St. Louis: A city with its own quirks
St. Louis, about three hundred miles from its more popular cousin, Chicago, is a major Missouri city along the Mississippi River. Its iconic, 630-ft. Gateway Arch, built in the 1960s, honors the early 19th-century explorations of Lewis and Clark and America's westward expansion. It’s a city with its own quirks and here are ten reasons why you’ll love them.
1. Many of the city’s main attractions are free. The Art Museum, The History Museum, and the Zoo - considered one of the best zoos in the country, with 90 acres and 18,000 animals. There are great free events like Shakespeare plays performed in Forest Park and the Muny, the US’s largest outdoor musical theatre venue, has free tickets.
2. The City Museum is a 600,000 square-foot interactive, eclectic, surreal playground for all ages. It greets visitors with a giant whale that becomes a tunnel, leading into a maze of caves containing a 10-story slide and an aquarium. Night-time access is cheaper ($10) and a little spookier.
3. It all started here – the St. Louis Bread Company, the world’s first ice-cream cone and Dr. Pepper. Speaking of food, St. Louis specialty foods include the toasted ravioli, gooey-butter cake, and provel cheese. St. Louis pizzas are perfection – a thin, crisp crust, doused with provel cheese and oregano, (preferably from Imo’s Pizza); and of course, the icy deliciousness of Ted Drewes’ frozen custards. On South Grand you can sample very good Vietnamese, Ethiopian and Thai food. The Middle Eastern food in the Loop is a revelation, and for the uninitiated, the grilled kababs, stews and flatbreads of the city's Bosnian restaurants will blow your mind. The best local dive bar is Cat’s Meow on 2600 S. 11th Street. It’s a low-key family run boozer where the drinks are cheap, the pours strong, and after you’ve had a few, even the company is good.
4. What separates St. Louis from other cities is its emphasis on volunteerism, charity, the arts and overall access for its residents.
5. St. Louis’ massive Forest Park is almost fifty percent larger than Central Park at 1,293 acres and is home to five of the region’s major institutions: the St. Louis Art Museum, the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Science Centre, the Missouri History Museum, and the Muny amphitheater.
6. The Missouri Botanical Garden is the oldest botanical garden in continuous operation in America with 79 breath-taking acres of horticultural display from around the world. This includes a Japanese strolling garden, Henry Shaw’s original 1850 estate home and a geodesic dome called the Climatron.
7. St. Louis has two downtowns and Clayton is one of them and where you’ll find the fancy-pants dining options, fine art galleries and boutiques, as well as glitzy hotels. It also has a trendy loud and proud ‘gaybourhood’ nightlife district. The hot spots include Just John, Meyer’s Grove, Rehab and Attitudes.
8. St. Louis has one of the top art festivals in the country, attracting more than 100,000 people each September.
9. The St. Louis Brewery (Missouri’s largest independent), brews over fifty unique styles of fresh beer every year and makes some of them available on draft at their two brewery restaurants: The Schlafly Tap Room in downtown and the Schlafly Bottleworks in the Maplewood. On the weekends, the brewery provides free tours!
10. Of course, there is immense pride in the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. Nothing says summer in St. Louis quite like sitting in unbearable humidity with a beer at Busch Stadium cheering on the Cards with bleary-eyed devotion.
Your stay may be short but when leaving St. Louis, no one tells you about what you’ll miss. Root beer floats will never taste the same again; other museums are total snoozefests compared to the City Museum; other parks are just sad compared to Forest Park; and now the Cardinals will always be your team.
Text: Cindy-Lou Dale