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St.Louis Travel Guide

Count Basie, Etta James, Elvis Presley, Pat Boone even Blur are but a tiny fraction of artists who have recorded songs about the place. I believe this is due to the romantic association with its location the junction of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers neither of them slouches when it comes to lyrical inspiration.

It may not be destination #1 for tourists, but to its credit, St.Louis makes a genuine effort when it comes to pleasing visitors. Stagger Lee excepted, the inhabitants have always had a reputation for being friendly and hospitable. This hospitality stretches over into the number of free attractions to be found there including the incredible world class zoo with its multi million dollar jungle environment to the amazing Science centre with hundreds of interactive exhibits covering everything from the Jurassic period to modern space travel and beyond.

The space age is one of the first things that spring to mind when you set eyes on the City’s principal landmark – the Gateway Arch that spans the Missouri River. This incredible structure curves 630ft into the air and is exactly as wide as it is tall. As you would imagine it has become one of the top tourist attractions. An elevator tram ride to the top is a definite ‘must do’ for all visitors who don’t suffer from vertigo. From the top you can see for over 3miles in both directions.

St.Louis likes things big so it will come as no surprise that they also have the biggest brewery in the world, Anheuser-Busch. Visitors to the brewery are welcome and it’s a great opportunity to enjoy a glass of delicious freshly fermented beer. Within the brewery grounds you’ll also find the Clydesdale barns, where the world famous horses are bred. Like the Arch and Anheuser-Busch the barns are enormous.

St.Louis takes its architecture seriously and when it comes to putting old buildings to good use imagination can often run riot. Take for instance the City Museum; 100,000 square feet created entirely from salvaged and recycled materials. Housed in what was formerly a shoe warehouse it is a truly ingenious structure. When you approach the museum you are at first greeted with the sight of a gigantic shoe made out of thousands of shoes collected from the shop floor. Above you there is a school bus suspended from the roof, but nothing could prepare you for the genuinely surreal experience you are about to be part of. You can get lost in the belly of an enormous whale, wander through a multilevel enchanted forest, climb a staircase made from old print rollers or come face to face with an elephant.

The only attraction to rival the Gateway Arch is also possibly the most incredible piece of architecture St.Louis has to offer, Union Station. Built in 1900 to a design by native architect Theodore Link it was modelled on the medieval French fortified city of Carcassone. Following the demise of the railroad, the station fell into disrepair until the 1980s when the building’s owner, Oppenheimer Properties, commenced a colossal renovation programme. Today the station contains a shopping mall with over 100 stores as well as several restaurants and bars. The Hyatt Regency Hotel is renowned for its elegant decoration and plush lobby area open to non-residents. At the back of the building the old train shed houses a recreational lake with paddleboats and a fairground carousel. There is also an outdoor stage that presents regular live music concerts.

As you would expect from the home of modern jazz St.Louis has a thriving music scene. Blues and jazz are particularly well represented with Jo Jo’s, Generations, Harpo’s and Blueberry Hill being amongst the top spots to catch living legends live. The Riverfront Amphitheatre is the number one venue for rock and alternative music or you can sweat yourself silly dancing to the latest techno tunes at Side door Music. Really big names are usually booked at the Kiel Centre and for the more culturally inclined the Repertory Theatre plays host to world-class opera companies.

One of the more colourful local faces is Joe Edwards. He’s the guy responsible for keeping Blueberry Hill alive and kicking for over thirty years. Check out the great jukebox spinning classics from the fifties and the wonderful Elvis and Duck concert rooms. Edwards is also the brains behind St.Louis’ own Walk of Fame. Modelled on Hollywood Boulevard the St.Louis version is situated along Delmar Boulevard and consists of brass stars embedded in the sidewalk with bronze plaques to commemorate the City’s most famous sons and daughters. They include Chuck Berry, Tina Turner, William Burroughs, Scott Joplin, Betty Grable, John Goodman, Vincent Price and Shelley Winters.

Although St.Louis may not appeal as a long stay destination it is certainly worth visiting for a few days. You won’t get bored. If you like a flutter there are the riverboat casinos, the nightlife is fairly happening and if you still have energy to spare by 2am you can simply ride over the bridge to the Illinois side of the Missouri and dance till 6am. There are wonderful parks to explore, a wealth of great galleries and museums and superb shopping and eating out. Despite its 2million population it still manages to retain the flavour of a small town and has a certain charm you usually don’t associate with American Cities. So forget the bad rep spawned by the Stagger Lee legend and hit the city where the people really are so very nice!

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St.Louis Travel Guide, Attractions and Highlights
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