Situated just below the confluence of the Illinois, Mississippi and Missouri rivers, St. Louis is a city that offers something for everyone. Founded in 1764 by Pierre Laclede as an Indian trading post, St. Louis has grown into a metropolitan area boasting a population of more than 2.5 million. Rich in tradition, the "Gateway to the West" is a major national city with a small-town, Midwestern feel.
St. Louis comprises a diverse group of neighborhoods boasting a wide variety of entertainment, restaurants, shopping and activities. The Central West End, bordering Forest Park, is a lively neighborhood of sidewalk cafes, nightclubs and shops housed in turn-of-the-century buildings. Other areas steeped in tradition include historic Soulard, a residential area that is home to the oldest farmer's market west of the Mississippi and the legendary Anheuser-Busch Brewery, and Laclede's Landing, nine square blocks of cobblestone streets on the Mississippi riverfront lined with boutiques, restaurants and nightclubs. The Hill, a modest and quiet Italian community, offers an assortment of Italian shops, restaurants, bakeries and taverns, while the University City Loop, home of the St. Louis Walk of Fame, sports a miscellany of book and record stores, shops, restaurants and night spots. An eclectic array of ethnic restaurants, art houses and galleries cater to the aesthetic needs of the community.
Washington University School of Medicine and its affiliated hospitals extend over six square blocks on the western margin of St. Louis, near the Central West End neighborhood. In addition to the fine housing available in the immediate area, the school's location on the edge of the city makes it a short drive from many desirable suburbs. Public transportation is available by bus or MetroLink, a light rail system extending from East St. Louis in Illinois through downtown and midtown St. Louis, ending at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
Forest Park, the second largest city park in the nation and the site of the 1904 World's Fair, is a historic landmark offering a wide spectrum of athletic and cultural facilities. For the athlete, the part offers public tennis courts, three golf courses, an ice skating rink, picnic areas and playgrounds, a small lake for canoeing and boating, and trails for horseback riding, bicycling, in-line skating and running. In addition, Forest Park houses the buildings of the Missouri Historical Society and the McDonnell Planetarium of the St. Louis Science Center, as well as the St. Louis Art Museum. The Muny, a 12,000-seat outdoor amphitheater, hosts a summer season of musical theater, while the St. Louis Zoo is open year-round.
The Gateway Arch, designed by architect Eero Saarinen, reigns as the nation's tallest monument. Completed in 1965, the Arch sits on the west side of the Mississippi River in downtown St. Louis. Tram rides to an observation room at the top, a museum featuring frontier exhibits and the four-story Arch Odyssey Theatre are highlights of the tribute to America's westward expansion. Near the Arch, riverboat cruises sail throughout the summer months.
Music plays an important role in the cultural life of St. Louis. The world-renowned, Grammy-winning St. Louis Symphony Orchestra makes its home at Powell Symphony Hall, while Riverport, an outdoor venue, offers a wide variety of contemporary musical acts during the summer months. The Fox Theatre in midtown St. Louis offers a yearlong assortment of entertainment events, including Broadway shows, dance and concerts of all kinds. In a city known for its ragtime, blues and jazz roots, many local lounges and clubs still feature this popular music. Several first-rate theaters practice their art in St. Louis, including the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and the Black Repertory Theatre.
Sports, both professional and amateur, have long been a component of St. Louis living. Along with supporting its well-known Cardinals baseball, Blues hockey, and Rams football teams, St. Louis residents participate in amateur sports, including junior hockey, football, rugby, baseball, softball, soccer, tennis and golf.
Missouri, along with its neighbor Illinois, claims vast resources for people who relish outdoor recreation. Camping, caving, hiking, fishing, hunting, boating and sailing are some of the activities within hours of the city. Day trips are easily made to other points of interest, such as Cahokia Mounds in Illinois, Missouri's wine country, Mark Twain's Hannibal and the Winston Churchill Memorial in Fulton, Missouri.
To commune with nature closer to home, St. Lousians can visit the Missouri Botanical Garden, a 79-acre park famous for its research, collections and facilities, including the Japanese gardens, home gardening pavilion and a tropical rain forest inside the Climatron - the world's first geodesic dome greenhouse. Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis County features a collection of contemporary sculpture in a 115-acre park of expansive lawns and woodlands incorporating a web of hiking trails.
Located at the nation's center, St. Louis is only four hours by air from any city in the country. The "Gateway to the West" is as modern as its ambitious international corporations, yet its bearing is as down-to-earth as the suburbs and towns that surround it. From its lively arts community to the serene pace of everyday living, St. Louis is a city of opportunity and variety for all who choose to call it home.