Meet Me in St. Louis
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
When America’s first baseman Paul Goldschmidt was traded from the D-backs to the St. Louis Cardinals, there was a collective gasp in the Valley. There is one thing to do this baseball season: Head to St. Louis.
The trip to the “Gateway to the West” started with a turbulent flight with swearing stewards. But we landed safely at 10 p.m. to a storm. The rain was refreshing; a departure from the mostly arid Arizona.
After picking up our baggage, we made our way to the taxi stand and met an East African driver. He was friendly—even though he never heard of our destination, the Hotel St. Louis, and said he hated the media. He said they were ruining the city’s reputation by reporting nothing but crime stories. When I told him I was working on a positive St. Louis story, he hung his head in embarrassment.
Hotel St. Louis
The Hotel St. Louis is a new addition to the city, which is repurposing buildings all over the town. The 14-story hotel is located in the Historic Union Trust building designed by architect Louis Sullivan. Vacant since 2013, Amy and Amrit Gill of Restoration St. Louis bought the structure at 705 Olive Street for $3.3 million and spent more than $64 million to renovate it.
The heat from the lobby fireplace embraced us when we walked through the door. Comfy couches and armchairs filled the lobby, bookended by tables adorned with elaborate glass lamps, flower arrangements and geometric art sculptures. Impressive features are the elevators; brass with a fantastically retro floor number dial. Don’t forget to look up: the beautiful stained glass ceiling could be right out of a Vegas hotel.
Once we checked in, we made our way to the fifth floor, king room. There was a surprising touch: a turntable with albums by the likes of Harry Belafonte. The sizeable room had an en suite bathroom with a wet room shower, bathtub, modern-style basin counter with a television built into the mirror above it.
The treat cabinet had everything from chips and chocolate, to several small bottles of liquor and a fridge with some locally brewed alcoholic beverages.
Upon waking, we walked from the hotel to a local breakfast favorite, Rooster, another retrofitted building. We met with Explore St. Louis to hear suggestions on what we should see.
The entrees were incredible, namely my ham and cheese omelet, and the scramble with three eggs served over potatoes with bacon, mushrooms, emmenthaler and arugula.
After breakfast, we explored St. Louis. Perhaps the most impressive and obvious landmark is the Gateway to the West Arch near the Mississippi River.
The Gateway Arch National Park has a large museum that shares the history of the manmade monument above it. Two trams—north and south—take guests to the top of the arch. Be warned: claustrophobes shouldn’t even consider it. Those who do brave the ride are entertained with video and projections showing more facts and figures like the tram is a cross between an escalator and Ferris wheel.
The elevator ride is 4 minutes, but the view makes guests breathless. Peeking through rectangular porthole-type windows travelers see both sides of the Mississippi. The coolest part, however, was seeing the home of the St. Louis Cardinals, Busch Stadium.
Located near the Arch is the Museum of Westward Expansion, the former courthouse primarily depicts the history of African-American life in St. Louis and has wonderful artwork throughout.
The next stop was the National Blues Museum, a magnificent trip through the history of the blues. It exhibits instruments from Africa, which are said to be at the genesis of this music style. Guests see and hear how the blues influenced rap, country and rock music. One of Chuck Berry’s guitars is on display, showing the wear and tear of the working man’s instrument. Visitors can create their own blues song, thanks to lyrics and instrumentation in the Jack White mix room. The finished piece is sent via email.
When we returned at night to the Sugarfire Smokehouse, we saw a jam session in the National Blues Museum’s concert hall with a handful of stellar musicians.
Uber and taxi drivers concur the St. Louis Zoo is one of the best in the country. Admission is free, which is commonplace in the city. There’s no monkeying around with that. The enclosures are animal friendly and, like most zoos, some of the animals aren’t visible. Various vantage points allow guests to peek in at their favorite furry friends.
The polar bear enjoyed the children’s attention when he was swimming past them. The flamingos were majestic, and the playful sea lions showed off their talents as we watched them through a glass tunnel.
One of the elephants were feeding as we were passing and stood up on its back legs to seemingly wave to the guests.
The real reason for visiting St. Louis was to see Goldy. On the way to Busch Stadium, we saw modern art sculptures and fountains downtown.
The 20,000-square-foot Ballpark Village, which is adjacent to Busch Stadium, didn’t disappoint. It has a host of restaurants and a small team shop, but it is well known for its 40-foot LED TV in the dining area that serves as a gathering spot for major events. A nod to the Chicago Cubs, Ballpark Village has rooftop seating.
But Busch Stadium is a gem. It’s a mouth-watering introduction to St. Louis with its touch of blues music in a courtyard, a smattering of barbecue and, of course, Anheuser Busch beer. (If the vendor at the barbecue/brisket joint Centerfield Carvery in Section 189 says he’s out of barbecue sauce, just know there is plenty of it on the condiment islands throughout the ballpark.) Don’t pass by Dinger’s Donuts, crunchy donuts—like cider mills back home—with hot fudge.
The main event was two days of baseball: the Cardinals vs. the Pirates. The Pirates won 2-1, but the “slumping” Goldschmidt had three hits in five at bats.
We heard Saturday was very likely to be rainy. The game delayed for nearly three hours, so in the meantime we checked out the City Museum.
The impressive City Museum is an ever-changing art exhibition inside a historic building that now showcases antique items from around St. Louis.
There are creatures fashioned out of mechanical items; the elevator was bordered by piece of printing presses. This is a perfect place for children to explore, as this has many tunnels, climbing frames and slides that zoom in and out of the building. (The outside was closed due to inclement weather.)
We braved going to the ballpark in the rain, but, after an hour, we realized how fortunate we are to have Chase Field and its retractable roof. It was fun to see Goldy and a different ballpark in the rain. While we didn’t stay for the game, we went to the upper level to view the arch and to say goodbye.
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