St. Louis: Arch gladness for travelers

The Gateway Arch, the nation's tallest monument

The Gateway Arch, the nation’s tallest monument

With the PGA Champions Tour making its stop this week in Missouri at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge, it’s timely to talk about another “Show Me” state destination—St. Louis. Once the fourth largest city in the U.S., it must be one of the most unheralded places to visit in the Midwest. For most people, St. Louis is synonymous with the monumental Gateway Arch, sitting majestically aside the Mississippi River. For others it’s the Anheuser-Busch brewery or the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. Regardless of one’s orientation, St. Louis is jammed-packed with things to do and see. Just scratching the surface, here’s how we spent a delightful 48 hours and vowed a return trip soon.

Bus Tour: It may be an old fogey thing to do but it’s hard to beat a narrated bus tour. We selected St. Louis Fun Tour and it was perfect. Starting at 10 am downtown, the driver did an excellent and light-hearted job of providing a 75-minute overview of the city’s major attractions and historic reference points. With the constant ding of a bell, he cited the many free admissions common to the area. In fact, he claimed St Louis is second to only the nation’s capital for free museums and the like.

Missouri History Museum: Based on the bus driver’s urging, we visited this fine museum located inside Forest Park, the site of the 1904 World’s Fair. One of the best exhibits is its permanent display on the World’s Fair itself, chock full of historical documents, photos, memorabilia, all thrusting one back in time when the Fair attracted over 20 million visitors! One factoid: Grand Rapids-based Bissell Carpet Co. won a grand prize for designing the most unique exhibit in the Palace of Manufacturers. Incidentally, the 1904 Olympics was also held in St. Louis where golf was included as an individual sport. Talk about a busy town!

St. Louis Art Museum: The main building is the only surviving permanent building constructed for the World’s Fair so that’s reason alone to visit. There’s also a new East Building and combined with the Museum offers a comprehensive and impressive selection of galleries with an outstanding collection of American art.

St. Louis Zoo: Although time prevented us from visiting, the Zoo inside Forest Park remains a popular destination. It’s annually ranked as one of the top zoos in the U.S. with over 24,000 animals.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis: One doesn’t have to be Catholic or even religious to marvel at this magnificent edifice, built in 1914. It boasts the largest collection of mosaics under one roof in the world. Tours are available during the week by reservation only and on Sunday without reservation at approximately 1 pm.

Ballpark Village is a home run for baseball fans

Ballpark Village is a home run for baseball fans

Cardinals Nation in Ballpark Village: Just north of Busch Stadium is Ballpark Village, a sports and entertainment complex devoted to the Cardinals and baseball. If you love baseball or huge sports bars, it’s a must stop. When we visited the Cardinals were playing a spring game and it was being shown on a gigantic HD screen. There’s also the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum which bucks (not Jack and Joe) the local trend and charges for admission.

Three Sixty: Located atop the Hilton St. Louis, this snazzy bar and bistro offers majestic and outdoor views of St. Louis, including Busch Stadium, Gateway Arch, the Mississippi and surrounding areas. It’s a great place for a drink and a light meal.

Central West End: We were so pleased our hotel was situated here, so close to Forest Park. This is a vibrant and hip neighborhood filled with cool restaurants, pubs, shops and galleries. Particularly fascinating were the streets, many with gated entrances, with magnificent private homes built during the early 1900s. In particular, check out the homes on Hortense Place, between Euclid Ave and Kingshighway. This is also the neighborhood where playwright Tennessee Williams wrote The Glass Menagerie.

Chase Plaza Hotel: Indicative of its Historic Hotels of America designation, the Chase Plaza is an opulent step back in time, offering first-class accommodations and an array of fine dining options. The complex itself, located in the the heart of the Central West End area, consists of two buildings, the Chase Hotel built in 1922 and the Art Deco-styled Park Plaza tower built in 1929 and today housing condominiums. It’s been a AAA Four-Diamond winning hotel for the past dozen years and features 338 luxury rooms. In addition to a Salon & Spa and Wellness Center, there’s also a five-screen theater.

The Probstein offers three nine-hole courses

The Probstein offers three nine-hole courses

Golf: Inside Forest Park, there are three par-35 courses at the Norman K. Probstein GC—the Hawthorne, Dogwood and Redbud. The original Forest Park GC was built in 1913 but this new rendition is the handsome handiwork of Stan Gentry in 2004 then under Hale Irwin Signature Design. With zoysia fairways, the layouts are sporting and challenging depending upon the tee selection. Best played on less busy weekdays.

The only downside to our recent visit to St. Louis was the fact that the museum and tram ride to the top of Gateway Arch were still closed due to major renovations. Our bus guide said the renovations, totaling over $300 million, are the most expensive in the history of the National Park Service. The nation’s tallest monument, it was designed by Bloomfield Hills (Mich) native Eero Saarinen.

With the renovations set to be completed this Spring, it’s as good as excuse as any for a return a visit to St. Louis.

For more information about planning a visit to St. Louis, check out

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