Bleary-eyed from our stay in Bourbon country we managed to prise ourselves out of bed and get back on the road, like Lewis and Clark (in a round about sort of way…), headed for the Gateway to the West – St Louis, Missouri.
However before we made it there we had to make an essential stop. Just outside of St Louis, and actually back into Illinois so we’re cheating a bit here, is the point at which the two great American rivers meet. The Missouri and the Mississippi rivers form an indelible part of American history, culturally and economically they are and have been vital. That said, going up a 180 foot tall tower to see where the two meet is still and incredibly nerdy thing to do. Nonetheless, the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower was built with money from the local community and is run by passionate volunteers. And the view at the top is pretty cool, you can see where the muddy Missouri meets the slightly-less-muddy Mississippi clearly, and there’s a good view of downtown St Louis as well.
After we’d clambered back down the tower we made a bee-line to the city and our first Missouri stop, the St Louis Zoo. Consistently ranked as one of the best in America, and free…it seemed too good to be true but we were not to be disappointed. It is a beautifully kept zoo, all the animal areas are big and allow you to get a good view of tigers, bears and elephants… Its extremely family-friendly and on a sunny day its a brilliant way to while away a few hours.
From there we went back into down town St Louis and our hotel which, if we’re honest, we didn’t hold out much hope of being too good. The Drury Plaza was one of only a few reasonably-priced options (we were in town the night before a St Louis Cardinals playoff game) but we shouldn’t have been so snobby about a chain hotel. Our room was more of a suite, it had a sitting room and a bedroom all for the price of a standard room. What’s more, the hotel had a free cocktails and snacks hour, which we took full advantage off.
After sipping some free booze we went out for a walk to take some snaps of a nearly full moon making the iconic Gateway Arch look even more spectacular than usual before retiring to sample some of the toasted ravioli that St Louis is partly famous for. It was pretty nice, but doesn’t rank among the most special of local cuisines that we’ve tasted on our travels.
The next morning we got up early to beat the crowds back at the Arch. Because we’re Brits we queued up before opening so that we could be the first up to the top. For $10 apiece going up the Arch is excellent value, if only for the experience of wobbling up over 600 feet in something akin to an egg instead of a lift (obviously because its an arch you can’t go up in a straight line!). We were lucky enough to have a perfect sunny day at the top, where you have an incredible view of the shadow of the Arch being cast over downtown St Louis, not to mention the mighty Mississippi on the other side. An experience not to be missed for sure.
We spent so much time at the zoo that we missed the chance to do a couple of other St Louis institutions – the Budweiser Brewery and more importantly Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard. Maybe one day we’ll go back and finish the job properly.
Given that St Louis is tucked away right to one side of Missouri there’s surely plenty of other fun things in the state we missed out on – Kansas City BBQ for one. But what we did see was pretty good, the Gateway Arch makes the trip worthwhile alone, it really is spectacular.
Rate the State
Good for: Fans of iconic architecture and zoos. Toasted ravioli is worth a try!
Bad for: St. Louis didn’t feel like the safest city in the world.