St. Louis: Like No Place Else
Gateway Arch: Only Paris has anything to rival this great, soaring shining monument that rises 630 feet to honor the expansion of the United States westward. Designed by Eero Saarinen, [cq] the Arch is clad in 886 tons of stainless steel and has two trains running up inside the legs to an observation platform at the top. The view from there, through small windows tilted downward, is stunning, and occasionally dizzying. Surrounding the Arch is park of more than 90 acres, and underground is a museum commemorating the nation’s push West, along with two theaters.
TIP: The easiest way to get to the Arch is on the public light rail system, Metro. Get off at the Eads Bridge Station and walk south to the Arch. If you drive, the easiest parking (though not the cheapest) is at the garage by Eads Bridge off Washington Avenue.
St. Louis Cardinals: The team has one of the most successful records in Major League Baseball, and winning 10 World Championships through the decades had endeared it to St. Louisans. It didn’t hurt that the team celebrated the opening of its newest Busch Stadium in 2006 by winning the World Series. Children grow up following the team on radio and television, and that forms a lifelong attraction.
TIP: The team offers several promotional ticket packages, which can greatly reduce the cost of a family outing. For those willing to take a risk and rise early, the team offers 550 seats on the day of game at the dirt-cheap price of $11 for two. Seat locations for this promotion are the luck of the draw, and could be behind home plate or standing room.
Forest Park: Home to three museums and a zoo and two golf courses Forest Park is one of the region’s top destinations, and most of its attractions are free. On weekends with good weather, crowds flock to the park.
Saint Louis Zoo: Every family takes their children to the zoo. And why not? It’s one of the best zoos in the country, and admission is free. Visitors can see bears and bugs, penguins and pythons, gorillas and giraffes and many more on the well-landscaped grounds in Forest Park. There’s a petting zoo for children, and a miniature steam train to carry everyone around the grounds. Several times a day shows feature chimps or sea lions, and the sea lion show is a good way to cool off on a hot day if you sit close. While the zoo is free, there are charges for parking, animal shows, the petting zoo and train rides.
TIP: If you plan to make several visits in a year, consider becoming a member. You can save money on parking and train rides. If not, then avoid the zoo parking lots and park along the park streets. But get there early: Every one else has the same idea.
Grant’s Farm: Named after the former President Ulysses S. Grant, Grant’s Farm is the ancestral home of the Busch family, the beer barons who built Budweiser, Busch and Michelob into national brands. The 281 acres are home to more than 100 species that visitors can see from a tram. And it’s free (though with a charge for parking). Closed in the winter.
Missouri Botanical Garden: One of the great botanical gardens in the world, the Garden, known locally as Shaw’s Garden after its founder, has 49 acres of horticultural displays, including a Japanese garden. On the grounds are the Climatron, a climate-controlled geodesic dome with a tropical rainforest. The Garden also is one of the world’s leading centers for plant science and botanical exploration.
The rivers: The French fur trades who founded St. Louis did so to take advantage of the meeting of the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers. You can take rides on the Mississippi on two excursion boats based at the foot of the Arch. But in downtown Saint Louis, the Mississippi is a working river, home to barges and factories, rising and falling as conditions change. The best place to see the Mississippi in its scenic glory is upstream north of Alton, Ill., where a highway and bicycle trail run between the river and the steep cliffs along its eastern edge. The best way to see the Missouri River is to hike or bike the Katy Trail, the 225-mile long state park that mostly follows the river’s northern bank.
City Museum: A wild and eclectic children’s museum and more that sculptor Bob Cassilly and staff have been expanding over the decades near downtown. What other museum features a school bus on the roof? And fighter aircraft in the yard? And an aquarium?
Cahokia Mounds: Just across the Mississippi in Collinsville, Ill., Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is the largest prehistoric Indian city north of Mexico. The biggest feature is Monks Mound, the largest earthwork in North America, rising 100 feet from the river valley, entirely built by hand. Three football fields placed end to end would fit easily on top of the mound. Climb up the stairs to get a good view of the other mounds, and in the distance, St. Louis.
Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour: Visit the historic Anheuser-Busch Brewery, where a beer empire began, and tour the impeccably maintained buildings, a National Historic Landmark. If you are over 21, you can sample some of the brewery’s products.