Shaking Things Up in St. Louis

On December 16, 1811 a huge earthquake struck New Madrid, Missouri just south of St. Louis along the Mississippi River. The earthquake was the largest to ever happen in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. It was so strong that it lifted the river bed and, for a time, the mighty Mississippi flowed backwards (to the north) destroying huge tracts of land and creating a lake in Tennessee that still exists. There was a lot of damage in this city, but it was a small settlement at that time so there were not a lot of affected families. I like this story because it always reminds me that St. Louis has always shaken things up; sometimes quite literally!

St. Louis did not start as a town in the United States. In fact, it was originally in France! Before European settlement, the strategic site where the Missouri River joins the Mississippi from the west and just south of where the Illinois River enters the Mississippi from the east, was a favoured home of indigenous peoples who built massive mounds in the area. On February 14, 1764 the European settlement of St. Louis was founded by French fur traders who recognised that travel would be incredibly easy in any direction from this single place. They named the city after King Louis IX who was sainted in the 13th Century.

Smells like Teen Spirit?
From the very beginning, St. Louis was viewed as a place of commerce from where travel by water was really easy. In 1804, the fledgling United States bought the Louisiana Territory from France in a treaty between President Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon I. The Lewis and Clark Expedition that famously surveyed and mapped the extent of that purchase embarked and returned to St. Louis where both Meriweather Lewis and William Clark settled after their adventures.

During the middle of the 19th Century, St. Louis was again shaking things up when both the Missouri Compromise allowed the state to enter the United States as a “slave state” and the Dred Scott Case was originally tried which initially extended the hold of slavery. Both of these events led directly to the American Civil War. St. Louis bounced back following that terrible conflict and grew rapidly based upon its excellent port and transport facilities. In 1904, the city hosted the World’s Fair and the Olympic Games. In 1927, a resident of this place, Charles Lindbergh, named his plane “The Spirit of St. Louis” right before he departed Long Island and made the first non-stop solo transatlantic flight to Paris that sparked the growth of civil aviation.

In 1965, the city completed its iconic Gateway Arch that celebrates St. Louis’ role as the bridge between the eastern and western states of the USA along with commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the city. Today, St. Louis is a metropolitan area of more than 2.8 million residents and is still a commercial centre while also being a cultural, sports and food destination. The city has bucked the norm for centuries and now it is a great place for a city-break!

While St. Louis has two passenger airports, you’ll probably fly into St. Louis Lambert International Airport which is 11 miles northwest of downtown. The airport used to be a hub for TWA (an airline originally created by Charles Lindbergh) and now it is a focus city for both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Taxis and rideshares are readily available but the city has an excellent metro system that is both convenient and inexpensive. Also, water taxis and riverboats are fun and historical ways to travel throughout the area.

There are a great many things to see and do in St. Louis. Here are my favourites:

  • The Gateway Arch – This weighted catenary arch is the world’s tallest arch, towering 190 meters (623 feet), and is the iconic emblem of the city of St. Louis. You can climb the stairs in the arch or ride a convenient tram to an observation area at the top. This is the most visited site in St. Louis and one of the most visited monuments in the world!
Half of a MacDonald’s Emblem!
  • Forest Park – This wonderful park is the home of the Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Missouri Historical Museum, the St. Louis Science Center and the Muny Amphitheatre making it a one-stop place for a large number of sites within the city. Forest Park is more than twice the size of Central Park in New York City.
  • Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis – the city is a major centre for the Catholic Church in the USA due to its Irish, German, Czech and, more recently, Bosnian immigrants. This Cathedral Basilica is a beautiful edifice that inspires worshippers and visitors alike.
  • Missouri Botanical Garden – this stunning garden is split into three themed ecosystem areas and includes the Climatron, an enormous geodesic dome that houses a unique biome.
  • St. Louis Symphony and Opera Companies – one of the oldest companies in the country, seeing a performance by either the Symphony or the Opera is a sublime event.
The Cardinals worship here!
  • Cardinals Baseball in Busch Stadium – The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the most celebrated baseball teams in the USA. This team has a history of winning the World Series and attending a game in the stadium is akin to a religious event for many fans!

While you’re exploring this exciting community, you’ll want to eat. St. Louis has some incredible food options. The best-known food debate is between Kansas City and St. Louis as to who offers the best barbecue. Then there is the controversy over St. Louis-style pizza versus Chicago-style pizza. While St. Louis is the challenger in both debates, we all are winners when enjoying the competition! Here are my favourite restaurants in St. Louis:

  • The China Bistro at the Pan-Asian Supermarket – this huge functioning Asian market is the place to enjoy outstanding food. You can even buy the ingredients to take home if you want to try cooking the dishes yourself.
  • The Olive + Oak – is an exciting American-fusion restaurant that is busting with laughter and fun. In the spirit of America, the plates are huge so “sharing is caring”. The Cowboy ribeye is perfect but maybe enough meat for the average family of four!
  • The Balkan Treat Box – the strong Bosnian community in St. Louis ensure that the recipes here are authentic and tasty. Since many are not familiar with Balkan recipes, this is a fun place to experiment with flavours and spices.
Join the debate!

St. Louis offers a unique party scene. Although not as well-known as Nashville or Memphis, St. Louis has an excellent music scene. Expect the nightlife to be lively and fun. Here are my favourite nightspots in St. Louis:

  • Morgan Street Brewery – you have to be courageous to open a microbrewery in a town practically made by Budweiser and Morgan Street Brewery delivers. This is a jovial and comfortable venue with excellent craft beers made on-site.
  • The Beale on Broadway – St. Louis blues are world renown and the Beale is the best venue for enjoying the sound while sipping a cocktail or beer. The music here is just incredible but remember the bar offers a “big pour” to pace yourself.
  • Club Viva – the exciting multi-ethnic communities in St. Louis are represented at Club Viva which offers dancing to Latin, Reggae, African, Cuban, Arabic, Brazilian and other world music vibes. This basement bar is always packed and super-cool!

You won’t want to sleep when you’re in St. Louis but when you do rest, there are some fantastic places to stay. Here are my favourites:

Basilica, you’re going to love St. Louis!
  • River City Casino and Hotel – This is a super-cool and affordable hotel that has the added advantage of being a casino resort. This hotel is very comfortable and the casino is not as daunting as Las Vegas.
  • Louis Union Station Hotel – This beautiful hotel is housed in the former monumental Union Station. This is quintessentially St. Louis and has excellent service.
  • The Last Hotel – this hotel has classic American décor and wonderful style with exceptional service. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the 1940s or 1950s when you stay at this beautiful property.

St. Louis may shake you but it will also stir you. I love the St. Louis vibe and know you will as well!




Isabella’s Checklist

What to see: The Gateway Arch, Forest Park and a St. Louis Cardinals game (

Where to stay:  River City Hotel and Casino, St. Louis Union Station Hotel, The Last Hotel (,,

Night-time activities: Morgan Street Brewery, The Beale on Broadway, Club Viva (,—Blues-Club/The-Beale-on-Broadway-181897288500181/,

Where to eat: The China Bistro, Olive + Oak, Balkan Treat Box (,,

What to buy: St. Louis Cardinal Gear, Barbecue Sauce, Gooey Butter Cake

St Louis won’t give you the Blues!
Isabella’s Checklist

What to see: The Gateway Arch, Forest Park and a St. Louis Cardinals game (

Where to stay:  River City Hotel and Casino, St. Louis Union Station Hotel, The Last Hotel (,,

Night-time activities: Morgan Street Brewery, The Beale on Broadway, Club Viva (,—Blues-Club/The-Beale-on-Broadway-181897288500181/,

Where to eat: The China Bistro, Olive + Oak, Balkan Treat Box (,,

What to buy: St. Louis Cardinal Gear, Barbecue Sauce, Gooey Butter Cake

St Louis won’t give you the Blues!

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