All-American St. Louis

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As a travel editor eager for the idea of exploring beyond the U.S. shores—strolling the shops of a fabulous European city or swimming in the azure waters off the coast of a gorgeous island seemingly in the middle of nowhere—the prospect of visiting St. Louis, MO, a midwestern U.S. city famous for beer, baseball and the Gateway Arch, was, well, a bit of a letdown.

Until we arrived. Instead, we found that St. Louis offers a wealth of entertainment, culture and history that spans beyond its trademark offerings. In fact, the city was recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of “2010 Dozen Distinctive Destinations.” And if you bring all of this city’s wonderful assets together—fun and interesting attractions, a love for baseball, a determination to preserve its important past, delicious food and, of course, plenty of beer,—not to mention our favorite pad in the city, the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis—we think that as a destination, St. Louis is a great example of an All-American experience, and a must-visit.

what not to miss While there are tons of things to see and do in St. Louis—a center of 19th century commerce, and an American transportation hub—at the top of the list of must-see attractions is the Jefferson Expansion Memorial, which is made up of the historic Old Courthouse, the Museum of Westward Expansion and the famous Gateway Arch. This signature landmark—which symbolized the Gateway to the West—opened in 1965 as a tribute to Thomas Jefferson and his vision of a continental United States. The Gateway, it is said, is an important facet of the importance St. Louis places on architecture. For a nominal fee, visitors can take a 4-minute elevator ride up to the top of the 630-ft. Arch, and even on a cloudy day—which was the case during Recommend’s visit—there’s a clear view of downtown, including Busch Stadium, Eads Bridge—completed in 1874—and the Mississippi River. From the top, St. Louis’ love for architecture becomes more evident. From here, one can see the cobblestone streets, red brick buildings and terra cotta friezes, as well as a large number of historic buildings that have been preserved, including from as early as the mid-1800s.

Right beneath the Arch is an IMAX theater with regular showings of films about the Arch and the historic Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the Museum of Westward Expansion, which is definitely worth checking out. Here, visitors can get a glimpse into the land that Lewis and Clark explored, see how mountain men lived in the 1800s, and learn about the booming fur trade that lasted until 1840, as well as the westward movement of Americans through St. Louis, known as the “gateway to the West.” Like many other attractions throughout the city, admission to the museum is free.

After brushing up on some of the city’s interesting history at the Jefferson Expansion Memorial, it would only be right—as St. Louis is the epicenter for American beer—to send your clients on a beer tour. Our recommendation: a visit to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. Spanning just about seven blocks, this place is a beer lover’s paradise. On the free tour, guests can see how beer is made, as well as check out the history of the Brew House, the Budweiser Clydesdale stables, lager cellar and packaging plant. At the end of the tour, visitors head to the Hospitality Room for free beer samples, sodas and snacks.

Meanwhile, gamers might be pleasantly surprised to find that St. Louis has six area casinos. River City Casino is the city’s newest—opened to the public in March 2010—and located 10 miles south of downtown. From the outside, the complex sports the look of a Missouri riverboat town. In fact the exterior of Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse—one of the many delicious restaurants on site—was constructed to replicate Judy Garland’s home in the film “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Inside, River City boasts a 90,000-sq.-ft casino with over 2,000 slot machines and 55 table games. And while the casino is impressive, the dining options here deserve even more accolades.

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Lewy Nine’s Cafe features a dinner menu of classic comfort foods, while the 1904 Beerhouse serves up over 100 beers by the bottle and 32 on tap, along with some yummy specialty items to pair with beer, such as fried vegetables with spicy dipping sauce, beer and cheese soup and the fried, 1000 Island Reuben (an absolute must). There’s also Burger Brothers, which serves a variety of different burgers made with a secret recipe; the more upscale Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse, offering USDA prime dry-aged steaks, fresh seafood and a sit-down sushi/raw bar; and the Great Food Expedition, an endless buffet of American, Asian, Italian and seafood favorites. While it may prove to be a hard task, guests should definitely save room for dessert and enjoy an array of miniature-sized treats like cheesecake, chocolate mousse and St. Louis’ signature gooey butter cake.