Meet Us in St. Louis, Missouri

Genie Davis November 7, 2011 No Comments

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“It looks like a rainbow that froze.”  That was my daughter’s take on the Gateway Arch, otherwise known as the Gateway to the West, which stands as the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Saint Louis Arch

The arch is undoubtedly impressive, and its graceful form is the symbol of St. Louis. It was built to commemorate the westward expansion of the United States. And standing six hundred and thirty feet high, it’s the tallest man-made monument – er, rainbow – in the U.S. It stands on the site of the west bank of the Mississippi River which is where explorer Pierre Laclède told his assistant Auguste Chouteau, to build a city in 1764.

St. Louis Arch

Like a frozen rainbow — that is the famous St. Louis arch.

I knew little about the city, and had done no pre-trip. We had the opportunity to go to St. Louis as a family due to a quick business trip of mine.  And the first place we stopped, before we checked into the hotel where I was scheduled to have a meeting, was the arch. It seemed even taller than the Statue of Liberty but it may be the perspective you get standing under it. The kids loved the view from the observation deck, and while we’ve enjoyed seeing the magnificent urban sprawl of New York City, the sea side vistas of Seattle, and Boston’s hub all from above, we were somehow even more impressed at the view from the Arch, perhaps because its scope was somewhat unexpected. From the river to the city, the view was great and made us eager to see more of the town.

The Moonrise Hotel

But first it was time to check in at the Moonrise Hotel, a pleasantly modern and funky hotel downtown in the thick of the Delmar Loop shops, with their eclectic mix of fun to browse clothing stores, cafes, and galleries. The kids loved the slightly kitschy space-themed decor, and the roof top bar offered a friendly stop for sodas and snacks for the kids and a nice glass of wine. It’s conveniently located near public transportation, too.
Museums We Visited

Once I’d concluded my business the next day, we headed for the Museum of Westward Expansion. We loved the interactive displays that explained westward exploration and the respectful exhibits on Native Americans, pioneer travelers and Civil War soldiers. One museum led to another as it often does in my family, and we were headed next to the St. Louis Art Museum. The extensive collection of over three thousand pieces of art  is well laid out and has some strong regional art in the spacious galleries. It has some wonderful African American art on display in a permanent exhibition; and the Forest Park setting means that when you’re ready for an art break, you have an expansive green space the kids can run around in just outside the front entrance. The park is larger than New York’s Central Park, and it houses a substantial zoo with modern, cage-free exhibits, and even a golf course. It’s a lot of fun simply to walk around the park and people watch in this tree shaded oasis. Also in the park is the St. Louis Science Center, which features interactive exhibits of dinosaurs among its many exhibits; we saved this stop for another visit.

Forest Park in St. Louis

Plenty of green space in the lovely and large Forest Park in St. Louis.

We changed hotels that evening for the Chase Park Plaza Hotel, built in 1922 and located in the upscale Central West End adjacent to Forest Park. This is a wonderful location and a posh, grande dame of a hotel, with polished marble floors and sparkling chandeliers in the lobby. Rooms were on the small size, but the public spaces were elegant reminders of a luxurious era when the hotel housed presidents and performers, including Frank Sinatra. The kids loved the outdoor pool – caveat: open April to October only – with comfortable loungers and a refined setting. Not too refined though:  we were perfectly able to play Marco Polo without anyone looking at us askance. Another plus for families: a theater with five screens adjacent to the lobby, something I haven’t seen in a hotel of this class outside of Las Vegas. And while we often take on more lively pursuits than a movie when traveling, after business plus sightseeing, I was ready to sit back and be entertained.

Revived, after a movie, we tried a sweet treat at Crepes Etc. close to the hotel, which the concierge rightly suggested as a dessert find – we had rich hot chocolate and home made marshmallows.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

Right down the street from the hotel is the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, a justifiably famous and uniquely St. Louis attraction. This stunning church took over seven years to complete and opened its door in 1917. It houses the largest collection of mosaics in the world, which depict the creation story among other religious tableau. Guided tours are only available Monday through Friday, but we were content with exploring the church on our own after a Sunday service. Kids of all ages will be awestruck by the gold inlay and the vast scope of these mosaics. Currently, the cathedral is also housing a life sized bronze replica of Michelangelo’s Pietá, but this exhibit isn’t permanent.

Organically sourced and committed to local produce, Salt, near the Cathedral and the hotel, offers a bountiful weekend brunch, and a staff both friendly to small children and those with special diets to consider. The atmosphere is hip, the vibe is homey, and you won’t leave hungry for the flight or drive home.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

Tags: Reviews, Travel Excursions

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