When most people think of St. Louis, they think of the Gateway Arch. And as well they should; the 630 foot stainless steel monolith towers over the city. (It is in fact the tallest structure in the metro area.) But while the Gateway Arch is spectacular in its own right, especially in context to the city’s place as the Gateway to the West, there is much more to St. Louis. Here are a few of my favorite spots!

Yeah, the Gateway Arch is cool, but then what?

The Old Courthouse

Just a couple of short blocks down a grassy mall from the Arch is the Old Courthouse. It is, ironically, an old courthouse. The interior has been completely restored, and is stunning. You can marvel at the rotunda and visit a couple of old courtrooms.

The Old Courthouse is absolutely worth a visit!

The courthouse was the site of the famous Dred Scott case, where the Supreme Court ruled ultimately that African-Americans were not eligible for citizenship, something that thankfully is regarded as one of the worst court rulings in history.

This is also the home to the Visitor’s Center for Gateway Arch National Park, and a museum dedicated not only to Scott, but also to Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase, and the early western settlers. Unless you plan to go up into the Gateway Arch, you’ll want to spend more time here than at the Arch itself.

Forest Park

St. Louis, like many major cities, has a central park area. However, unlike some, Forest Park is much more spread out than many, featuring broad lawns and open spaces, in addition to its more trafficked features.

The site is most famous as being the host of the 1904 World Fair, also called the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. The legacy of the Fair can be seen to this day. The ice cream cone was introduced at the Fair, as was the x-ray machine. Dr. Pepper met its first large audience, and the electric streetcar was turned from concept to reality. Some of the Fair elements can still be seen.

Part of the 1904 World Fairgrounds.

However, today Forest Park is best known for being home to the St. Louis Art Museum and the Zoo. The latter is where I would focus. Admission to the St. Louis Zoo is free, although parking is not. And as far as zoos go, it is pretty darned impressive. Enclosures are large and encourage animal movement, and viewing is convenient. Though my favorite baby elephant won’t stay this cute forever, the penguin house and other spectacular exhibits will remain wonderful glimpses into our animal friends.

It’s hard not to smile at a baby elephant.

The Budweiser Factory

Ok, most people who drink beer don’t think Budweiser is all that amazing. But no matter your stance on the product, it is impossible to argue the impact the company has made on the country, both before and since prohibition.

The factory offers free tours with samples (for those over 21), exploring the grounds of this huge complex. You’ll learn about beer making, hear some fun stories about the company’s history, and of course, meet the famous Clydesdales. I am not a big drinker, but I had a lovely afternoon celebrating this iconic bit of Americana.

One of the many buildings in the Budweiser factory complex.

While many don’t consider St. Louis to be anything more than a midwestern spot with an Arch, the city is actually home to some wonderful spots. I hope you enjoy your time there as much as I did!

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4 thoughts on “St. Louis: Beyond the Arch

    1. For sure. It is just iconic for what it represents. And I will say that the beer tasted better from the factory as well.

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