A Day in St. Louis

The last time I was in St. Louis was 1993 and the Great Flood of ‘93 was underway. Our car was one of the last to cross the Mississippi as water lapped at the sides of the bridge and the famed St. Louis Arch was unreachable as the base was under water.

On my recent visit, the Mississippi was running high, but at least 15 feet lower than my first visit. So we took a day to drive around downtown, stopping on a whim to take photos of whatever caught our eye.

I wouldn’t call the St. Louis skyline beautiful, but the city features a lot of historic buildings, lots of trees and of course the arch.

The Old St. Louis Courthouse framed by the St. Louis Arch.

We parked near the Citygarden, checking out the fountains and lining up the distinct photo of the arch you’ve likely seen before – a water fountain, a photo-bombing guy, the old St. Louis County Courthouse and the Arch surrounding it all.

The entrance to the Arch is under construction, so you have to go on a decently long walk over a freeway and around a historic church to reach the Mississippi River side of the structure. It’s hard to describe the arch. It’s way bigger than I was expecting and it is just bizarre. Anyway, there was no way I was going inside, so we just took a few photos, observed how low the river was in comparison to 1993, and then headed back to the car.

Imagine the Mississippi River nearly overtopping the bridge in the distance! That was what the Great Flood of 1993 was like.

As an aside, 91 degrees with 60 percent humidity about killed me. I had to lay under a tree and pour water on myself near the arch. That will probably be my lasting memory. I swear I’ll never complain about having to use the heater in my house in June again.

We hopped in the car, turned the AC on high and then started driving with our eventual destination the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. As we drifted that way, we happened by Saint Louis University. We quickly parked and wandered around the beautiful campus for a bit.

The Old St. Louis County Courthouse reflected in a nearby building.

SLU was founded in 1818 making it the oldest university west of the Mississippi and features the Samuel Cupples House built in 1890. I especially enjoyed the sculptures on the grounds, and the many water fountains, including one with a cool clock tower in the middle.

Back to the car and a quick spin past the City Museum, which we didn’t visit – and I failed to get a photo – but I plan to go on my next visit. To read more about this unique museum visit its website. It’s crazy.

The St. Louis Arch with a historic church in the foreground.

We then hit up the Cathedral, before heading over to the Bellefontaine Cemetery. I love me some cemeteries and wanted to visit a historic one while I had a chance. We only had about 20 minutes before it closed, but I did see some graves from the 1850s. A haunting place for sure.

We then drove through Ferguson, which was made famous by the protests following the police shooting and killing unarmed Mike Brown. We drove to the spot of his murder which was on an idyllic street that could have been anywhere in America. Heartbreaking to say the least.

We then headed to The Hill for Italian food. The Hill is a neighborhood in St. Louis allegedly featuring some of the best Italian food in the U.S. While I was craving fettuccine alfredo, I was denied as the restaurant didn’t serve it. So I had a hamburger instead. So I’ll have to believe the internet rumors about the glory of the food on The Hill.

Some tombstones in Bellefontaine Cemetery.

We capped our evening with a walk along the Missouri River in historic St. Charles. This spot has not only a great trail along the river, but also a cool downtown featuring coffee shops, restaurants and bars in old buildings.

Next time you are in a big city, I suggest just driving around and seeing what catches your eye – rather than having a locked in itinerary.

– Craig Craker

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