Along the western bank of the Mississippi River sits “The Gateway to the West”. With historical roots in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, St. Louis became a major port city for transporting goods and settlers to the Western parts of the United States. Now, St. Louis is a bustling metropolis nestled between plains and mountains.
It turns out St. Louis is also a great place for a short adventure!
The Museum of Westward Expansion
(Now Closed. New museum to come Spring 2016)
When I visited St. Louis, I began my day at the Museum of Westward Expansion. Located directly underground from the Gateway Arch, the museum was an informative nod to the Westward Expansion of the United States. I have since learned that this museum is closed and under construction, with a tentative opening date sometime in the Spring of 2016. Someone will have to update me on what’s new!
Visit the Gateway Arch
You can’t go to St. Louis and not see the Gateway Arch. That’s like going to San Francisco and not seeing the Golden Gate Bridge! Or to New York City and not seeing the Empire State Building! It’s a destination staple. Marvel at the height and shape of the structure as you stand at the base and crane your neck towards the top. But if you really want a great view, keep reading!
Ride to the Top of the Arch
It may be hard to believe, but inside the legs of the structure are a series of capsules that will take you to the top of the Arch. This adventure is not exactly for the faint of heart. The ride to the top is pretty claustrophobic, and some say they can feel the Arch sway on windy days. But the views of the city just can’t be beat- one of the coolest views I’ve seen. Definitely worth it if you can manage the height. The cost to ride to the top is $13 for adults and includes free parking in St. Louis for the day.
Get Acquainted with the Mississippi River
Being in St. Louis included my first encounter with 4th longest river in the world. Despite being brown and murky-looking, I insisted that I at least touch it. From the Gateway Arch, you can walk directly to the water’s edge and place your hand in. Not sure if I’d recommend a swim…
Relax at Keiner Plaza
Keiner Plaza is a beautiful area, a short walk from the Gateway Arch. A flowing waterfall, concrete flooring that holds the warmth of the sunshine. Pretty views of the arch. It’s a great place for a short break.
In addition, the St. Louis Visitor’s Center in located in Keiner Plaza. Stop in for more information on what more you can do in St. Louis!
Get your Knowledge on at the St. Louis Science Center
The Science Center is a great way to spend a few hours in St. Louis. There are several different exhibitions to explore, and many encourage learning through interaction. There is so much to keep kids, teens, and even adults fascinated. We enjoyed watching tornadoes form inside a glass tube, playing with sand and seeing the projected topographic map change, and of course, the dinosaur exhibit. I was especially pleased by the graphic accuracy of the display shown below…
The greatest part about the Science Center is that you can see and experience a majority of it for free! Purchased tickets are required for Planetarium shows, OMNIMAX shows, and special exhibits.
Venture through the Wild at the St. Louis Zoo
Not too far from the Science Center sits the St. Louis Zoo. This is a great zoo with over 500 different species of animals. You will certainly not be bored. Walking through the River’s Edge section transports you to a whole new region of the world. You’ll completely forget you’re in Missouri! Watch the hippos swim, the lions nap, and the orangutans play. Just be prepared for a lot of walking! Admission to the zoo is free, but there are costs associated with most of the experiences and a few areas of the zoo.
Stroll through Forest Park
Who doesn’t love a good park within a big city? The St. Louis Government site says it best: In a city where 80% of the land has been developed for business, industry or residential uses, the park serves as a natural oasis for the city, an important source of green space, a respite for migrating birds, and an integrated ecosystem where humans and nature interact.” Forest park is home to the Zoo, as well as many cultural sites, landmarks, and dining facilities. There are waterfalls, fishing lakes, tennis courts, and much more. You could easily spend the entire day at Forest Park, if you wished. However, for our “St. Louis in one-day” purposes, I recommend a short stroll to get a taste of the beauty and a bit of escape from the city scene.
Sample Homemade Sodas at Fitz’s
If you’re sick of the same old colas, Fitz’s is the place to go! Made famous for its homemade root beer, Fitz’s is a fully operational restaurant and bottling facility. Taste a wide range of unique homemade soda flavors, like Berry Pomegranate, Black Cherry, Cardinal Cream, Coffee, and my personal favorite- Key Lime! There are more traditional flavors as well such as Orange, Grape, and the famous Root Beer. Stay and have a meal, or “pop” in (see what I did there?) to watch their bottling line in action.
Have you visited St. Louis recently? What else should be seen?