PRISM Magazine Online - May-June 2000 - Special Conference Issue
An opinionated guide to the Gateway City
from the well-known to the obscure, a Top-10 Guide to teh best St. Louis has to offer

By Susan C. Hegger

June is one of the loveliest times of the year in St. Louis. It should be warm, but not scorchingly hot like July or August can be. It should be dry, months removed from the electrifying thunderstorms of spring and fall. And it should be colorful, given St. Louisans' blossoming love affair with flowers. June is a wonderful time to be outdoors, which is one reason this opinionated guide focuses on outside places and activities. But don't worry: There are plenty of air-conditioned attractions to escape to.

1 The Arch on the St. Louis riverfront:

    Nothing says St. Louis like the Arch--that 630-foot soaring artwork designed by Eero Saarinen and completed in 1965. The Arch commemorates Thomas Jefferson and the westward expansion of the United States. Adventuresome types, who don't mind a clattering ride, will enjoy the tram ride to the observation deck at the top of the Arch. History buffs, especially those interested in the Lewis and Clark expedition, won't want to miss the free Museum of Westward Expansion under the Arch. Across the highway from the Arch is the Old Courthouse, at 11 N. 4th St., which is famous for being the site of the trial of Dred Scott and his wife Harriett, slaves who sued for their freedom in 1847. They won their case in St. Louis, but the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the decision in 1857--one of the events leading to the Civil War.

2 Union Station, Market St., between 18th and 20th, downtown:

    Inspired by the French walled city of Carcassonne, Theodore Link designed this railway station in 1894. For years, it functioned as one of the nation's busiest and most beautiful rail stations. Then, like many railroad stations in the age of the airplane and urban decline, it became a sleeping beauty until it was awakened by the Rouse Co.'s kiss as a shopping and entertainment center in the mid-'80s. For a taste of the grandeur of the past, step into the Hyatt's lobby--the former Grand Hall--and look upward to the spectacular ceiling. Don't miss the Whispering Arch at the entrance.

3 City Museum, 701 N. 15th St., downtown:

    On the strength of their artistic vision, Bob and GailCassilly created their charmingly off-beat museum, which will entertain children of all ages. With the undulating form of the staircases, the whimsical patterns made by the mosaic floors, and the tunnels, caves, and whale to be explored, the museum is a fantasy dreamscape come true. With its love of nature and organic shapes and forms, the Cassillys' museum shares a similar sensibility to Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi.

4 Busch Stadium, 300 Stadium Plaza, downtown:

    Baseball fans revere it as the home of current home-run king Mark McGwire of the Cardinals, as well as '40s and '50s great, Stan "the Man" Musial. It's worth catching a game just on the chance you'll catch a Big Mac attack on the ball.

5 Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Blvd., in midtown:

    This 79-acre oasis is one of the nation's oldest and best botanical gardens and should be in glorious bloom in June. With its dense, abundant, and wild-looking tropical and subtopical plants, the Climatron, a futuristic geodesic dome, is like a Jurassic Park for plants. In contrast, the Japanese Garden is an artful, ordered study of simplicity and serenity. Stop and contemplate the beauty of the teahouse, the colorful carp swimming under the arched bridge, and the soothing patterns of rocks.

6 Forest Park, Central West End:

    At nearly 1,300 acres, Forest Park is one of the country's largest urban parks. A 7.5-mile bike path, also used by walkers, joggers, and bladers, winds around and through the park. If you're into less strenuous activity, you can rent a paddle boat and explore the park's waterways. The park is also home to some of St. Louis' best cultural institutions, and they're all free. The St. Louis Art Museum is in the only building left from the 1904 World's Fair. The museum is full of treasures, including a world-class collection of paintings from the German Expressionist Max Beckmann, and artifacts from pre-Columbian America. The much-beloved St. Louis Zoo recently opened its new River's Edge environment, which features young Raja the elephant in a more realistic habitat. A science center and history museum are also inside the park.

7 Anheuser-Busch Brewery, I-55 at Arsenal:

    You can tell when you're getting close to the brewery: You can literally smell the beer brewing. The brewery offers tours of the brewhouse, the stables of the famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses, the lager cellar, and of course a hospitality room where complimentary A-B beverages are served. (Call 314-577-2626.) The public is also invited to Grant's Farm, the Busch family estate in South St. Louis County, at 10501 Gravois, that was once the home of President Ulysses S. Grant. Admission is free.

8 Cahokia Mounds Historic Site, 30 Ramey St., Collinsville, Ill.:

    Between 10,000 and 20,000 people lived at Cahokia in its heyday-- the turn of the millennium before last. Cahokia was the largest prehistoric city north of Mexico and engaged in a vast trading network, west to Denver and south to the Gulf of Mexico. Its most distinctive feature: Monks Mound, which rises above the central plaza. Recently stabilized, visitors can once again climb to the top. An entertaining and informative education center has dioramas that make Mississippian culture come alive.

9 Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott Road in South County:

    Enjoy the great outdoors among world-class sculptures. The park's signature piece, on the edge of a vast lawn, is "The Way," a massive red metal sculpture that simultaneously evokes Stonehenge and children's construction toys.

10 Mississippi River:

      The most scenic way to experience the river is on the Great River Road in Illinois from Alton to Pere Marquette State Park. On one side of the road is the river, on the other spectacular bluffs. Alton, a 19th-century river town, is known for its antique stores. Elsah, a picture-postcard-perfect village, is the home of Principia College. Grafton, destroyed in the 1993 flood, has recovered and rebuilt. Pere Marquette State Park has not-so-strenuous trails leading up to the bluff--for a bird's eye view of the river--and a rustic, woodsy lodge, built by the WPA, for relaxing.