Want to tuck into a plate of juicy, succulent barbecue pork steak while watching a baseball match? Or how about slinking through a series of tunnels spread out over four floors of a skyscraper? From Blues festivals to blooming blossoms, from outdoor art exhibitions to the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, Saint Louis is a large city with a strong, beautiful personality that has grown as a result of a rich past, a plethora of local pioneers and an influx of diverse cultures within the city limits. Vacation planners will have their hands full plumbing the depths of this city.
Historically, the area that later became the city was the centre of a Native American Mississippian culture, and St. Louis tourism is very cognizant of this fact. The Natives were known for the earthwork mounds, which lent the city’s early nickname ‘The City of Mounds’, and lived in the area from as early as 900 A.D. In 1673, came French explorers Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette and soon French settlements were set up. After France lost to the British in North America, Pierre Laclède and his stepson Auguste Chouteau founded the city of St. Louis. The city actually got its name after King Louis IX. St. Louis was transferred to the Republic of France in 1800 and then sold to the United States three years later, as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Soon steamboats arrived to St. Louis, as did many new races of immigrants. Immigrants from Africa, Ireland and Germany and after 1860, the population was up to 160,000.
Saint Louis, nicknamed ‘The Gateway to the West’, was the last major stop pioneers ventured westward to the Pacific coast. The stunning, soaring Gateway Arch was built to commemorate this. Saint Louis has played a significant role in the country in numerous ways, both in the past and in contemporary times. It has hosted the 1904 World Fair and the 1904 Summer Olympics, being the first non-European city to do so. The city has also made contributions to the culinary world, at both a national and global level. It was at the World Fair where the ice-cream cone, the hot dog, iced-tea, cotton candy and the hamburger were introduced to the masses
Today, the city is the largest of the former French-Louisiana territory the largest metropolitan area in Missouri. In 1876, the city of St. Louis gained independence from the county of St. Louis and though they share the same moniker, they are divided into two districts, with the city attracting more tourists due to its bustling business centers. The city was very well planned, thanks to which visitors will appreciate the beautifully paved roads with lots of green spaces. Before its founding, the area was mostly open space and lusciously green prairie land and the city planners made it a point to conserve the indigenous plant and tree life in area by filling the city with oak, maple and hickory.
- Forest Park is the largest area filled with native trees and the city is also home to numerous, non-native decorative plants such as Japanese honeysuckle. There are also urbanized coyotes and white tailed deer in some parts of the city, along with numerous other animals, rodents, insects and birds. The summer months are especially popular with the animal population in the city! Bird watchers will enjoy visiting the city since it’s on the Mississippi Flyway which is used by migratory birds. The Eurasian Tree Sparrow is limited in North America to the counties surrounding St. Louis. The city has special sites for bird-watching of migratory species, including Tower Grove Park. The local zoo is also considered to be one of the best in the world.
- The culturally inclined will fall in love with all the events and festivals the city offers on an almost daily basis. From music festivals spanning blues, jazz, hip hop, rock and most other genres to interactive art exhibitions and outdoor theater, the city is rich with cultural expression, as well as diversity. Each festival is a beautifully crafted feast for the senses, with music and stage performances, tantalizing food and stunning displays all taking place in turns upon soft grassy parks or carefully crafted auditoriums. Fabulous Fox Theater, the Gateway Arch’s Jazz at the Bistro, The Pageant, The Muny and the Peabody Opera House are just a few of the centers of creativity in the city and shining examples of how St. Louis combines different elements of culture to create some real southern soul food.
- There are numerous chic shopping boutiques that will please the avid shopper all around St. Louis. If you’re into Italian food and shops, then you can visit the Hill, the city’s unofficial ‘Italian district’. Alternative shopping, organic cosmetics, and many other malls are perfect havens for those who want to buy presents, souvenirs or last minutes products. There are also many major convenience stores all over the city, such as 7-Eleven and Walgreen. Alternatively, there are numerous local markets which showcase domestic produce and wares.
- If you’d like to pay your respects or just visit a few churches, then there are numerous to visit. Since the city has had both French and Spanish influences, you’ll find many catholic structures here. There are the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis and the Old Cathedral, to name the most famous.
- Sports lovers will rejoice at the huge, state of the art hockey, football, baseball and basketball stadiums built here which have matches and major league tournaments running during the year. The city’s home teams are pretty successful as well, so it’s no surprise that many people travel all the way to St. Louis just to see their favourite teams go head to head.
- There are casinos, lounges, riverboat cruises and all kinds of novel experiences in the city, sure to entertain. After seeing all the sights and cheering on all the fights (only in the stadiums, of course) you can lay back and relax, while indulging your hedonistic side.
Since the city has become a popular tourist destination, there’s really something for everyone to do. From exciting museums where you get to climb around walls and touch the exhibits to celebrating special events under the magnificent city Arch, no one can possible get bored here. Special St. Louis food coupled with the sights, sounds and feel of the city is enough to make anyone feel energized, revitalized and entertained for hours upon hours. Visit Saint Louis, sink your teeth into a warm, toasty slinger with mashed potatoes, crack open an ice-cold Budweiser, watch the fireworks explore over the arch, painting the night sky and let the city slip you some sweet, old, southern styled loving. Each one of you should visit Saint Louis at least once and experience all that it has to offer considering the best time to visit Saint Louis.