By Jenny Peters
St. Louis, the “Gateway to the West,” is a small city with a big heart. Founded by the French in 1764 and named for King (and Saint) Louis IX, the city grew up on the Mississippi river, at one time ranking the fourth largest port in the country. Although the city did later fall on hard times, a concerted revitalization is underway, bringing new life to old districts and dusting off an impressive architectural treasures, from the famous Gateway to The Old Cathedral — the oldest building in St. Louis — and Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, famed for its Tiffany and Company stained glass. Wholesale renovation projects, like Downtown Now!, are transforming entire districts, as more and more tech start-up companies open their doors, making St. Louis a city on the move.
HISTORY & ART
St. Louis has numerous historical buildings to discover, from the beautiful Saint Louis Art Museum, housed in the massive neoclassical Palace of Fine Arts, to the Missouri History Museum. Both are part of Forest Park, a 1,371-acre natural and cultural oasis in the heart of the city that also includes the Saint Louis Zoo, the MUNY outdoor amphitheater, and Saint Louis Science Center; they are all free to visit, apart from MUNY shows.
Then there’s the Lafayette Square neighborhood, with its gorgeous “painted ladies” — beautifully restored Victorian homes painted with contrasting colors. Federalist and French Second Empire architecture styles surround Lafayette Park, a landscaped 30-acre green space complete with a lake stocked for fishing. Grab a honey lavender, salted cracked caramel, or tequila chocolate mole ice cream cone at nearby Clementine’s Creamery before your stroll, and a Tuscan-California dinner at Eleven Eleven Mississippi after.
THE ULTIMATE KIDS' MUSEUM
If traveling with kids, take them to City Museum to blow their minds (and yours, too). This wild and wacky multi-story place encourages children to go slightly crazy, with everything from squirm-through caves to huge rooftop slides, to mazes, a mini-train, aquarium and more. Kids also love the famed Gateway Arch, particularly the heady tram trip to the very top observation deck.
BLUES & BBQ
St. Louis was one of the original places where the blues flourished, spawning musical legends like Chuck Berry and Tina Turner. That’s why the fascinating National Blues Museum is located right in the downtown, with wonderful exhibits and live blues shows every week. Also find live blues nearby at BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups and Hammerstone’s in Soulard neighborhood; Cajun-spiced Evangeline’s has live music near Forest Park.
Right next door is one of the city’s terrific BBQ spots, Sugarfire Smokehouse, which not only does the classics, but adds BBQ Andouille sausage and Portobello mushrooms to their ‘cue mix. A “spiked” shake of vanilla, caramel, and bourbon makes it all go down extra special. BBQ lovers need to put Pappy’s Smokehouse on the list, too, for melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork and dry rub smoked ribs.
United and American Airlines fly direct to St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) from O’Hare International Airport (ORD) daily, while Southwest departs Midway International Airport daily for STL. Flights take just over one hour each way.