GATEWAY TO THE WEST ON BUDGET | Sharon Henry
For a city nicknamed ‘Gateway to the West’ we found St Louis, Missouri surprisingly quiet, it wasn’t quite the thoroughfare the name suggests.
At first glance it looked a vibrant metropolis, with full car parks and smatterings of people seated at outdoor cafes and restaurant tables. But, as the day wore on and night fell the town quickly became deserted, save for a few homeless people. We stayed out to photograph the famous Gateway Arch at night but felt a little uncomfortable walking back to the car in the dark. Even though it was a game night (baseball), and the local Cardinals team were playing at home, it was eerily quiet for a city.
That said, we enjoyed our stay and found plenty of things to do in St Louis and see. We’ve found that holiday excursions needn’t break the bank. We like to seek out freebies available at the places we visit. Here’s a list of things we did in downtown St Louis on a shoestring.
10 Things to do in St Louis
- Be Dwarfed By The St Louis Gateway Arch
When visiting St Louis you literally can’t miss the St Louis Gateway Arch, it dominates the skyline for miles.
The steel structure sweeps 630 feet above the cityscape. As wide as it is high the arch was opened in 1965 and built with the intention of attracting tourists. The Gateway Arch that has recently celebrated its 50th birthday and is the tallest man-made monument in the USA. We ate our picnic lunch sat underneath the arch, right on the banks of the Mississippi River. It’s a brilliant view looking out and up.
The St Louis, Gateway Arch. Admission to park: Free
Admission to the viewing platform at top of the Arch costs $10 for adults, $5 children (3-15 yrs).
- Tour The Old Courthouse Building
This is a very picturesque and ornate building, inside and out.
The Old Court House, St Louis, is now a visitor centre and a museum of sorts about early settlers. Just through the main door is a compact but comprehensive exhibition on the history of slavery in St Louis. Reading details and accounts about this period is sobering. Back in 1846 slaves, Dred and Harriet Scott filed a suit for their freedom in this courthouse. Opposition to the negative outcome of the case became one of the causes of the American civil war.
Another famous case was that of Virginia Minor, a woman who attempted to vote in a St Louis election in 1872 and was arrested.
On the day we visited The Old Courthouse, preparations were underway for a Naturalization ceremony where new citizens take an oath of allegiance to the USA. That’s something memorable on the list of Things to do in St Louis for those people.
Old Court House, St Louis, Missouri. Admission: Free
- Make A Splash At Keiner Plaza
Named after local Olympian, Harry J Keiner, the Keiner Plaza is a popular spot for taking photos of the Old Courthouse with the Gateway Arch in the background. ‘The Runner’ sculpture centred inside a pond is the main focal point of the park.
If the mood takes you, roll up those trouser legs and splash around with the locals inside the Keiner Plaza’s waterfall pool feature.
Keiner Plaza, St Louis. Admission: Free
- Citygarden’s Outdoor Art Gallery
In the middle of downtown is the impressive St Louis Citygarden, a 2.9 acre green park filled with arty sculptures and water features.
We had fun walking through and trying to figure out what the artists ‘meant’! There are 24 exhibits in total with pieces created by artists from around the world as early as 1943 and spanning up to 2010.
St Louis, Citygarden Outdoor Art Gallery. Admission: Free
- Taste THE Best Root Beer in the World
Fitz Premium Root Beer is to-die-for. It’s the best root beer we’ve ever tasted, smooth, creamy with a gorgeous vanilla flavour. Highly recommended on our list of Things to do in St Louis.
Its unique blend is probably attributed to the ‘extra fine cane syrup’ as opposed to corn syrup used in other brands, and a 1947 original recipe. Fitz Premium Root Beer is made and bottled in St Louis and you can visit the soda factory where the magic happens.
We drank this little piece of heaven at the Tigrin Irish Pub on 333 Washington Avenue.
St Louis Fitz Premium Root Beer. Cost of a 12 fl oz bottle, $2.25
- Have A Walkabout Up Market Street
Just beyond Citygarden is the impressive Civil Courts building on Market Street. We found a leftover nuclear ‘fallout shelter’ sign on the building, a reminder of the Cold War era presumably.
Situated behind by the 13 storey building are memorials dedicated to the city’s Police and Fire-fighter services. The 12 foot Police statue was erected in 1988 and stands forlornly on a granite base with the inscription; ‘In memory of St Louis Police officers who have given their lives in performance of their duty.’
The brass Fireman memorial was installed in 1994 and is, ‘Dedicated to St Louis firefighters, past, present, future.’
Market Street, St Louis. Admission: Free
10 Things to do in St Louis, Missouri
- Pay Homage At The Soldiers’ Memorial Military Museum
President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated this building in 1936 to, “Commemorate the spirit of sacrifice in war.” Meaning, this museum is a tribute not only to fallen heroes but also their families.
There is a large ‘Gold Star Mother’ mosaic ceiling in the atrium which is dedicated to the mothers of St Louisans who died in war.
Inside the Soldiers’ Memorial Military Museum you’ll find military memorabilia from worn bomber jackets to an army jeep to honorary medals, part of the displays which are very poignant and informative.
The Soldiers Memorial Military Museum, St Louis, Missouri. Admission: Free
- Relax & Unwind at the Mississippi Mud Cafe and Art Saint Louis Gallery
A cool place to hang out after a time exploring downtown St Louis is the Mississippi Mud Cafe, where you can sip a coffee, seated on sofas dotted amongst the art on display.
The cafe roasts their own coffee and offer flavours from around the world. The Art Saint Louis gallery, a non-profit organisation promotes the work of local contemporary artists, changing exhibits throughout the year. The Mississippi Mud Cafe also offers free Wi-Fi.
St Louis, Mississippi Mud Cafe. Coffee: Americano $2.10 Latte: $4.35
- Get Duped By Fake Building Facades
We didn’t cotton on to this trickery until we were right next to the building, it’s kind of equivalent to those human statues.
Go have a look and be fooled by these painted fake facade murals found on the Republic National Bank on 705 and 714 Locust Street. The three dimensional paintings fits easily into the surrounding landscape.
St Louis skyscraper murals. Admission: Free
- Accept An Open Invitation To Anheuser-Busch’s Brewery Tour
St Louis is home to the American icon, Budweiser beer and makers, Anheuser-Busch give free tours throughout their brewery.
Show up between 10-4pm to be whisked around their 1892 premises. Oh, and you’ll get free beer samples to boot (if over 21). How cool is that?
Anheuser-Busch’s Brewery Tour, St Louis. Admission: Free