St. Louis is the second-largest city in the state of Missouri and the 20th largest in the United States, with a population of around 301,500.
St. Louis is known for its diversity and robust economy, with plenty of strengths in the fields of manufacturing, trade, tourism, and more. It sits near the joining (or confluence) of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. The city is famous for quite a few firsts, as well as having a surprising number of free attractions.
The Center of Native American Culture
When looking into the history before the founding of St. Louis, it’s often cited as the center of Native American Mississippian culture. There are numerous temples and mounds on both sides of the river, all within the city’s boundaries. It’s the reason why St. Louis gets the nickname “Mount City.” Unfortunately, most of the mounds ended up being demolished during the city’s construction.
The Birthplace of 7-Up
Say what you will about fizzy drinks — they have a habit of being quite the icon in the US. The Howdy Corporation, headed by Charles Leiper Grigg, developed the drink around 1929. They first called the drink the Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda, which is quite the mouthful. It was part of the medicine product trend back in the day.
The Firsts in the World Fair
The World Fair in St Louis is (naturally) world-famous, especially for its various firsts. For example, did you know that the World Fair was where ice cream cones started? An ice cream vendor at the World Fair ran out of cups, and he figured he might as well use waffles to get the job done. The result is the ice cream cone we know and love today. Iced tea also made its first appearance at the World Fair, which is one of the drinks of choice of the South.
The Source of Peanut Butter
Thanks to St. Louis, did you know that peanut butter first became popular around the 1900s? Ambrose Straub was given a patent for the first peanut butter machine, making it that much easier to develop peanut butter. The World Fair also had a hand in its inception, as peanut butter started making the rounds in the World Fair around 1904. During the two world wars, peanut butter became a remarkable source of protein.
The Tallest Man-Made Monument
It would be remiss to talk about St. Louis and not mention the tallest man-made monument — the Gateway Arch. There are quite a few fun tidbits about the arch, such as national security not allowing presidents from ascending the arch for security reasons. The only president to do so was Eisenhower, who signed its construction order. It’s also known for being extremely precise. If the two legs of the monument were off by even a fraction of an inch, it would not have worked out.
American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog
Considering how much people love dogs, it’s strange that there’s only one museum in the entire world (!) fully dedicated to man’s best friend. The American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog holds the distinction, and it’s one of the reasons why so many tourists are looking to visit St. Louis. Unfortunately, while Branson might be known for its tourism, they don’t have a museum 100% dedicated to dogs!
One of the Oldest Botanical Institutions
The Missouri Botanical Garden is situated in St. Louis and is one of the oldest botanical institutions in the US — it’s also a National Historic Landmark! It was founded in 1859 and continues to be a draw for tourists and locals alike. Some of its features include the Climatron geodesic dome conservatory and the Japanese Garden. As far as botanical institutions go, the Missouri Botanic Garden is one of the best.
While St. Louis is known these days for its clean air and push toward green projects, there was a time when the city was known for the worst air pollution in the US. In the early 1900s, St. Louis was known as a city with some of the worst air pollutions, which was why they made an effort to clean things up. In 1940, the city banned soft coal that was mined in nearby states. The city also hired inspectors to ensure that everything was going as it should.
Taking After New Orleans
St. Louis has its roots with the French, as it was French fur trappers who founded the city in the first place. St. Louis takes Mardi Gras seriously, hosting a yearly parade and festival that’s only second to New Orleans as far as popularity goes. There were even some years when the St. Louis Mardi Gras festivals have outright done better than the traditional New Orleans parade.
An Eye for Baseball
St. Louis is widely popular in the baseball world thanks to the St. Louis Cardinals, one of the most successful baseball franchises in history. The Cardinals won 12 division titles, took home 19 National League pennants, and 11 World Series championships! You can’t get much better than the St. Louis Cardinals, which is why St. Louis goes crazy over the sport.
The Controversial Olympics
St. Louis is well-known as the first US city to host the modern Olympics. It was also only the third in the world to do so at the time! Unfortunately, St. Louis didn’t do such a good job managing the Olympics, which resulted in plenty of trouble. The issues included scheduling the marathon in blistering 90-degree heat, and the fact that the track was covered in dust didn’t help things.
The Origin of the St. Louis Zoo
One of the primary attractions of St. Louis includes its zoo, the origins of which can be traced back to the World Fair. Back in 1904, the bird exhibit at the World Fair proved to be popular enough that the St. Louis Zoo was built around the idea. Instead of dismantling the flight cage, the city purchased it for about $3,500, marking the beginning of the St. Louis Zoo. These days, it’s one of the biggest reasons to visit the city and is a free attraction.
St. Louis Science Center
The St. Louis Science Center was founded in 1963 and includes a planetarium alongside the general science museum. The center is located in Forest Park, making it ideal for tourists looking to enjoy a (free) museum dedicated to science. The St. Louis Science Center has the distinction of being only one of two science centers in the US with free admission. You’ll find that St. Louis has a habit of making various attractions entirely free.
The Founding of St. Louis
The city of St. Louis was founded by French fur traders back in 1764. These traders — Pierre Laclède and Auguste Chouteau — named it Louis IX of France. Soon after its founding, the French defeat during the seven years war led to the city being given to Spain before returning to France around 1800. The Louisiana Purchase saw the territory finally brought to the US three years later. It eventually developed into the 4th-largest city in the US.
The Site of the Exorcist
Just about everyone knows the Exorcist at this point. As one of the most iconic films to ever exist, movie buffs flock from all over the world to visit St. Louis, which is the city to inspire both the book and the film. With many attractions in the city, the fact that it’s the site and inspiration of the movie, Exorcist adds yet another reason for tourists to visit.
The Lake of Broken Hearts
Every great place to visit has a good story behind it, which is undoubtedly the case for Creve Coeur Lake. The legend behind the lake involves an Indian princess falling in love with a fur trapper who didn’t return her affections. It was said the princess hurled herself into the lake, which formed a broken heart. For those interested, Creve Coeur means broken heart in French.
A City of Free Attractions
The state of Missouri is well-known for its entertainment districts, particularly in cities such as Branson. However, it doesn’t hold a candle to St. Louis when it comes to free attractions. Most of the attractions are free to the public, so you won’t have to break the bank to enjoy yourself in St. Louis. There’s plenty to see, whether it’s the Art Museum, the History Museum, or even the Zoo.
The Largest Collection of Mosaics
While St. Louis is known for quite a lot of things, it’s also the city that holds the largest collection of mosaics in the world, courtesy of the Cathedral Basilica. For those curious about just how many, they have 41 million tile pieces. The Cathedral Basilica is one of the top reasons to visit St. Louis.