St. Louis experienced a population boom during the late 1800s when German and Italian immigrants settled in large numbers, and thanks to the work of several visionary thinkers, the city became home to the first concrete stadium (Francis Field at Washington University), the first skyscraper (the
This area offers most visitors their first impression of the city, greeting them with its signature
This old, well-established neighborhood is situated south of Downtown. Here you will find a fine selection of jazz and blues clubs as well as the gargantuan outdoor
A large Asian community resides in the South Grand area, offering a tantalizing selection of Asian restaurants, like
Settled by Italian immigrants in the late 1800s, this area still offers some of the best traditional Italian fare this side of the Atlantic.
Central West End
The heart of the Central West End is
The largely restored
The Loop (University City)
Called "The Loop" by locals,
The quaint historic town of
St. Louis stood as a gateway to the west long before the famed St. Louis Arch was erected, before Six Flags flew over St. Louis and before Anheuser-Busch brewed its first beer. French explorers Marquette and Joliet discovered the mouth of the Missouri River in 1673; St. Louis was founded as a fur trading post nearly 100 years later, in 1764, by Pierre Laclede and René Auguste Choutou, who named the town after France's King Louis IX.
However, St. Louis' history actually began long before the 18th century. Historians think Native Americans built earthen dwellings here in 400 BC and may have roamed this area more than 1,000 years before that. While Europe was in the Middle Ages, this rich culture vanished for reasons that still elude historians.
Founded in 1779, Soulard Farmers' Market continues to operate today as the oldest continually running farmers' market west of the Mississippi River. Ulysses S. Grant, who later became the 18th president of the U.S., once peddled goods there.
By 1804, St. Louis was the hub of the American fur trade and had become the starting point for Lewis and Clark's explorations of the Louisiana Territory. Ever a river city, St. Louis saw its first steamboat on the mighty Mississippi River in 1817 and, due to its central location, has since continued to grow as a transportation hub. The city experienced a population boom beginning in 1857 when the railroad arrived, bringing Irish, German and Italian immigrants with it. The Italian Hill, the German-populated South Side and the Jewish-populated community in Mid-County offer just a sampling of the ethnic diversity of St. Louis. (The Hill still serves up some of the best traditional Italian cuisine this side of the Atlantic.)
In 1850, St. Louis witnessed a landmark trial that had repercussions across the nation. In what is now known as the Old Courthouse, a slave named Dred Scott was given his freedom. However, the original ruling was overturned in both the Missouri and United States Supreme Courts in what is known as the Dred Scott Decision. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Missouri sided with the Union; however, the state remained divided between slave owners and abolitionists.
Forest Park, founded in 1876, continues to be visited by millions annually. In addition to the world-class St. Louis Zoo, the park boasts 38 tennis courts, 20 baseball fields, a skating rink, two free golf courses, a cricket field and even a croquet course. The park began its ambitious development phase in 1911 when Dwight Davis (for whom tennis' Davis Cup is named) took over as park commissioner.
More than 100 years ago, the St. Louis Union Station was built and at one time served more than 250 trains a day. Now the huge structure, with its gothic clock tower, houses a popular mall filled with stores and eateries.
St. Louis is home to the world's first skyscraper—the Wainwright Building, built in 1891— and the first concrete stadium in the country, Washington University's Francis Field, constructed for the 1904 Olympic Games. 1904 was also the year St. Louis hosted the World's Fair, immortalized by Judy Garland's rendition of "Meet Me in St. Louis" from the 1944 film of the same name. The fair brought worldwide attention to St. Louis for several months and gave many fairgoers their first tastes of hot dogs and ice cream cones. However, the event cost the city $50 million to stage, and while composer and ragtime popularizer Scott Joplin had people humming a lively tune, construction and development would come to a near standstill in St. Louis for more than a decade. People who had moved to the city for jobs at the fair eventually found themselves out of work as the economy continued to suffer.
The folks of St. Louis did get a boost in pride in 1926 when baseball's St. Louis Cardinals won the first of their nine World Series titles. (You can still watch the Cardinals play at Busch Stadium, for as little as USD7.) A year later, Charles Lindbergh's non-stop transatlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis gave the city an additional self-esteem lift.
Still, there were hard times during the Great Depression, although St. Louis fared better than many other cities because, then as now, its economy did not rely on any single industry. After World War II, St. Louis became a leader in airplane and automobile production, and Boeing and Chrysler remain two of the city's largest employers.
The famed Route 66, which gained popularity in the 1940s and 50s as it enticed motorists to drive cross-country, runs through "St. Louie." To get a feel for the charm that used to line America's dream drive, check out Ted Drewes Frozen Custard Stand. Lines are long, but the legendary thick, rich ice cream tastes as good today as it did to weary travelers mid-century. The 1950s also brought rock 'n' roll and the explosion of St. Louis native Chuck Berry onto the national scene. Berry still performs at Blueberry Hill every month or so, although shows sell out quickly.
The 630-foot Gateway Arch, perhaps the city's most identifiable icon, was completed in 1965 as a memorial to the great westward expeditions launched from here, including that of Lewis and Clark.
Underneath the city of St. Louis lies a series of connected, meandering caves, thought to be the largest concentration of natural caves in any city on the planet. Now sealed off, these caves once provided a haven and a secret passageway for fugitives, Native Americans and beer brewers. Meramec Caverns, 60 miles form St. Louis, still allows visitors to tour some of the caves and take a peek into Jesse James' infamous escape route and hideaway.
St. Louis itself is much like the caves hidden beneath its pavement: Unassuming at first glance, it still awaits discovery, offering world-class restaurants, top-notch professional sports, a rich musical heritage and a friendly people who still welcome explorers.
St. Louis, which began experiencing an influx of immigrants from Europe in the mid-1800s, offers a variety of fine ethnic fare, including some of the best traditional Italian cuisine on this side of the Atlantic. While St. Louis may not be as widely known for its restaurants as some other American cities, it contains a wealth of good eating options—from elegant to casual—for the hungry traveler to discover.
Downtown St. Louis offers an exciting and eclectic mix of dining choices. If you're in the mood for French fare, head for the elegant, yet comfortable ambience of Cafe de France. This is the kind of place you'd expect to see more of in a city named after a French king. Faust's serves inventively prepared wild boar and venison as well as a fabulous Sunday brunch. For a breathtaking view of downtown St. Louis you can't beat Harry's Restaurant & Bar, a favorite stop for business professionals.
The Loop (University City)
Brandt's Market & Cafe is known for its gourmet food and fine selection of wine and beer. Cicero's specializes in traditional Italian cuisine, and also has a popular bar and game area. Riddles' Penultimate Cafe & Wine Bar is a bistro-style restaurant with a warm, inviting interior. The menu at Vietnam Star is long and impressive, and contains many dishes from the country, many of which are also vegetarian. For something unique, stop into the Red Sea, where plates are brought to the table sans utensils. Shu Feng fuses Chinese and Korean to form inventive creations that appeal to many diners.
The neighborhood known as "The Hill" is the place where baseball legend Joe Garagiola grew up (right down the street from Yogi Berra), and it is still largely populated by descendants of the Italian immigrants who began settling in St. Louis in 1857. The lawns are well-manicured, the community is close-knit and the food is world class. Cruise through this area in the southwest quadrant of St. Louis and you'll find fine formal dining and mom-and-pop eateries with red-checkered tablecloths. St. Louisans celebrate special occasions with the elegant Northern Italian cuisine at Dominic's. Crowds flock to Gian-Peppe's for arguably the most delicious Marsala sauce in town. LoRusso's Cucina regales diners with seafood pasta specialties, while patrons often wait one or two hours for dinner at Cunetto House of Pasta.
St. Louis is a vibrant Midwestern city that is always on the move. The city's people work hard, and they take their leisure time just as seriously. Devoted fans pack the sports arenas, eating hot dogs on warm summer days and sipping hot chocolate on chilly fall nights as they cheer for their favorite pro teams. Theaters and nightclubs provide diverse nighttime entertainment options, while parks, museums and other attractions fill the daytime roster with activities for the whole family.
Professional sports teams entertain fans on a year-round basis, forming an integral part of the city's fiber. The St. Louis Cardinals baseball team has been a longtime favorite with the home crowd and plays throughout the summer at Busch Stadium. The St. Louis Rams football team, winners of 2000's Super Bowl XXXIV, packs the Trans World Dome downtown, while ice hockey enthusiasts flock to Savvis Center to cheer on the St. Louis Blues, who have called the city home since forming in 1967.
Racing fans will find two tracks featuring professional events across the Mississippi River in Illinois. The Gateway International Raceway, situated 10 minutes from downtown in Madison, plays host to NASCAR, NHRA and Indy Racing events.
Nature and Parks
Nature lovers and outdoors enthusiasts can head to the child-friendly Grant's Farm, with its 160-acre animal preserve, which is always a family favorite. The world-class St. Louis Zoo offers free admission and features 650 species of animals. For a gentle wildlife encounter, head to the Butterfly House and Education Center, where nothing stands between the spectator and the myriad colorful butterflies in flight.
St. Louis' city parks offer a collective oasis of calm in the midst of all the urban hustle and bustle. The 1,300-acre Forest Park not only provides a home for the zoo and art museum, it also offers boat rentals, tennis courts, a skating rink and a track for biking, jogging and inline skating. Tower Grove Park, a 300-acre retreat, recreates an old English garden, complete with gazebos and castle "ruins."
St. Louis offers a variety of theater experiences, from open-air performances at the Muny to old-fashioned grandeur and opulence at the restored Fox Theatre. Dinner theaters such as the Bissell Mansion and the Lemp Mansion invite guests to join in the fun as participants in comedy and mystery performances.
Opera, Ballet and Symphony
If musical theater is the ticket you're after, St. Louis also offers plenty of opera, ballet and symphony performances. The nationally recognized Opera Theatre of St. Louis features different shows each season, which are performed in English and accompanied by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. This orchestra also presents its own season of classical, pop and jazz concerts at the historic Powell Symphony Hall. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Ballet touring company has assembled talent from around the globe for its well-staged performances of such productions as The Nutcracker.
Museums and Galleries
St. Louis' museums and galleries offer something for everyone. If you're looking for something offbeat, check out the life-like figures of the Beatles and Henry VIII at Laclede's Landing Wax Museum. The St. Louis Art Museum features 30,000 pieces, including works by Rembrandt and Picasso.
If an afternoon in the museums inspires a yen to take some art home with you, there are plenty of excellent galleries in the city to satisfy you. Kodner Gallery has a fine exhibit of 18th to 20th Century art, including pieces by Picasso and Jasper Johns.
St. Louis is also home to several sites of interest for history buffs. The Old Courthouse (site of the Dred Scott slavery trial), the architecturally impressive Wainwright Building and the famous St. Louis Gateway Arch are three popular attractions that are located downtown. Visit the lavish Samuel Cupples House, a 42-room mansion built in 1889 or, if you find yourself humming a ragtime tune, the St. Louis home of Scott Joplin, who popularized that musical genre in the early 1900s.
A night on the town can offer lively entertainment, whether it entails catching an up-and-coming act at the Funny Bone Comedy Club or spending a quiet evening at AESOP'S Coffee House. Live music goes on nightly in the city. Chuck Berry performs occasionally at Blueberry Hill, while jazz is featured at Brandt's Market & Cafe. Live folk and rock acts are featured at Off Broadway, a favorite spot with locals, who fill the dance floor nightly. Finally, with its cocktail bar and cigar lounge, Velvet is a dance club with a sophisticated twist.