Home to the Cardinals and Blues, the distinctive Gateway Arch, and a slew of free world-class museums, St. Louis is a city of many identities. It’s an athletic city revered as the Gateway to the West and an important American cultural and historical destination. Perched on the banks of the Mississippi River, Missouri’s second-most populated city sees many tourists, though there are a number of cool things about St. Louis that remain little known to its visitors.
It’s the Gateway to the West
Credited as America’s largest monument, the shimmering silver Gateway Arch stands 630 feet wide at its base and 630 feet tall, the equivalent height of 63 stories. Designated in 1965, the arch is nicknamed Gateway to the West in commemoration of the city’s crucial role in America’s westward expansion in the 19th century. This monumental steel arch remains one of St. Louis’ most popular attractions, where visitors can experience its entirety with a four-minute tram ride to its summit. From above the city, an extensive view of 30 miles in each direction can be enjoyed on a clear day, and visitors can witness the Mississippi River flow below its east windows.
A Park Bigger Than Central Park
At an impressive 1,371 acres, Forest Park is St. Louis’ favorite urban green space and trumps New York City’s famed Central Park in size by 528 acres. The grounds of Forest Park plays host to a portfolio of attractions - the St. Louis Zoo, St Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Museum, and the St. Louis Science Center, making this park the city’s prime cultural center. With its superbly landscaped gardens, expansive lawns, and extensive network of paved paths, Forest Park is also revered as the city’s finest recreation site for golf, soccer, cycling, and leisurely walks. Free hour long Heart of the Park Walking Tours led by passionate naturalists and horticulturists depart from Forest Park’s Visitor and Education Center, and leads participants through the different areas of this urban oasis.
Home of the Toasted Ravioli
Cooked to a perfect consistency, al dente is the only way to consume ravioli in Italy. But a variant on the popular pasta was derived in St. Louis’ predominantly Italian-American neighborhood of the Hill, an area of long standing family owned delis, cozy trattorias, and traditional bakeries. Despite its name, the toasted ravioli is breaded and deep fried to achieve a crunchy exterior and tender interior of fresh meat or cheese. Generously dusted with fragrant parmesan, this classic St. Louis dish is served with a side of tomato sauce. Known affectionately by locals as T-ravs, the original creator of this coveted dish remains a disputed battle in the culinary world between the Hill's restaurants of Mama’s on the Hill, Charlie Gitto’s, and Lombardo’s.
A Former Trading Port
Founded in 1764 by French fur trader Pierre Laclede Liguest, the city of St. Louis began as a humble fur trading village. Chosen for its close proximity to the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, it was decided by Liguest and his accompanying stepson, August Chouteau, that St. Louis was an ideal locale for a fur trading post. Liguest dedicated his new found land to King Louis IX by naming the village Saint Louis, after the only French King to be canonized as a saint. St. Louis’ early settlers were of French descent, and it wasn’t until the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 that the city officially became part of America.