Keeping Busy in St. Louis Up the Gateway Arch
By Tab Hauser
The Gateway City of St Louis Missouri offers Blues, Beer, BBQ, a sky-high view, and a whole lot more.
During our 6283-mile road trip, we decided to stop at some of America’s cities, and St. Louis was worth a visit.
The Top Sight
The big tourist draw in St. Louis is Gateway Arch majestically facing east where the settlers came from and looked out west to where they were going.
Its impressive height at 603 feet makes it the tallest arch in the world as well as the largest stainless steel structure in the world.
There is a “wow” factor when you see it up close and personal that no photograph or video can replicate.
Each year four million visitors descend on the park with one million taking a ride to the top. Ordering tickets in advance online. To get to the top visitors enter a five-passenger pod-like tram elevator that takes four minutes.
Once visitors reach the top, they are rewarded with views of the Mississippi on one side and St. Louis and its suburbs on the other side. One thing that struck me while on the top was just how flat the center of our country is.
When at the visitor center I highly recommend you see Monument to the Dream. This is a 30-minute video on the building of the arch.
It gave an appreciation of what went into this iconic structure. Another attraction you can buy tickets through the above website is the river cruise.
The replica paddle wheeler takes passengers out for a one hour narrated tour. Taking this cruise offers the best view of the arch.
Brew Masters Tour
St. Louis has been the home to Anheuser Busch since 1852. The brewery, a National Historic Landmark District, dominates the Soulard neighborhood of the city. One member on our tour likened the brick imposing factory buildings to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory for producing beer.
There are four tours ranging from free to $35 and last 45 minutes to two hours for the Brew Master Tour that we took. Our small group started at an executive meeting room where they have a mini-museum.
There we were given a history of the brewery and how the beer is made. (I learned that Budweiser is made with rice which is why I find the taste a little bland).
We then visited the immaculately kept Clydesdale Paddock and Stables and saw the horses. We also met Clyde the Dalmatian. Our behind the scenes tour included the historic Brew House, Lager Cellar, Packaging Facility and Finishing Cellar. A highlight was having a sample in the finishing cellar.
Here through a small hole, they tapped a beer barrel the size of a small house so we can drink it five minutes before the beer was to bottled and pasteurized. From the finishing cellar, we were taken back to the executive room and told to help ourselves to anything we wanted to taste from the 30 brands of InBev’s 200 beers they sell.
This included cider, regional craft beers and one glutton free beer. After the sampling, you can have lunch at their pub and shop in their store. For complete information on events and tours visit this website.
St. Louis’s Top Free Attraction
The St. Louis Zoo is a top city attraction that is free. Here you can stroll around 90 acres that house 15,000 animals from over 600 species.
It is an easy zoo to see in a couple of hours with six sections broken up by species or locations including a children’s section. You can upgrade your free admission for $10.95 to include the Children’s Zoo, Zooline Railroad, Caribbean Cove, Conservative Carousel, the Sea Lion Show and the 4-D Theater.
If walking the zoo is an issue or you like cute narrow gauge trains, we recommend the Zooline Railroad. For a post or pre zoo St. Louis taste, drive a mile away to Imo’s Pizza (www.imospizza.com .)
This St. Louis version of pizza is very thin and crispy looking more like what many would call a “bar pie”. It uses a processed cheese called Provel and has sweeter sauce than what you may be used to.
Trolley Around the City
On our second day, we decided to let the experts show us the city on the St. Louis Fun Tour trolley/bus. (www.stlouisfuntours.com) For 75 minutes we were given a narrative tour of over a dozen points of interest from all over the city. This included a drive through some of the 1300 acres of Forest Park. They offer three tours a day.
Nature in St. Louis
To take a break from the city we recommend a visit to the Missouri Botanical Garden. This garden established in 1859 is one of the oldest in the United States. It is 79 acres split amongst three dozen gardens or points of interest. Its highlights include the Victorian District, the Climatron Geodesic Dome Conservatory and the Formal and International Gardens. Other highlights included the narrative tram ride, the many sculptures, and a tour of the restored Tower Grove House built in 1849.
Dining, Music, and More
St. Louis offers a wide variety of fare. With only a few days the highlights we concentrated on were BBQ, Italian (on the Hill) and Blues music and food. For BBQ we found the Sugar Fire Smoke House downtown excellent and very casual.
Their smoked brisket and turkey could not have been any juicier and their side dishes all tasty. Do not look for fancy “plating” at Sugar Fire as the food is served on paper-lined trays. For good Italian fare, the St. Louis’s Hill district (http://www.shopthehill.com) did the trick.
This area is known for its Italian style stores, bakeries, and restaurants. We enjoyed our dinner at Gian-Tonys (www.gian-tonys.com). When here try the area specialty called “toasted ravioli” as a starter.
St. Louis is known for its Blues and Soulard district has a few places where music plays nightly. For an evening out we made reservations at the Broadway Oyster Bay (www.broadwayoysterbar.com) Here we dined on New Orleans’s style food and heard two well-known local bands long into the night.
If you are interested in blues music visit the National Blues Museum downtown. (www.nationalbluesmuseum.org)
For shopping and entertainment consider a visit to what is called the Delmar Loop. This six-block area full of stores, pubs, restaurants, boutiques, and the historic Tivoli Theatre. (www.visittheloop.com)