The St. Louis area is home to about 3 million people. Tourism is a major economic driver but several well-known corporations make their home here including Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Anheuser-Busch, Edward Jones Investments, Energizer, and Monsanto.
St. Louis is home to three professional sports teams: the St. Louis Cardinals, the St. Louis Blues (hockey), and the St. Louis Rams.
While there are plenty of great hotels downtown, conveniently located to the river and the Arch, we stayed about 10 minutes from downtown, near Forest Park, a lovely, 1,300-acre park that was home to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Today, it is home to a great golf course, the zoo, the art museum and the Muny, and tons of activities such as biking, running and boating. The Cheshire Hotel (cheshirestl.com) has tons of Tudor personality. Each room is named for a British author or poet and the lobby exudes old English charm. The Cheshire opened in the 1920s but the rooms were lavishly renovated in 2011. The boutique hotel, a quiet jewel with luxurious floor rugs, stained glass windows, free parking and free Wifi and an incredible free breakfast.
Things to do:
First, as incredible as it seems, most public activities in St. Louis are free. Yes, free. All the time. The zoo is free and so is parking on surrounding streets. The St. Louis Science Center, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Museum, Citygarden Park, Anheuser Busch Brewery Tours, and Grant’s Farm, home to the Budweiser Clydesdales and hundreds of other animals, do not have an admission charge. Also free are the World Bird Sanctuary and the Caholia Mounds, a World Heritage Site, the Cathedral Basilica, a stunning cathedral home to the largest collection of mosaics in the world, the Laumeier Sculpture Park, the Museum of Westward Expansion and Old Courthouse, located at the base of the Arch, the National Great Rivers Museum and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.
The Arch (not free), of course, is a must for visitors to the city. Officially titled the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the iconic monument honors Thomas Jefferson and his forward-thinking expansion of the United States, much of which began in St. Louis, the “Gateway to the West.”
Enjoy a cool hour in the Missouri Botanical Garden, founded in 1859, the oldest continually operating botanical garden in the US. Dining Two words: The Hill. We parked on the street and emerged from the car and the incredible smell of garlic was wafting toward us. Originally the enclave to St. Louis Italians, it is still a thriving community of family owned businesses and restaurants sprinkled deliciously through neighborhood. We waved at an elderly resident tending her garden as we walked to Charlie Gitto’s Italian restaurant. This is where the famous dish – toasted ravioli – became known. A platter arrived on our table along with bread from nearby Fazzio’s Bakery. A plate of homemade salami from Volpi’s Italian Salami and Meat Company, located on The Hill, was accompanied by caponata, made from eggplant grown in the restaurants’ garden. Excellent.
Ted Drewes Frozen Custard stand is something all Americans should try. At any moment, on any day, from 10 a.m. until closing, there is a line never less than 100 people, all patiently queuing, craning their heads to read the list of available ingredients as children dart underfoot and cars stream into the parking lot. Begun in 1927, the Drewes family still runs the iconic stand. Get the ‘concrete’ - so thick you can turn the cup upside down and none will spill out. Sidewalk dining along Lindell Avenue – one wonderful place after another in this chic neighborhood will entice and delight you. Tennessee Williams wrote The Glass Menagerie inspired by the nearby apartment building he lived in during his late teens. The Delmar neighborhood, called The Loop, is named for the trolley turnaround from the World’s Fair days. Today it is a vibrant neighborhood of young professionals, art deco buildings, restaurants, art houses, hotels, night clubs and shopping. You can trace the Walk of Fame, with 75 brass stars, each one a tribute to a famous St. Louis native like Vincent Price and Shelley Winters.
Don’t miss the city’s casinos such as the River City Casino, on the outskirts of town, or the Lumière Place, downtown. Texans who like to gamble will enjoy either one with thousands of slot machines, table games and poker rooms. For complete information, and a very friendly website, go to explorestlouis.com. Photos, top to bottom: The icon of St. Louis - the famous Arch, officially the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, is stunning. Lines form early each day to go to the top. Forest Park is a jewel in the city and includes a fabulous golf course. There are always at least 100 people eating the frozen treats at Ted Drewes. Have a concrete – so thick they serve it upside down. Enjoy an old-fashioned boat ride on the Mississippi River with beautiful views of the Arch. The Cheshire Hotel is enthusiastically British and charming. If authentic, homemade and delicious Italian cuisine tempts you, Charlie Gitto’s is a must.