Visitors Can’t Get Enough of this Historic City
By Arvin Steinberg
The movie and song of yesteryear—”Meet Me in St. Louis”—had as its backdrop the 1904 World’s Fair held in St. Louis. That same excitement of the World’s Fair is building as this rabid baseball town will soon host the 2009 Major League All-Star Baseball game on July 14, 2009 at Busch Stadium.
This is the 80th Major League All-Star game. It features the best of the American League taking on the top players of the National League.
One of the best baseball cities in America, the St. Louis Cardinals team consistently attracts three million fans a year, and practically every one of them proudly wears a red Cardinals jersey to every game. They even line up hours before the gates open in order to get into the ballpark to bask in its splendor or to buy some memorabilia.
In my recent visit to St. Louis, I was amazed at the buzz around town that the Cardinals were at home for a three game series with the Milwaukee Brewers. But Cardinals fans are always keyed up whenever their team plays. The Cardinals have a long and famed history dating back to 1892. The city itself has a rich history in sports hosting the first Olympic games held in America in 1904, the same year as Worlds Fair.
The St. Louis Cardinals have a new stadium built in 2006, but you couldn’t tell that by looking. This classic red brick structure situated downtown near the banks of the Mississippi River immediately reminds you of what baseball parks looked like 50 or more years ago. Of course now it has all the comfortable amenities new ballparks have, and every seat is a good one.
Outside the stadium are life-like statues of some of the Cardinals greats, swinging the bat, throwing a pitch, or diving to catch a line drive. Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Dizzy Dean, Rogers Hornsby, and Bob Gibson are among them.
But even if you don’t get a ticket to the All-Star game, there’s a whole lot more in store for you. Outside the ballpark leading up to the All-Star game beginning July 10 to July 14, is the Major League Baseball All-Star Fan Fest. This five-day interactive fan festival is a fun experience for families and fans of all ages: Steal home. Knock yourself out for baseball cards. See what’s inside a replica locker room. Soak up historical exhibits such as life-size video batting and pitching cages. How about a photo-op? Digest memorabilia straight from Cooperstown. There are free autograph sessions with Cardinals legends and Hall of Famers and a chance of being a play-by play announcer. Cost: $30 adults, $25 children, seniors, college students, and military (family packs are also available).
Inside the ballpark leading up to the All-Star game are events such as the Taco Bell All-Star Game and Celebrity Softball Game, and the 2009 State Farm Home Run Derby featuring top hitters in major league baseball swinging for the fences in Busch Stadium.
Seven-time All-Star and 2008 National League Most Valuable Player St. Louis’ own Albert Pujos will be a prominent part of the festivities including the State Farm Home Run Derby. For the second year, State Farm and Major League Baseball will give one fan the ultimate baseball experience of standing in the batter’s box, pointing to the outfield, and calling a home run shot. Prior to the State Farm Home Run Derby on July 13, Albert Pujols will try to hit a ball into the stands where the fan pointed. If Pujols can hit where the fan pointed, the fan wins a 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid and other great gifts. For more information visit www.SFcall your shot.com.
St. Louis is an amazing city to visit in addition to its storied baseball fame. Who hasn’t seen the huge Gateway Arch when watching a Cardinals game on TV or whenever a photo of St. Louis appears in a magazine? Although magnificent in size and style, I always thought it was just an arch and nothing more. Wow, was I wrong!
Located a couple of blocks from Busch Stadium, this 630 feet high glittering, stainless steel monument honors U. S. President Thomas Jefferson and his vision of a continental United States as well as the Native American, European and other peoples of the world who lived and settled in the American West. The Gateway Arch has become an internationally recognized symbol of St. Louis and the city’s historic role in the nation’s expansion.
An excellent Museum of Westward Expansion lies beneath the arch detailing the 100-year history of the opening of the American West. And that’s not all. You can actually go to the top of the arch by elevator and get a fantastic view of the city to the west and the Mississippi River and the state of Illinois to the east.
Exhibit at the Museum of Westward Expansion
Exhibit at the Museum of Westward Expansion
Like history? A couple blocks away from the arch you can visit the Old Courthouse where the Dred Scott slavery trial was held. The trial served as a flashpoint for the start of the Civil War. Here you can watch trial re-enactments and walk through a restored 1860’s courtroom.
Enjoy Art? The beautiful Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the nation’s leading art museums with more than 100 galleries dedicated to masterpieces from the Renaissance, Impressionism, American European Art, Asian Art, the Egyptian mummy, and a world-renowned collections of Pre-Columbian Art. And would you believe, no charge—it’s all free.
When you travel around St. Louis by car you have to be impressed by its gorgeous neighborhoods, many elegant homes, and lots of spacious, beautiful public parks. One neighborhood, St. Louis’ “Little Italy” is noted for its great food, bocce courts, and Italian tri-color-painted fire hydrants. This neighborhood known as The Hill fills your senses with the sights, tastes, and sounds of Italy. The 5400 block of Elizabeth Avenue is the only street in America where three baseball Hall of Famers resided: Lawrence “Yogi” Berra, Joe Garagiola, and Sportscaster Jack Buck—were born on or lived within walking distance of one another on the street now called “Hall of Fame Place.”
Missouri Botanical Garden
Missouri Botanical Garden
You won’t want to miss the Missouri Botanical Garden. This year marks its 150th anniversary and is one of the top three public gardens in the world along with Kew Gardens in London and the New York Botanic Garden. Situated on 79 acres, it also features a tropical rainforest of endangered plant species inside a Climatron Geodesic Dome. It is warm and the humidity is high inside the rainforest, and the plants are spectacular.
St. Louis has long been famous for its beer, and you can see how it is made with a free tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. The tour includes the historic Brew House, the Budweiser Clydesdale stables, the lager cellar, and the packaging plant.
You don’t have to go to Europe to see a magnificent church. While touring the city, I stopped at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. I walked inside and was dazzled by a massive collection of mosaic art which covers the walls, floors and ceilings of this spectacular church.
The City Museum in downtown St. Louis is a museum like no other. Children (and also a lot of adults) have fun climbing and playing in this children’s paradise built with recycled and rescued materials. It even claims to have the world’s largest pencil measuring 76 feet long and weighing 21,500 pounds.
St. Louis has wonderful restaurants wherever you go. One in particular I would highly recommend is “Niche” in the Benton Park neighborhood. Chef and owner Gerard Craft serves outstanding offerings that would please even the most demanding guests.
And if you want to hear the authentic sound of the St Louis Blues, Kim Massie—St. Louis’ hottest diva of Blues, Soul and R&B, appears at different venues in the city. I saw her perform at the Beale on Broadway. She had patrons dancing in the aisles.
For more information about St. Louis, visit the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission’s web site at www.ExploreStLouis.com or call 1-800-916-0040, which is toll free from Canada and the U.S.