I was recently in St. Louis and was pleasantly surprised about how spiffed up it has become. I attended Washington University there in the ’60s, and pretty much confined myself to its lovely campus. St. Louis itself was considered unwelcoming to us undergraduates.
No longer. Forest Park, the green spine that connects Washington University and the suburbs to the downtown area, has been beautifully reclaimed and in a space 60 percent bigger than New York’s Central Park, visitors and citizens can jog and bike along groomed trails and boat in large waterways.
One excellent excursion is to bike up to the famous Gateway Arch that was built to celebrate St. Louis’s colorful past as the provisioning place for western expansion. The arch, designed by renowned architect Enno Saarinen, is awesome.
I first saw it when it was completed in 1965, but this time, with it’s silver skin glinting in the sunlight, it seemed even more graceful and monumental. I didn’t go up to the top, but you can. There is a tram that goes up the 630-foot structure, causing most riders’ hearts to beat a little faster.
For a different kind of thrill, go to the greatly gentrified downtown and visit the gorgeously rehabilitated art deco Thaxton building. On Friday and Saturday nights, the Thaxton building opens up its “Speakeasy.” The bar downstairs echos the atmosphere of the “gin joints” of the 1920s and ’30s. You enter through the back, and yes, you are only admitted after getting the once over by the management through a little peep-hole in the door.
Finally, if the city’s reputation as a beer town grabs you, you can take a tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, which also includes their Clydesdale stables. I remember the latter more fondly than the former. Years ago, my boyfriend and I visited the brewery and the intense smells of hops did not sit quite right with him. He turned a peculiar shade of green that would be perfect for Halloween.
Personally I’d rather end my own visit to St. Louis at the magnificent Botanical Gardens, but experienced beer drinkers might be just fine.