One of the things we most enjoy about traveling is the people that we meet. By interacting with the residents, we get a better understanding of what drives them through their lives. Our extended stay in St. Louis, Missouri gave us an excellent chance to mingle with some of the locals, as well as observe them in action. While a city of millions will certainly contain just about every type of person possible, there were some takeaways that we gleaned from our trip. Here is a list of the Top 11 Things We Learned About St. Louis. We hope you enjoy it!
We want to thank the businesses and Explore St. Louis for their hospitality. Rest assured that all opinions are our own.
1) They Embrace Other Cultures
Saint Louis is a city filled with an amazing amount of history. Over the centuries, this region has been the home of Native American Indians. Prior to becoming a territory of the United States, after the Louisiana Purchase, it was also claimed by Spain and France at times. These various influences can be found in the architecture and names of places throughout the metropolitan area. With all of the various ethnicities, that abound inside the city limits, it is no surprise to see the almost unending desire to learn more about foreign cultures. This was most apparent to us during a visit to the St. Louis Art Museum in Forest Park. The wide range of artistic pieces is a good draw for locals and travelers alike. What was really pulling them in was a temporary exhibit about the recently discovered sunken treasures in Egypt. Like so many of the locals, we became fixated with learning as much as we could about these ancient people. As Nehru once said, “Culture is the widening of the mind and spirit.” (You can read more about the Art Museum here>)
2) Want To Know Their Own History
While learning other cultures is vital, it is just as important to understand our own pasts. A stop at the Missouri History Museum gave us a great insight into the past of the city. History is who we are, so learning the history of St. Louis helped us better understand its people. Our visit allowed us to see the tail end of the temporary exhibit on the Civil Rights struggle, in this city’s past and present. It was a reminder that no matter how far we have traveled, there is still plenty of road before us. We also spent a good deal of time learning about the 1904 World’s Fair and its impact on the future development of the city. It was quite eye-opening. (You can read more about the History Museum here>)
3) Quietly Honor The Fallen
The Jefferson Barracks is an area unlike any we have in our hometown of Kansas City. It amazes us that even though these two cities share a state, they have such varied historical paths. Driving through the cemetery reminded us of all of the Americans who have fallen during times of war. A stop at the Missouri Civil War Museum highlighted one of the most divisive events in the history of our country. What was the most poignant part for us, was that the museum presents the conflict simply by the facts. It attempts to avoid pushing one or the other sides agenda, and is simply there to honor those that fell fighting for something they believed in. This showed us the true compassion of the people of St. Louis and their ability to rise above the ongoing squall to show respect to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. (You can read more about the Civil War Museum here>)
4) They Will Never Stop Learning
One of the keys to life is to learn something new each day. We have found travel to be a great education since we get to sample so many new things. It is always kind of funny to us when we include a place like the St. Louis Science Center in our itinerary. Almost every time we hear the same thing from the tourism team that we are working with. “You realize that place is designed for kids, right?” Well, yes we do. By the way, we will be two of the biggest kids in attendance that day. Places like this exist so that the locals and travelers can dive deeper into the cause and effects of the world around us. We dove in headfirst to the various exhibits. So much to see and do spread out through this facility. Somewhere along the way, we heard the shriek of happy kids and had to wonder if it was us that we were hearing. (You can read more about the Science Center here>)
5) Are Never Too Old To Enjoy Playing
Speaking of playing, we cannot say just how surprised we were during our visit to the City Museum. When we heard the suggestions from our readers, we had to wonder just what the real draw was to this place. Less of a museum and more of an adult-sized playground is the only way to describe it. When we pulled into the parking lot, we were already getting giddy. Tubes, chutes, ladders, walkways, tunnels, caves, and numerous slides are found inside and out of this engaging attraction. Be sure to stop in the gift shop and grab a pair of knee pads to aid in your exploring. Our only disappointment was that we went too early in the year, so the rooftop portion was not yet open. Oh well, it gives us a reason for a return trip. (You can read more about City Museum here>)
6) Not Afraid To Stand Out From The Crowd
Being unique is becoming more difficult to find these days. It seems that many people want to just blend in, and not draw any attention to themselves. While this may seem to be a safe approach to life, it leaves a person with a higher potential for regrets in later years. An old proverb says, “If you are too busy to laugh, you are too busy.” Sometimes we need to just cast off worrying about others’ impressions of us and do something that makes our heart sing. These are the moments that we will look back on fondly. St. Louis showed us plenty of people who weren’t afraid to step out of the shadows and let their lights shine. Seeing others act on their impulses certainly brought smiles to our faces.
7) They Love Their Musical Heritage
So many people associate ragtime, blues, modern gospel, and even hip-hop with big cities like New York, L.A., or even Chicago. Would you be surprised to find out the wide variety of musicians got their start or honed their crafts in the clubs and bars of St. Louis? Ragtime icon Scott Joplin moved to “Mound City” (An old St. Louis nickname) in 1901 to ply his trade. At that time, ragtime was so new that many publishers were unsure how to write the sheet music for some of his pieces. Many of the blues musicians that made Chicago famous were still playing primarily in St.Louis until the 1930s. Rock and Roll legend Chuck Berry got his start in St. Louis playing country riffs. This twang would remain a piece of his style even as he transformed into this new genre of music. Even current musical stars like Nelly (Cornell Haynes, Jr.) have hometown ties to the Gateway City. If you want to see a great selection of nostalgic memorabilia, including musical pieces, stop in Blueberry Hill on the Delmar Loop for a tour or better yet, a meal.
8) They Want More For Their City
Now that the Delmar Loop has been mentioned, let’s spend a little time on this historic avenue. The Loop, as it is referred to by locals, is a six block-long section of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. In the early days of the city, (Think the 1904 World’s Fair time-frame) Delmar Street was serviced by a streetcar that offered city dwellers a chance to escape the heat and head to the outskirts. As the city transformed, this area was abandoned and became blighted. In the 1970’s a leader stepped from the sideline to help begin a decades-long process of reviving the Loop to grandeur. Joe Edwards started with a single new business, but continued with time to revitalize many of the historic buildings along the route. The addition of the Moonrise Hotel brought a boutique lodging option to an area starved for places to host travelers to the city. These days, the Delmar Loop is recognized as one of the “Ten Great Streets in America”. After staying at the Moonrise and spending ample time on the Loop, we can only imagine the amount of dedication required to transform the area. (You can read more about Moonrise here>)
9) Recognize Greatness In Others
As we wandered the Loop, we noticed an array of stars and plaques placed in the sidewalk. At first it was just a passing glance, but soon we would find ourselves recognizing the famous names. Many of the names were easy to place, but some were more obscure and caused us to pause to learn more about them. With over 140 separate plaques, visitors will surely find plenty to hold their attention. It is also a great way to learn about the ties that many famous people have with St. Louis. So many facts that we never knew.
10) Are Hooked On Space
A reoccurring theme we found during our travels around the Gateway City was space travel. We expected it at the Moonrise Hotel but were a little surprised to find hints of it throughout the Delmar Loop. In many stops along the way, we would see a homage to this dreamy desire. There are even signposts that give interesting perspective on each of the planets in our solar system. Just when we had decided it was specific to the Loop, we made a visit to the St. Louis Science Center. Here we found an entire section of the building dedicated to space travel. Wow! Saint Louis really likes their space.
11) Welcome Guests With Great Attractions
Having claimed to America’s Top Free Attraction is nothing to take lightly. Saint Louis holds that distinction with their world-class zoological park. The St. Louis Zoo sees around 3,000,000 visitors each year. That is more than the entire metropolitan population of the city it lies within. With over 16,000 animals on display, it takes a highly organized staff to keep everything in tip-top shape. We can tell you from an outsider view, that the zoo is an amazing asset for the St. Louis community. During our visit, we tried to cover as many of the 90 acres that we could. Even on a brisk day the crowds were out in force to observe the animals in action. Being zoo lovers, we have no problem suggesting the St. Louis Zoo to anyone planning a visit to the Gateway City. It’s that good! (You can read more about the Zoo here>)
Well, those are some of our observations of the people of St. Louis. Obviously, we only had time to meet a few of them, but we were quite impressed by the welcoming spirit we felt from those we did interact with. Hopefully, this article has piqued your own interest in visiting the Gateway to the West and maybe doing some of your own observings. Be sure to look for the little things that make these Midwestern dwellers stand out. Enjoy your stay and travel safely!