A Closer Look at St. Louis

By Carin Shulusky

ATSI’s host city, St. Louis, is a fun, historic city with more to do than one week can hold. Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, St. Louis is a city of great diversity, beginning with its European roots. The city named for a French king and at one time, was under Spanish rule. It is home to Anheuser-Buschheadquarters with strong German influence. St. Louis also contains a famous Italian neighborhood, The Hill, that sports many of the city’s most beloved restaurants. The city that is home to both T.S. Eliot and Chuck Berry has to have something for anyone.

Starting from the top, The St. Louis Arch is America’s tallest monument. Soaring 630 feet above downtown, this impressive ribbon of shining steel overlooks the Mississippi River. Tram rides can take you to the top, or you can peruse the museums below commemorating westward expansion in the 1800s. St. Louis’s modern light rail system, Metro Link, can take you from Union Station to the Arch for a small fee.

Another must see in St. Louis is beautiful Forest Park, home of the fabulous St. Louis Zoo, Art Museum, Jewel Box, and the outdoor Municipal Opera. Forest Park is one the oldest and largest city parks in the country. It boasts over 12 million visitors a year. One of the major attractions is the St. Louis Zoo, the third largest zoo in the country. It covers 90 acres and contains 700 species of animals, making the St. Louis Zoo a must-see.

When visiting a new city, the best way to find the most interesting spots is to ask a friend who lives there. ATSI has a friend living in St. Louis, Telescan. St. Louis has been the home of Telescan since its inception in 1976. Many of Telescan’s employees have lived in St. Louis most of their lives. To get a closer look at St. Louis, we asked the people of Telescan where they go for fun, food, and entertainment. Here are their suggestions:

Ken Scott always wanted to be an astrophysicist, so his favorite spot is The St. Louis Science Center and its James S. McDonnell Planetarium, one of the nation’s leading space education facilities. Ken recommends the Planetarium’s most amazing feature, the night sky presentations in the StarBay where more than 9,000 stars are projected onto an 80-foot dome, giving visitors a personal tour of the cosmos. Or you may stroll through the many fascinating exhibits in the St. Louis Science Center. For dinner, Ken recommends Harry’s, 2144 Market, just west of Union Station. Harry’s boasts a “New York feel and St. Louis hospitality.” The food is eclectic bistro fare and the music is blues or jazz.

Roger Young recommends lunch at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Cafe. The Garden is a 79-acre oasis in the city of St. Louis. It is brimming with beautiful horticultural displays, including a 14-acre Japanese strolling garden, the Climatron conservatory, and Garden founder Henry Shaw’s original 1850 estate home. It’s only a few short miles south of Union Station and well worth the trip.

Mary Stuckey suggests a trip into St. Louis’s own little Italy called “The Hill.” It’s just around the corner from the Botanical Garden, but it feels like you’ve entered a different time zone. The Hill is famous for acclaimed restaurants, specialty groceries, bakeries, and tiny “shotgun” houses. It was settled in the early 1900s by Italian immigrants and still carries on their traditions. Celebrity chef Mario Batali of The Food Network calls The Hill one of the top “Little Italy” neighborhoods in the country and praises the area’s exquisite Northern Italian cuisine. Mary’s favorite is Rigazzi’s, one of the oldest restaurants on the Hill. The décor includes big-headed Marx Brothers dolls and lots of great food. Rigazzi’s pizza was voted one of the country’s best by Bon Appetit magazine. Rigazzi’s is one of the most inexpensive spots on the Hill.

Zia’s, a couple of blocks away, is another St. Louis favorite. Named for two aunts, (“zia” is Italian for aunt). Zia’s has an expansive menu of modestly priced, classic Italian gourmet and the St. Louis-style cuisine. Some of the more popular, and more expensive, spots on the Hill include: Giovanni’s, Lorenzo’s, and Charlie Gitto’s. To get to the Hill from downtown St. Louis, take I-64/40 west to Kingshighway, south and turn west on Shaw.

Robert Riggs recommends the very chic and trendy area known as the . Located on the eastern edge of Forest Park, the Central West End is surrounded with tree-lined private streets with stately turn-of-the-century homes. The central shopping district is filled with charming sidewalk cafés, exciting galleries, fascinating antique shops, trendy boutiques, and cozy pubs. It’s the perfect place for people watching. His favorite spot is Café Balaban. Long known for its fine dining, Café Balaban is a perennial Central West End hot spot. At Balaban’s you will find an eclectic crowd of stylish sophisticated locals and curious visitors. It’s a popular spot for the chic crowd to meet for drinks and fine dining.

For another trip back in time, Bob Vornberg recommends a visit to Old St. Charles. St. Charles, founded in 1769, is 30 minutes west of downtown St. Louis on the banks of the served as the state’s first capital. South Main Street has preserved the early French heritage with more than 100 shops and restaurants in its historic district. You can also learn more about the famous explorers Lewis and Clark or tour the First Missouri State Capitol. To get there from St. Louis, take I-70 west to the Fifth Street exit.

Patty Anderson says that no trip to St. Louis is complete without a visit to one of its famous Blues clubs. BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups, at 700 South Broadway and Broadway Oyster Bar, at 736 South Broadway are two of downtown’s finest. BB’s building, dating back to the mid-1800’s, has a colorful past which the current owners have tried to preserve as well as the city’s music, culture, and food. Broadway Oyster Bar’s kitchen serves some of the finest Cajun/Creole food in the city. On any given night, you can find local favorite blues bands or nationally known performers. If you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of the city’s own Johnny Johnson.

With all that St. Louis has to offer, you may just want to plan an extra week. St. Louis truly has something for everyone at every age.

[From Connection Magazine April 2005]