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Bryce Settle

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Briana Capps

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Alaska, Japan, United States, Florida, California
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Overview

Introduction

St. Louis, Missouri, got the nickname "Gateway to the West" thanks to pioneers in search of a better way of life who pursued their American dream by making tracks to this unique river city. But that heritage is only part of the charm. St. Louis is where Scott Joplin rolled out ragtime tunes and jazzmen played the blues. It's also where Dred Scott filed his landmark lawsuit for freedom from slavery.

The city started with pioneers of American spirit and nurtured pioneers in transportation, space exploration and biotechnology. St. Louis has preserved enough of yesterday to convey a real sense of place and keep its pioneer spirit alive through tech industries of tomorrow. Think Chicago without the traffic, New York without the noise or Miami without the beach, as well as without the high cost of living or a long daily commute.

Traditional? Yes. Staid? Hardly. St. Louisans play as hard as they work, so there's an abundance of entertainment, education, and arts and culture—and they're rather fond of their sports teams. This vibrant, ethnically diverse region holds unexpected treasures. In many St. Louis neighborhoods, sidewalk cafes, ethnic restaurants, and shops and galleries are reviving the city's distinctive character.

Must See or Do

Sights—The spectacular St. Louis Gateway Arch; the Japanese garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden; thousands of red-clad St. Louis Cardinals fans at Busch Stadium; the wildly entertaining and interactive City Museum; the funky wonderland known as The Loop; the 3-acre/1-hectare Citygarden Sculpture Park in the heart of downtown; the Clydesdale stables at the historic Anheuser-Busch brewery.

Museums—Renaissance, pre-Columbian and German expressionist art at the spacious Saint Louis Art Museum; historical St. Louis at the Missouri History Museum; outdoor sculptures and indoor galleries at Laumeier Sculpture Park; a celebration of everything that rolls, flies or floats at the Museum of Transportation; cutting-edge works at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis; the metamorphosis of butterflies at the Butterfly House; and the world's largest collection of hand-tiled mosaics at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.

Memorable Meals—Lobster albanello at Tony's; a "concrete" custard at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard; spanakopita and gyros at Olympia Kebob House and Taverna; veal saltimbocca at Dominic's on the Hill; unique cornmeal crust pizzas at Pi Pizzeria; the best burger in town at Blueberry Hill.

Late Night—Gambling at one of six area casinos; savoring the blues at the clubs in Soulard; dance clubs and lounges along Washington Avenue; DJ spins in The Loop.

Especially for Kids—Animals at the renowned—and free—St. Louis Zoo; animated dinosaurs and outer-space displays at the St. Louis Science Center and Planetarium; the three-story slide at Magic House, St. Louis Children's Museum; a riverboat ride on the Mississippi River; tour an ancient civilization at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site; thrill rides at Six Flags St. Louis.

Geography

St. Louis is situated on gently rolling terrain in eastern Missouri near the border with Illinois, 18 mi/29 km south of the confluence of two large rivers, the Mississippi and the Missouri. The Gateway Arch sits on the banks of the Mississippi River and serves as the city's front door. From it, you can walk into the heart of downtown or visit the downtown of a century ago (maintained in the restored buildings and cobblestoned streets of Laclede's Landing). The riverfront casinos, sports stadiums, an expanded convention center and restaurants are all within walking distance of the Arch.

The city boundaries are actually rather small, and include unique areas such as Soulard, the Central West End, the Italian neighborhood called The Hill and the funky vibrant neighborhood known as the The Loop. These areas are about 10-15 minutes from downtown by car. In fact, there's as much to see and do outside downtown as there is in the city center. You might choose to lodge elsewhere and take the short trip into downtown for those attractions that interest you. Clayton, on the western edge of the city, is a thriving "second downtown," with its own impressive concentration of businesses, hotels, restaurants and shops.

History

In 1754, Pierre Laclede, a partner in a fur-trading company in New Orleans, began scouting for an ideal Native American fur-trading location. He took his 13-year-old stepson, Auguste Chouteau, with him on a journey up the Mississippi River. After looking over two sites that proved unsuitable for their needs, they journeyed approximately 18 mi/29 km south of the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and discovered a site that would become St. Louis.

Laclede and Chouteau liked the area's river access and the bluff that would prevent flooding. They marked the site and returned to it one year later to found the settlement of St. Louis, named for King Louis IX of France. In a journal entry in 1763, Laclede predicted the city's future: "I have found a situation where I am going to form a settlement which might become hereafter one of the finest cities in America."

The area surrounding St. Louis provided Native Americans with an abundance of fish and game. It was also an ideal environment for the tribes to build their ceremonial mounds, large earthen structures from which St. Louis earned its early nickname, "Mound City." The French claimed the area as their own in the late 1600s, and by 1700 they had signed a treaty with the Iroquois that allowed organized trading in the region. In 1803, Napoleon sold the land to the U.S. as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

Explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and the Corps of Discovery set out on their famous expedition from St. Louis in 1804. At the time, the city was considered the fur-trading center of the U.S. Soon, St. Louis gained a new nickname: "Gateway to the West." Pioneers, mountain men, trappers and travelers all stopped in St. Louis to stock up on supplies before crossing the Great Plains. Growing rapidly, the town incorporated in 1809. By 1817, steamboats began to arrive at the city's riverbanks.

The city continued to grow in the early 1900s and achieved prominence by hosting both the Olympics and the World's Fair in 1904. The second half of the 20th century proved more difficult, as St. Louis faced problems of urban decline and a large exodus to the suburbs by residents. There were some bright spots, however. On 25 May 1965, the dedication of Eero Saarinen's 632-ft/195-m steel arch on the Mississippi symbolized the city's role as a way station for westbound pioneers.

Today, St. Louis' downtown has undergone a US$5 billion renovation, complete with a downtown core filled with restaurants, hotels and residential lofts. The Washington Avenue Loft District has revitalized historic buildings and warehouses built in the early 1900s and created a vibrant downtown neighborhood.

Potpourri

Several popular American food items were introduced at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis: Iced tea, the hot dog and waffle cones for ice cream.

Baseball's Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola grew up across the street from one another on Elizabeth Avenue in the Italian neighborhood known as the Hill.

The first daily newspaper in the country was the St. Louis Herald, which was first published in 1834.

St. Louis' Wainwright Building, located on Seventh Street, was the world's first skyscraper. It was designed by architect Louis Sullivan and built in 1891.

The first Olympiad ever held in the U.S. took place in St. Louis at Washington University's Francis Field in conjunction with the 1904 World's Fair.

W.C. Handy, considered the father of the blues, wrote his classic song "St. Louis Blues" under Eads Bridge on the Mississippi Riverfront. "St. Louis Blues" is the most recorded blues song in history.

Toasted ravioli is a food unique to St. Louis. Accidentally invented in the early 1940s during a minor kitchen "accident," the ravioli are breaded, fried and served with marinara sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. You get the best toasted ravioli in restaurants in the Hill neighborhood.

Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the U.S. Spanning 1,293 acres/523 hectares, it is approximately 500 acres/200 hectares larger than Central Park in New York City.

Celebrities who reside in or come from St. Louis include Chuck Berry, the "Father of Rock 'n' Roll"; hip-hop star Nelly, who owns a recording studio educational center on Laclede's Landing; Olympic champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who was born and raised in East St. Louis; actor Kevin Kline; saxophonist David Sanborn; and dancer and singer Josephine Baker, who grew up in the north city area.

At one time, more than 50 local breweries, including Anheuser-Busch, stored their beer in the city's underground caves. Some historical homes in the area had cave access: Lemp Mansion's cave access included tunnels to the Lemp brewery, a swimming pool and an auditorium. Other caves held speakeasies, movie theaters and even an ice-skating rink.


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