On the banks of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, St. Louis is known for its baseball, beer and what is probably the most famous arch that isn't part of a fast food logo. Read on to learn more about the Gateway to the West.
1. It’s named for King Louis IX. The city was founded in 1764 as a French fur-trading village by Pierre Laclede who honored the patron saint of then-French king Louis XV by naming what would become a 2.8 million person metropolitan area after him.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
The first steamboat arrived in the town in 1817. By the 1850s, 5000 steamboats would travel through the city each year.
4. St. Louis was already a 40-year-old river town when Thomas Jefferson signed the Louisiana Purchase. Explorers Lewis and Clark began their westward trip from the area in 1804.
5. St. Louis has more free major tourist attractions than any other city in the country outside Washington, D.C. Visitors pay nothing to visit the art museum, the history museum, the science center and the zoo.
6. Speaking of the zoo, the attraction was born after a bird exhibit for the 1904 World’s Fair proved to be hugely popular. The flight cage was originally commissioned by the Smithsonian, and instead of dismantling and shipping it back to D.C., St. Louis bought the exhibit for $3500.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in St. Louis is the Gateway Arch. On a clear day, visitors can see almost 30 miles in each direction from the top. While you're taking in the views, don’t panic if the arch feels like it’s moving. The structure was designed to sway as much as 18 inches and to withstand earthquakes.
8. Artist Bob Cassilly created the City Museum in 1997. Housed in the former International Shoe Company building, the museum is a giant playground/jungle gym made from salvaged architectural and industrial objects.
9. Besides being where the St. Louis Zoo got its start, the 1904 World’s Fair, held in the city's Forrest Park neighborhood, was the first time the world saw electric plugs, the X-ray machine, and the ice cream cone.
10. The same year, St. Louis was the first U.S. city, and only the third in the world, to host the modern Olympics. However, the games are remembered mostly for their mismanagement, including scheduling the marathon on a dust-covered road during 90-degree heat.
11. The musical movie Meet Me in St. Louis, starring Judy Garland, takes place in the city and tells the story of a family who doesn’t want to leave town, or the World’s Fair, for a new life in New York.
12. Brown Shoe Company, known today as Caleres, was founded in St. Louis in 1875. The company was one of the first in the industry to create different shoes for men and women and the right and left foot.
13. Professional baseball team the St. Louis Cardinals is one of the most successful baseball franchises in history. To date, the team has won 11 World Series championships, 19 National League pennants, and 12 division titles.
14. From 1902-1954 an American League team called the St. Louis Browns also called St. Louis home, but their record wasn't nearly as successful as the Cardinals'. St. Louis was once nicknamed "First in booze, first in shoes and last in the American League" for the team's lousy record.
Alums of Sumner High School, the first high school for African Americans built west of the Mississippi, include Tina Turner, Chuck Berry, and Arthur Ashe.
16. Rapper Nelly, born in 1974, is a proud St. Louis native. Five years after he was born, across the river in East St. Louis, a local radio station made hip hop history when it became the first in the nation to play Sugar Hill Gang's now-classic, "Rapper's Delight."
18. While St. Louis’ culinary tastes were once the butt of a Wikipedia joke, the area known as the Hill offers some of the best Italian food in the country, and is the birthplace of the St. Louis specialty toasted ravioli.
19. Follow your ravioli with a St. Louis-style pizza, boasting a cracker-thin crust, just enough sauce, and a ton of provel cheese, a processed blend of Swiss, provolone and cheddar cheese created in the city.
Don’t forget dessert. The city is also known for its gooey butter cake, a dense confection invented in the 1930s after a baker added too much sugar to a butter cake recipe.
21. Or stop by Ted Drewes, a city institution, known for its frozen custard. Ted Drewes has been serving up concretes and sundaes on Route 66 since 1929.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
23. The chain that the rest of the country knows as Panera started as the St. Louis Bread Company in 1993. The company retains its original name in the St. Louis area.