seasonal outdoor pool. Loved grabbing coffee to go to the Grand Market. Don’t miss the trip-the-light-fantastic light show set to music that goes in throughout the day and night, projected on the ceiling. Truly, the hotel is so historic, that you must explore the nooks and crannies to get a real sense of the secrets it holds and the tales it tells. Also cool is the “Whispering Arch” near the stairway to the lobby.
Brew to You — The Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company
From Bud Light to Michelob to Busch Beer, the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company is the leader in the beer industry. Come tour the campus and learn about the quality brewing process. I took the Day Fresh Brewery Tour and I loved seeing the beautiful Clydesdales in their stables. The tour was very generous, handing out beer (and seltzer) on more than a few occasions. For a more in-depth tour, take the Brewmaster Tour, Where You Brew, or the Clydesdales VIP Experience. Tours tend to sell out and reservations are highly recommended.
The Gateway Arch – The Icon of St. Louis
No trip to St Louis is complete without a trip to the Gateway Arch, the tallest memorial in the United States. Built as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States, the arch typifies “the pioneer spirit of those who won the West.” Interestingly, both the width and height of the arch are the same, 630 feet. From the exquisite views to the Tram Ride to the top of the museum, you can easily spend a half day seeing everything. Don’t miss the film about the construction of the Arch that took over two years to complete for $13 million. Afterward, hop on one of the Riverboat Cruises and sail up the mighty Mississippi River. You’ll feel like Tom Sawyer as you cruise past the working barges along this busy freight highway. Choose from a variety of sightseeing, dinner, and musical cruises and just relax. Available March through November. Reservations for the Arch are highly recommended.
Root for the Home Team
St. Louis is a baseball town, cheering on their beloved St. Louis Cardinals through 11 World Series Championships. That’s an impressive record, second only to the NY Yankees. With a ballpark in the middle of the city, there are plenty of restaurants, bars, and other venues to discover in Ballpark Village, a wonderful place to go if there’s a game going on or not. Check out Cardinal Nation and the Budweiser Brew House.
Best Tastes: Be sure to try Toasted Ravioli, Concrete Shakes, Square Pizza with Brick Cheese, and Gooey Butter Cake.
Come to St. Louis soon and discover all of the treasures in this American city. For more information, go to explorestlouis.com.