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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Meet Me In St. Louis

To most people, St. Louis, Missouri begins and ends with the famous Arch. True, the Gateway Arch, completed in 1965 and towering 630 feet above the banks of the Mississippi River is an inspiring monument, but the city of St. Louis has much more to offer if you only look around.
To start out with, my first suggestion would be to visit the world-class St. Louis Zoo. I've been there several times and find it fascinating each time I go. The cost to enter this zoo is free! The bald eagle below was photographed on a trip I took there in 1991:

Another fine place to visit is the St. Louis Science Center. It is a complex of buildings spread around on both sides of the interstate with a connecting covered walkway that takes you right over 8 lanes of speeding traffic. The clear floors to look straight down always give me vertigo, though. In the IMAX Dome across the interstate from the James S. McDonnell Planetarium pictured below, are more great things to see, including the original Gemini 6 space capsule that took Wally Schirra and Thomas Stafford into orbit, December 1965:

If you're sports-minded, there are several national teams located in St. Louis. Of course, there's the 2006 World Series Baseball Champions, the St. Louis Cardinals. I was in town the day after they won the pennant and let me tell you, the place was a madhouse! Remind me not to book a trip there in October again. Below is their new stadium, that as you can see, was still partly under construction last October while I was there, but they were able to still play games in it:

St. Louis is also the home of the St. Louis Blues hockey team and the NFL franchise St. Louis Rams. I'm a huge Rams fan and always catch their games on television. This is their new facility, the Edward Jones Dome, and it opened in 1995:

There are lots of other places of interest, the Botanical Gardens, a tour of the Anheuser-Busch breweries, Knot's Berry Farm is close by, Union Station, a great place to shop, and many more too numerous to mention. (Or for me to remember right now, apparently.)
But, don't forget to see the Arch. A trip to the city should include a ride up into the Gateway Arch where one can see the entire St. Louis skyline:

While visiting the Arch, there are several other points of interest right by it to also take in. There is the Basilica of St. Louis, a lovely, towering cathedral in the heart of the downtown area; the historical Old Courthouse, pictured below; and the riverfront is where one can take cruises and go back in time riding an authentic riverboat! One I rode on was called the Becky Thatcher and we went for miles up and down the Mississippi River. It is pictured just below the Old Courthouse:

Or you can just take a leisurely stroll along the riverfront and see the sights. While I was there this past October 2006, the weather was so mild that there were still artists practicing their skills along the water:

Another place that has begun to put itself on the entertainment map, as far as I'm concerned, is the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center. It is located just off I-70 on the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. They hosted Bob Newhart there last October and that was what took me there. He stills puts on a great show, let me tell you! Don Rickles was appearing there this October 2007, but I had already made trip plans to see the 1910 Fruitgum Company in Tennessee later in November. (They sang the Number 2 smash hit song "Simon Says," back in 1968.) This is the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center below:

I have to relate an amusing story that happened to me while I was there this past October, although it wasn't very amusing at the time. I had stopped on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River to get some shots of the Arch from across the water and I managed to get them, but just as I was finishing up, along comes this vehicle that looked very official. It had "Police" written all over the side of it. Turns out it was just the Railroad Police and they had this silly rule about not climbing on their tracks or something like that. I got away with nothing other than a stern warning. You can see me below as the guy was running a check on me:

All in all, St. Louis is a great to place to visit and I would highly recommend it to everyone. One place that, sadly, is no longer available to see is the old Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals used to play up until the end of the 2005 season. I took in many games there throughout the years and loved the graceful curves of the old stadium. That's it pictured in the lower-right hand corner below:

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