To a Florida girl, St. Louis Missouri sounds, well to put it bluntly, boring. It’s in the middle of the United States in one of those states that I can’t identify without a label. Why would anyone, from anywhere, ever want to go to one of the cities in the middle states, unless it was Chicago?
I will freely admit that I was totally wrong about St. Louis. I want to right now extend my apologies to St. Louis. I am truly sorry I misjudged you. Never again will I judge a city by its location.
The Gateway Arch
St. Louis is known as the Gateway to the West. And it’s also home to the engineering marvel that is the Gateway Arch. According to the National Park Service: “The Gateway Arch reflects St. Louis’ role in the Westward Expansion of the United States during the nineteenth century. The park is a memorial to Thomas Jefferson’s role in opening the West, to the pioneers who helped shape its history, and to Dred Scott who sued for his freedom in the Old Courthouse.”
The Gateway Arch is the tallest National Monument at 630 ft. That is nearly 3 football fields in height. Under the base of the Arch is a museum, as well as two separate movies, one on the construction of the Arch, and one about the expansion of the US west. Both movies are worth the money, but if you only have time for one, I would recommend the construction one. Note that my choice is biased by the fact that I am an engineer.
There are trams (aka capsules) that take you up to the top of the Arch, for a beautiful view of the Mississippi River and the city. The trams are fairly small, seating 5 adults, and travel up the legs to the top. There is a tram in the lobby for you to check out before you buy a ticket. The NPS website has information on ticket costs and other things to see and do in the core of St. Louis.
So you think museums are boring? I think City Museum might just change your mind. Leave your outdated ideas about what a museum is at home. Definitely bring a sense of adventure, a pair of sneakers, and some jeans with you. City Museum can best be described as an eclectic collection of sculptures and randomness made of objects found within the municipal city limits of St. Louis that, oh by the way, you can climb on, under, and through. Yes even those among you who are kids at heart can enjoy the fun. The museum consists of several different stories, and there are differently themed areas, and so called treehouses. Everything is linked together, so it is almost like visiting a strange new land. You might start out in the underground caves, and work on climbing your way up through various circular stairs, ladders, ledges, and randomness, to find yourself in a post-modern industrial setting. Then you can slide back down again via a ten story spiral slide. Yes, ten stories. You can venture out onto the roof to be greeted by a school bus hanging off the edge and a Ferris wheel. Inside on another story you can find an indoor “skateless skate park” complete with a half pipe. Did I mention the aquarium filled with lots of two headed oddities in addition to the usual aquarium fair? This doesn’t even come close to a complete listing of what’s there. You could spend hours exploring City Museum and still not see or find all the little nooks and crannies. If you don’t do anything else while in St. Louis, still do this.
So what about low-cost/no-cost attractions? The attractions at St. Louis’ Forest Park are completely free. This includes the incredible St. Louis Zoo, and several museums, including the St. Louis Science Center. All you have to do is pay for parking and a bus pass. The bus system in the park is only a few dollars to ride for the entire day.
The St. Louis Zoo is a beautiful big city zoo. I didn’t have the opportunity to see the entire zoo, but what I did see was amazing. Many of the enclosures are designed so you can view them from multiple angles allowing you to get close to the animals. There is also a butterfly enclosure which I can only describe as magical.
The Science Center straddles the interstate, so as you walk from one half of the building to the other, you cross over 8 lanes of traffic. There are nifty windows in the floor which give you a bird’s eye view of the passing cars. Much of the Science Center includes hands on exhibits. My favorite part was a large Rube Goldberg device in the main lobby.
There are several other museums and attractions at the park that I just didn’t have time to visit. For more information check out the city’s Forest Park webpage.
There is much more to see and do in St. Louis, my two visits there have barely scratched the surface. If you ever find yourself in the middle, definitely take some time out to visit St. Louis. You’ll be glad you did.
Maria is not a writer, at least not by trade. Florida was her home until just recently when she packed up everything she owns and headed for Ohio. (Yes she has heard of snow, it’ll be an adventure, right?). She enjoys all things geeky like engineering, science fiction, obscure references to novels and movies you may or may not have read/seen, and anything creative. She will read pretty much anything you put in her hands, including the back of the cereal box. She’s a recent graduate from the mechanical engineering program at UNF, and put her education to good use through an EWB-USA UNF project in Tamale, Ghana. She dreams of retiring to one of the cute historic houses in St. Augustine so she can drive a pale blue Caddy five miles under the speed limit, and yell at those damn kids to get off her lawn just because she can. You can check out her photography on her Flickr stream.