View from the top of the arch.

View from the top of the arch.

Years ago, the summer after my two years in The Gambia, West Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, a friend and I traveled across the United States mostly by Greyhound bus. St. Louis, Missouri was one of our stops. Then, we were passing through–a night in a sketchy hotel and a quick look-see at the arch without paying for the ride to the top due to limited funds.

I recently returned to St. Louis on a weekend getaway with my husband, son and daughter and found a city that’s calling me back. Most of our time was spent downtown. Here are highlights of four don’t miss sites.

St. Louis Trolley Tour

A St. Louis Trolley tour is a crash course in St. Louis history and cultural highlights

St. Louis Trolley Tours  – This one hour trip takes visitors past several St. Louis sites that combine into a history, popular culture and prominent neighborhood smorgasbord. Tours begin in front of St. Louis Union Station, a glorious former train station opened in 1894 that houses a DoubleTree Hotel, an entertainment complex and a shopping mall. Taking in St. Louis’s highlights while someone else drives and tosses out tidbits of St. Louis history and lore is a perfect way to begin discovering what makes the gateway of the West a Midwest standout.

st. louis church and arch

The Gateway Arch and The Old Cathedral -Basilica of Saint Louis, King.

Gateway Arch Just turned fifty years-old, the arch is St. Louis’s most famous icons, and this visit is one of the most unusual experiences I’ve had.  I don’t think I’m alone with this. As my daughter, son and I climbed into the pod-like cubicle with another couple who pretzel-ed in with us, the woman of the pair said, “This isn’t what I expected.” The cubicle-shaped tram carry riders up to the top of the 630 feet monument to the enclosed observation deck and its views of the city and points beyond. Really cool and funky. Currently, there is a major renovation project so the Museum of Westward Expansion is temporarily closed, however there are gift shops, other exhibits and a movie in the building of the arch’s base. Gateway Arch is the tallest monument in the United States and is part of the National Park Service.

Dred and Harriet Scott in front of the Old Courthouse

Dred and Harriet Scott in front of the Old Courthouse

Dred Scott Courtroom in the Old Courthouse. Although the original courtroom that served as the location for the Dred Scott trial has been renovated due to structural issues in the Old Courthouse building, the Dred Scott display here chronicles the importance of the the Dred Scott case. Scott, a slave, fought through the courts for his freedom, along with the freedom of his wife Harriet after he was brought to live in free territories. He lost his case even though it went up to the Supreme Court. Other exhibits at the Old Courthouse cover the role of St. Louis in westward expansion.

st. louis fox theater

The Fox Theatre is a glittery venue where entertainment is at its best

Fabulous Fox TheatreOpened in 1929 as an “exotic temple of amusement” the Fox Theatre has a Wow! factor that is hard to top. In the early 80s, the theatre underwent major restoration to bring it back to its glory days. From its ornate gold details that evoke images of Egypt and Asia to its plush seats and magnificent chandelier in the auditorium, this is a take your breath away experience. We savored the Fox Theatre while taking in the Broadway Tour of “Matilda.” We bought our tickets the day of the show at the box office. Click this link for the other shows this season. Newsies is in January.

Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein