Stand beneath the Gateway Arch, and you can’t help but feel proud to be an American. Not only does this architectural marvel connect East to West, but it’s also a visual reminder of all that’s great about the good ole U.S. of A. Planted on the banks of the mighty Mississippi, this silvery icon testifies to our unflagging pioneer spirit and good-natured optimism.
It reflects the personality of the city too. St. Louis serves as world headquarters for a number of homegrown powerhouses, including Anheuser-Busch, Purina Mills, and Monsanto. What’s more, it’s a fun place to visit, with enough recreational opportunities to keep you busy for days.
It’s not enough to just stand at the base and gaze at the Gateway Arch. You have to embrace it.
The arch is actually part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, a 91-acre park that’s located near the launching point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Inside the arch, you’ll find the Museum of Westward Expansion, as well as several large-screen movies. Don’t leave without taking the gimbaled tram to the top ($10) for a bird’s-eye view of the city. You can buy tickets for a riverboat cruise or rent bikes at the park, but more adventuresome souls will want to take a helicopter tour of the city. The heliport sits on a river barge that’s docked at the base of the park steps.
Beer and Baseball
Even if you’re not a beer drinker, you’ll enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. Stationed near downtown at 12th and Lynch Streets, the 100-acre facility occupies more than a dozen historic buildings, including the circa 1891 Brew House that’s topped by a spectacular clock tower. The tour features a stop at the Clydesdale Stables, a beautiful redbrick barn with stained glass windows where the world-famous draft horses reside. At the end of the tour, visitors over 21 can sample their favorite beverages in the Hospitality Room.
Anheuser-Busch is synonymous with baseball in St. Louis too. The city’s beloved Cardinals take the field at Busch Stadium. The open-air design offers fans a panoramic view of the downtown skyline and the Gateway Arch. Single-game tickets range $16-$140. Visit http://stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com, or call the ticket office at (314) 345-9000.
If you’re not lucky enough to be in town when the team is, you can still visit the Cardinal’s Hall of Fame Museum, where the heroics of Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Ozzie Smith, and many others live on. Admission is $7.50.
A Day in the Park
At 1,293 acres, Forest Park is one of the most treasured gems in St. Louis. Nearly a dozen attractions reside here, including some of the region’s best cultural institutions. What’s more, most offer free admission. Among them you’ll find the Art Museum, with its stunning 30,000 piece collection; the Science Center, complete with an omnimax Theater and a planetarium; and the Missouri History Museum, where the past comes alive.
The Producers and Disney High School Musical both come to the stage this June at The Muny, the nation’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theater. Prices range $9-$64. Visit www.muny.org, or call (314) 361-1900 for more information about the 2008 season.
The Saint Louis Zoo (www.stlzoo.org or  781-0900) covers 90 acres of Forest Park, with a collection of 22,800 animals from all over the world. Admission to the zoo is free, but a $10 Safari Pass lets you see and do fun extras, such as the sea lion shows and Zooline Railroad.
Though it’s not located in Forest Park, don’t miss the Missouri Botanical Garden (www.mobot.org or  577-9400), considered one of the country’s best. The kids will love it too. In the Children’s Garden, they’ll climb into a tree house, investigate a Missouri cave, or explore a pioneer village. Admission is $8 adults; ages 12 and under get in free, but there is a $3 admission to the Children’s Garden.
Where To Eat
- Blueberry Hill: 6504 Delmar in The Loop; www.blueberryhill.com or (314) 727-4444. The St. Louis landmark serves the best cooked-to-order burgers in town and offers great live music.
- Charlie Gitto’s (On The Hill): 5226 Shaw Avenue; www.charliegittos.com or (314) 772-8898. This dark, cozy establishment is one of more than 20 restaurants located on The Hill, the Italian section of St. Louis. Be sure to try the Toasted Ravioli, pillows of meat-stuffed pasta dredged in breadcrumbs and deep-fried.
- Ted Drewes Frozen Custard: (pictured at right) 6726 Chippewa Street; www.teddrewes.com or (314) 481-2652. It’s not summer in St. Louis without a frozen “concrete,” a shake so thick it’s served upside down.
Where To Stay
If you’re planning to be in town when the Cardinals are playing, be prepared to plunk down a chunk of change for a room. Downtown hotels fill up fast, and the prices soar like a fly ball. Still, when you’re walking to the game―or back to the hotel afterwards―you’ll thank yourself. Check out some of our favorites.
- Drury Plaza Hotel-St. Louis: Fourth and Market Streets; www.druryhotels.com or (314) 231-3003. This hotel occupies three of downtown’s most historic buildings, including part of the old Fur Exchange Building.
- Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark: 1 South Broadway; www.hiltonstlouis.com or (314) 421-1776. Located in the heart of downtown just across from Busch Stadium, the Hilton is the gathering place for Cards fans.
- Westin St. Louis: 811 Spruce Street; www.westin.com/stlouis or (314) 621-2000. Directly across the street from Busch Stadium, this property is sleek and contemporary.
"Sitting on Top of the World" is from the June 2008 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.