St. Louis Missouri is a terrific destination for a weekend or more and offers plenty of fun and exciting adventures. We were thrilled to spend this visit in St. Louis with our granddaughter which cast a completely different energy into everything we did and every place we visited. With so many things to see and do while in St. Louis, here are a handful of our favorites:
- Gateway Arch
- City Museum
- Laumeier Sculpture Park
- Fitz’s Root Beer & Bottling Company
- St. Louis Zoo
I had seen the famous Gateway Arch many times while traveling through St. Louis but had never visited specifically to explore and learn about its history. And I had always wanted to take a ride to the top! One time as a child in school I was required to create a Missouri “notebook” describing the state’s history, famous Missourians, etcetera, as well as famous icons located in the state. Of course, the arch was at the top of the list in this category, thus earning a spot on my bucket list of places to see with my own two eyes.
(Funny note about my Missouri “notebook” assignment – these were the days before the world wide web and the ease and wonder of “googling” a topic. In order to learn about a specific destination I might have looked it up in The New Book of Knowledge or World Book encyclopedia or even easier, I would make a phone call, incurring long distance charges, to the various chambers of commerce and offices of tourism around the state to request that information and brochures be mailed to me. From this assignment forward, I always had a thing for the travel and tourism industry and regularly requested travel brochures and maps from random locations around the USA.)
Back on topic … it’s not enough to simply see the arch from one of the busy freeways crisscrossing their ways across the city, however. You need to park your car, walk up to the arch and look UP!
The amazing monument was originally the vision of President Thomas Jefferson. His idea was to place a symbol at this spot to commemorate the endeavor of westward expansion by the United States. The famous duo Lewis and Clark perpetuated his dream by also envisioning a monument honoring their exploration of the west. Finally, the “dream” memorial took on the shape of an archway that would forever symbolize the entrance to this new part of the country and earn the appropriate nickname, “Gateway to the West”. Construction began in 1963 and the dream was completed in only two years – in 1965!
Sitting on beautiful park grounds belonging to the National Park Service and right on the Mississippi River, the arch is HUGE. It is made of steel and concrete – 630 feet wide, from one leg to the other and 630 feet tall. That is taller than the …
And St. Louis has a law in place that no other building, sign, or structure of any sort can be taller than the arch.
If you want to really get a feeling for just how TALL it is I suggest you take a ride to the top for an incredible 25+ mile view in all directions. The trams that takes you to the top are actually pods that hold a maximum of five people. You board the pod and sit on a bench with your knees touching the people sitting across from you. It is confined and close quarters. Then you commence to sort of … jerk, swing … jerk, swing … your way to the top. It sounds awful, right? Lol – it’s not – it’s a quick ride that lasts about four minutes but DO be aware of these conditions if you are prone to claustrophobia.
Once at the top take in the 360 degree view of the skyline through sixteen windows on either side of the arch. The windows are small because when this last section of the arch was put into place the legs on both sides were pried apart to insert the section and larger windows would not have withstood the pressure.
You can stay as long as you like once at the top but there are no facilities of any sort. The trams for the ride back down depart every 5 to 10 minutes. The views are extraordinary and if you don’t mind being a little cozy with total strangers, the unique ride to the top is extremely well worth it.
Once back in the underground entrance facility – don’t miss the movie, Monument to the Dream, a very interesting documentary that describes the history of the arch, as well as the amazing feat of constructing the monument. There is also a gift shop located here and a new (opening in June, 2018) museum slated to house interactive exhibits dedicated to this memorial to westward expansion. Contact info: 11 North 4th St, St. Louis, MO 63102 / 877 982-1410 / www.gatewayarch.com.
This crazy indoor / outdoor venue is one of the wackiest adventures we have had and one NOT to miss if you ever visit St. Louis – that is, if you like things WEIRD. I love that they call it a “museum”.
Yes, there are some interesting exhibits and you will definitely learn stuff but I don’t know if you can really put ANY label on this place! It is part …
- amusement park
- art gallery
- Parkour course
Occupying a whopping 600,000 square feet of a former shoe factory, the City Museum is made up of nooks and crannies, ups and downs, highs and lows, and twists and turns! It is the creation of artist Bob Cassilly and is constructed of salvaged materials from around the city. You will find old chimneys, abandoned bridges, leftover tiles, worn-out stonework – even defunct airplanes and a school bus. All repurposed into items of interest to examine, admire and entertain!
The place is a tremendous workout as you climb around and over all sorts of obstacles, under and through all sorts of passageways, and up and down all sorts of slides, including a 10-story slide! I would suggest wearing tennis shoes and long pants. Some folks, who had obviously been there before, carried flashlights. And do note – this is no place to fuss with carrying a purse or sporting a backpack. They do have lockers if you need to stow items once you arrive. They even sell kneepads in the gift shop. That should tell you something about the intensity!
The roof is only open in the summertime and features several slides, stepping stones through a pond and under spitting fountains, a Ferris wheel and lots of interesting ladders and cages to climb on and up and over.
If this is the sort of action that turns you on – you don’t want to miss a visit to the City Museum. It’s a great place to burn energy on a cold winter day and a great place to soak up some urban sunshine during the summer months! Contact info: 750 N. 16th St., St. Louis, MO / 314 231-2489 / www.citymuseum.org.
LAUMEIER SCULPTURE PARK
When I can combine TWO of my FAVORITE things – I am in heaven!! And that is exactly what we did on this lovely Sunday afternoon in June …
Wandering aimlessly in an art museum +
Strolling dreamily through a grassy park =
An afternoon at Laumeier Sculpture Park – an art museum at the park!
Yes, indeed-y, this 100+ acre, grassy wonderland of a park is an outdoor sculpture garden with 60 works of art scattered throughout the property. Connected by a winding, paved pathway called the Central Pathway, most of the artwork can be viewed along this half-mile walkway.
The park has been around since 1976 and sits on land donated to the city by the Laumeier family. In addition to the outdoor installations, you will find the Aronson Fine Arts Center, housing park information, maps and a gift shop. The Siteman Carriage House is also located here, where educational endeavors such as art day camps and workshops are held.
Besides the main pathway through the center of the park there are two woodland hikes located on property. The 3/4 mile Art Hike Trail and the shorter ten-minute Western Woodland Trail both lead visitors past additional thought-provoking works of art while enjoying wooded trails.
Dedicated to mixing art and nature, the park has succeeded in creating the perfect combo of refuge with a bit of education making it a terrific destination when you just need to get away from it all.
And … I almost forgot … Laumeier Sculpture Park includes two MORE of my favorite things! FREE and DOGS! Yup, it’s true – there is NO charge and you can bring your dogs. Of course, that just makes me want to give them a great big DONATION – well played, Laumeier Sculpture Park, well played. Contact Info: 12580 Rott Rd., St. Louis, MO 63127 / 314 615-5278 / www.laumeiersculpturepark.org.
FITZ’S ROOT BEER & BOTTLING COMPANY
How does a nice frosty mug of Root Beer sound?? If you’re like me, it’s hard to pass up real-deal Root Beer and that is exactly what you get at Fitz’s Root Beer and Bottling Company – an actual Soda Pop Microbrewery!
Fitz’s has been at its current location in the famous Delmar Loop / University City location of St. Louis since 1993. Around that time the Fitz folks located a vintage bottling line from the 1940’s, resurrected it to working order, and began bottling the good stuff right there on the premises of their restaurant. And they still do today – you can see it when you visit!
- Available flavors on tap are: Root Beer, Diet Root Beer, Cream Soda, Orange Pop, Black Cherry, and Cardinal Cream.
- Available flavors in longneck bottles: all of the above and Grape Pop, Strawberry, Diet Cream, Gingerbeer, Berry Pom and Pumpkin Pop.
And on occasion Fitz’s offers limited edition flavors such as Voodew, Vanilla Mint and Hip Hop Pop – a raspberry mix with a caffeine kicker!
You can take care of your food fix while at Fitz’s too. Their dining menu offers a family-friendly selection of your typical appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, salads and entrees. Fitz’s is famous for their shakes and malts too. And let’s not forget their FLOATS – they come in all shapes and sizes from your traditional Root Beer Float to something called the BIG BIRD made with Cardinal Cream, chocolate ice cream, whipped cream and sprinkles! (Think … St. Louis Cardinals baseball and just say, yum and thank you).
Contact Info: 6605 Delmar Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63130 / 314 726-9555 / www.fitzsrootbeer.com
ST. LOUIS ZOO
I’m a “zoo girl” – it’s that simple. I think my love for all zoos came from growing up with the San Diego Zoo – which is a very high bar and might make me a bit of a zoo snob. But the St. Louis Zoo is, impressively, right up there at the top of my “Amazing ZOO” list. And did I mention that it’s … FREE?!?
Yes, it’s FREE! Parking is 15 bucks per car – so figure that in. There are some attractions at the zoo that cost extra as well: the railroad, sea lion show, carousel and safari tours, to name a few. But the zoo is so big that you can walk around just looking at the animals and never need to pay for any of these extras.
The zoo started back in 1904 when a walk-through bird cage was brought to the city as part of the World’s Fair. Upon the conclusion of the fair, the city wanted to keep the giant bird cage and purchased it for $3,500. Minus the birds – they had to supply their own birds.
In 1910, the city decided to build a zoo around the bird cage and the results are today’s outstanding zoo, living their motto – “Animals First”. From the very early years the zoo has earned attention for world-class exhibits and has become a model for zoos around the world.
“There are two things a lively city needs – a good zoo and a good baseball team.” – George Vierheller, St. Louis Zoo Direction 1922 – 1962.
The city has pretty much always had the “baseball” thing down, and thanks to the consistent focus on animal management, conservation, research and education, the “good zoo” part has been fulfilled as well.
So if you’ve never been – check out the world-famous St. Louis Zoo. And if you’ve been before, it’s probably time for another visit because that’s the nice thing about visiting the zoo – NO two visits are ever the same! Contact Info: Government Drive, St. Louis, MO 63110 / 314 781-0900 / www.stlzoo.org.
Have YOU spent time in St. Louis? What are some of YOUR favorite tourist spots to hit while visiting?