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A Grand Slam Travel Day in St. Louis – Missouri, United States

The New Busch Stadium offers a grand view.
The New Busch Stadium offers a grand view.

Would you like to have a grand slam of a travel day in The Gateway City of St. Louis? Well, here are my ingredients for such a day, whether you only have a day to explore or your trip to St. Louis lasts several days. Ponder the St. Louis area from a 630-foot vantagepoint. Be swarmed in a sea of red. View an incredible collection of baseball and bowling history under one roof. Savor a dessert so thick, it’s referred to as “concrete”. Do all these things, and you’ll have your own St. Louis Grand Slam!

The Gateway Arch, Identifying Icon

1. Technically, it’s really called The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which honors Thomas Jefferson, as well as the Louisiana Purchase, plus those who braved the unknown to settle the frontier west of the Mississippi River.

2. Up to 6,400 people visit daily.

3. It takes roughly four minutes to get to the top and three minutes to reach the bottom via the tram.

4. Each leg has 1,076 steps, but walking up and down the arch is off limits to the public.

5. On a clear day, one can see 30 miles east/west.

6. The arch has never fallen since it was engineered to withstand hurricane force winds. Below the arch is the Museum of Westward Expansion. It details the expansion of the United States from 1800-1900 via talking robots (like William Clark and Chief Red Cloud), decade by decade, and U.S. Presidential tenure breakdown exhibits for those 100 years. The Lewis and Clark Expedition is also featured, as well as exhibits honoring farmers, miners and buffalo hunters. Two theaters are at the venue, with the Tucker Theater showing the 35-minute documentary about the arch’s construction called “Monument to the Dream”, which was nominated for an Academy Award. The Odyssey is a four-story high screen with THX sound. It shows different works that are related to the themes of Westward Expansion, including Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West.

The Gateway Arch Complex St. Louis Riverfront. 877-982-1410 Separate/Combo admission charges for getting to the top of the arch and movies. The Museum of Westward Expansion is free.

The St. Louis Cardinals baseball team is the essence of this Mississippi River City

St. Louis is quite the Baseball City. I’ve been a fan of the New York Yankees since I was ten, but I’m still in awe of the baseball atmosphere that pervades in St. Louis. No matter where I went, I felt as if I were navigating through a sea of red – Cardinals hats, T-shirts and jerseys.

The Cardinals is one of the most storied baseball franchises in history. Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, was quoted as saying, “Commissioners are supposed to be neutral. But no city has a greater baseball tradition than St. Louis. And in my opinion, there is no greater baseball town than St. Louis.” This from a man whose family has ownership ties to the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Cardinals began in 1881 as the Brown Stockings or Browns. It joined the American Association in 1882, a league which allowed Sunday baseball games and beer sales, unlike the National League. Allowing for beer sales certainly helped to make Budweiser the King of Beers. The team stayed the Browns until it was dubbed the Perfectos in 1899 as a National League team, before ultimately being named the Cardinals in 1900.

The Cardinals have won ten World Championships in its 100-plus years of existence, which is more than any other team, except the New York Yankees. Fifteen Cardinals have won the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award, including three-time winner and “Hall of Fame Stan ‘The Man’ Musial”. He played three decades spanning the 1940′s to the 1960′s. Three Cy Young Awards have gone to the Cardinals, including two for legendary pitcher, Bob Gibson. First baseman, Mark McGwire, became the first player to break Roger Maris’s home run record back in 1998.

Eat 'Concrete' along Historic Route 66!
Eat ‘Concrete’ along Historic Route 66!

How much baseball is a part of St. Louis became more evident as I attended the first game after the 2006 all-star break in the New Busch Stadium. It cost close to 400 million dollars and can hold some 47,000 fans, including standing room only crowds. It’s not surprising this amount was spent for a new park because it will serve the team and these serious baseball fans for years to come.

I saw the Los Angeles Dodgers on the third base side at the second level. The view was really good, especially since it opens out to the Gateway Arch and other skyscrapers. Seats are cushioned and comfortable. The New Busch Stadium really has an intimate feel to it. Its outer façade is made up of a nicely designed brick layout, just like many of the new retro-parks that have been built over the last fifteen or so years.

Even though I had good seats, I wanted to explore the other viewing areas of the park to see what the fans get. I have to say there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. Views from the bleachers, while far away, have been designed so it seems as if the fans are really closer to the action. Getting to your seats is easy, as a number of elevators are available to whisk you to the upper sections of the stadium. I walked on the escalating ramps from one level to the next and found it rather simple and quick.

During the 7th inning stretch, the Budweiser Beer Theme is played and their Jumbo-Tron shows footage of the Budweiser Clydesdale Draft Horses. Souvenirs and food are expensive, but I found a good deal from a vendor that sold Starbucks Coffee in a 12 oz. cup for $3.00, including free refills throughout the evening of a 14-inning game in which the Cards won 3-2 on a homerun. Here are some other sample prices for concessions: A 16 oz. plastic bottle of beer (though it looks and feels like glass) goes for $7.00. The hot dogs are just under $5.00, but they are thick and have a good ballpark taste. A bag of peanuts is close to $4.00, and a large pop in a Cardinals souvenir cup is $5.00. St. Louis Cardinals online ticket information.

A Spectacular Double-Play for Baseball and Bowling Enthusiasts

Baseball and bowling enthusiasts can see two wonderful venues honoring these pastimes in one complex for one admission price. The St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame and the International Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum are housed on three floors across the street from The New Busch Stadium.

Some interesting highlights at the Cardinals Hall of Fame: Patrons get to see a “sofa” that’s made up of Mark McGwire’s baseball bats. The cushions make up the bases that McGwire ran around when he hit home run #62 in 1998, surpassing Roger Maris’s feat. The balls on the sofa are from 1999, from the game that McGwire hit #62 for the second time. This Hall of Fame has displays and artifacts from the Cardinals former ballparks, especially a number of items from its previous home through the 2005 season, Busch Stadium. Visitors get to see 1950′s era bedroom of a kid who was a Cardinals fan, where magazines, baseball cards, posters and gloves decorate the room. A number of exhibits are from the Cardinals playoff and championship seasons, including jerseys, balls, programs, and hats that were used for those memorable Cardinals years.

This venue honors other professional St. Louis baseball teams of the past also, including the Negro League St. Louis Giants (then Stars). A full display showcases the heroics of Negro League star, James “Cool Papa” Bell. The old American League team that played in St. Louis from 1902-53, the Browns, is also showcased. I found out that the first ever night game in St. Louis was hosted by the Browns on May 24, 1940. When I was a teenager, I lived for those Saturday afternoon League Bowlings.

It was quite a treat to see the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame, which sandwiches the Cardinals Hall of Fame on the second and basement floors. First, go to the basement. After you bowl your four free frames, you will see an older version of a bowling alley – four dated lanes still used for special events. Take in the numerous old pictures from the early 1900′s. My favorite is of a 40-lane bowling alley used for American Bowling Congress Tournaments in Detroit. To see such a large bowling alley as the lanes get smaller and smaller in the picture is a feast for the eyes!

Next to the older bowling alley, a section honors the game of billiards, with an accompanying pool table. Billiards and Bowling establishments were advertised during the early 20th century as being the “best kind of exercise and amusement” combination. Another wall display focuses on bowling lane construction and maintenance. Below that wall are a lot of old bowling balls that have some really interesting designs.

A bowling pin car inside the Int'l Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame.
A bowling pin car inside the Int’l Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame.

Around the basement, bowling fans come across some circa 1900 bowling table and lawn games, including a carpet bowling game that was enjoyed before the dawn of the 20th century. The museum centers on the varying styles of bowling besides the ten-pin. It shows some of France’s variances of bowling and remarks that the French engage in over 100 different types of bowling. Exhibits on women, wheelchairs, senior citizens, and international bowling are on hand at this complex which proves just how the sport is really an activity that virtually anyone can take part and be honored in. Dozens of intricately crafted bowling-theme beer steins can be pondered and marveled at via another exhibit.

Next, head upstairs, where an ascending and spiraling ramp awaits you. Its walls chronicle the history of bowling since around the medieval times in Europe (even though the ancient Egyptians may have played it) through the present day. Along the way to the second floor (which has various bowling halls of fame), visitors get to see old bowling artifacts. The one that caught my eye was a turn of the century nickelodeon-style machine that people looked through in order to see some bowling photos.

St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum 111 Stadium Plaza. 314-231-6340.
International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame
111 Stadium Plaza 314-231-6340 Admission charge will get you into both museums! The gift store is on the main level and includes a mix of items for bowling and baseball fans alike. These wares include some colorful/loud bowling shirts and even a book called For Cub Fans Only.

Cool off with some Ted Drewes Concrete Treats!

After hanging out at the ballpark watching the Cardinals win, do what many locals do and head over to Route 66 and one of its historical landmarks for some cool and mouth-watering treats called Ted Drewes. They’ve been satisfying the collective sweet tooth of St. Louis residents and travelers since 1941. These concretes look like milkshakes or thick ice cream, but when the staff serves them to you, it’s done with the cup turned upside down so you can see the thickness. They come in roughly 30 different flavors ranging from blueberry to Abaco Mocha. I found the large Blueberry Concrete quite delicious. It took awhile for it to melt in the high 80-degree weather. Ted Drewes also serves the traditional ice cream cones, floats and sodas. While this Route 66 landmark is a drive from the central downtown area, it’s very crowded. Still, several windows exist to take the standing orders, and the service is friendly and fast!

Ted Drewes 6726 Chippewa (on Historic Route 66) 314-481-2652 or 314-481-2124. Closed in January.

Another location exists in St. Louis, but it’s not on Route 66, and it’s only open during the summer time. See website for details.

More information

Major airlines fly into St. Louis such as American, United and Continental. It’s roughly 15 miles northwest of downtown St. Louis.

Accommodations

I stayed at the Embassy Suites Hotel downtown. It’s convenient (near the Gateway Arch and a stone’s throw to the St. Louis Waterfront at Leclede’s Landing). Rooms have a nicely decorated living room and the bed is very comfortable. Service is fast and helpful. Wireless Internet is available in the rooms, but it costs about ten dollars for 24 hours. A first come, first serve internet-ready desktop computer is in the lobby and free. You might have to wait to surf the net, especially during the afternoon hours. The worktable in the room is spacious, similar to what you’d find in a dining room – great for spreading work out. Guests also get a free hearty breakfast – juice, eggs, bacon, sausage, cereals, etc.

Embassy Suites Hotel St. Louis-Downtown 901 N. First St. 314-241-4200.

Go online for more information about the hotel.

You can also check out www.explorestlouis.com or www.BootsnAll.com for accommodations to suit all tastes and budgets.

Getting Around

The MetroLink Light Rail and MetroBus are the public transports. Contact the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission at 800-916-8938 or www.explorestlouis.com.


Roy A. Barnes is a frequent contributor to BootsnAll.com. He’s written articles about Casper, Wyoming, Central Florida, Central Ohio, London, England, Oxnard, California and Virginia Beach.

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