The Gateway to the West is a Mississippi River city with a history of westward expansion, distinctive neighborhoods and a love of sports. The 630-foot tall Gateway Arch, a tribute to the city's role in the Lewis and Clark expedition and westward expansion, dominates the downtown landscape. The St. Louis metropolitan area, stretching east and west of the river, is home to more than 2.5 million.
The centerpiece of downtown, the Arch sits on the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial grounds. Tram rides to the top of the Arch provide views of the metro area. Beneath the Arch, the Museum of Westward Expansion explores the lives of Native Americans and the Lewis and Clark expedition. At the base of the Arch, Mississippi River cruises are available on paddle wheelers. Nearby, Laclede's Landing honors the city's founder, here visitors can find a variety of restaurants, jazz and blues clubs, dancing and nightclubs, and riverboat gaming venues. Downtown is also home to St. Louis' sports teams, Cardinals baseball, Rams football and Blues hockey.
Forest Park, the city's largest urban park, is 1,293 acres of culture, landscapes, wildlife and recreational venues. Some of the city's top cultural attractions are here, including the zoo, art museum, science center, history museum and an outdoor theater. More than seven miles of trails are open for roller blading, walking, running and biking. In the summer, visitors can take gondola and boat rides, and in the winter enjoy ice skating and sledding.
Distinctive neighborhoods offer their own interpretation of life in the city. Soulard, an historic neighborhood with buildings dating to the 1800s, is home to Anheuser-Busch and the city's largest farmers market. Visitors flock to Soulard in February for Mardi Gras celebrations. The Grand Center area west of downtown hosts some of St. Louis' most popular theater and concert venues and museums all within a few blocks. Here visitors can enjoy Broadway musicals, symphony, jazz, folk and classical music, dance, theater, and contemporary and religious art.
In the Central West End some of the city's most elegant homes overlook Forest Park. Art galleries, sidewalk cafes, antique shops, restaurants and nightclubs make the Central West End a popular place to see and be seen. South of the park, The Hill is a predominantly Italian area featuring some of the best restaurants and bakeries in the city. Near The Hill, the Grand South Grand area features ethnic restaurants, eclectic shops and the Missouri Botanical Garden. North of Forest Park, the University City Loop area caters to Washington University students with four blocks of restaurants, entertainment venues, art galleries and trendy clothing stores.
Western parts of the St. Louis metropolitan area offer great dining and shopping opportunities. Clayton, an upscale business district, has great restaurants, art galleries and antique stores. The Saint Louis Galleria mall and a variety of other stores make the Clayton Road and Brentwood Boulevard intersection a must stop for shoppers.