St. Louis is the largest metropolitan area in the state of Missouri and is located at the meeting point of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Famed as the "Gateway to the West," St. Louis was once the launching point for pioneers headed west. The Midwestern city is home to the famous Gateway Arch, which at 630 feet high, adorns the city skyline as the largest manmade monument in the United States.

WHAT TO DO

With aesthetically pleasing parks, an open mall surrounded by reflecting pools, and the most free activities available in an American city after Washington D.C., St. Louis is a great under-the-radar tourist destination. As the last major stop before pioneers headed westward to the Pacific coast, today St. Louis is home to historic buildings and a museum on the Western frontier. The icon of the city, the Gateway Arch commemorates St. Louis' important location at what was once the cusp of the United States. You can ride a unique and interesting elevator to the top.

St. Louis played a large part in the steamboat era, as it is position between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Today, there are steamboat dinner cruises, where visitors can take a step back into time and enjoy an evening on the river.

St. Louis is divided into many districts and neighborhoods and is home to the first ever privately gated street--Benton Place in Lafayette. Each segregated district has its own look and vibe. Downtown, tourists will find the Gateway Arch, trendy dining and shopping, nightlife and dozens of hotel and corporate offices. As one of the oldest standing neighborhoods, Laclede's Landing is also a great area for tourists to visit with its original cobblestone streets, evening carriage rides, live music and bars and restaurants.

Forest Park, one of the nation's largest parks with 1,293 acres, is home to public golf courses, tennis courts, bicycling, boating, fishing and hiking trails. Also located in the park is the St. Louis Science Center, an art museum, zoo and history museum. You cannot visit St. Louis without at least taking a stroll through this impressive city park.

GETTING THERE

Visit the Gateway to the West by booking a flight to St. Louis (airport code STL). Eliminate the stress of getting to the airport by staying the night before you fly at a nearby hotel and let the free shuttle drop you off at the terminal. Reserving a park-sleep-fly package at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport is an easy way to go.

If you driving to the airport, you can save money and time by booking St. Louis airport parking in advance.

WHERE TO STAY

As a major center for culture and tourism in Missouri, there are many great hotels in St. Louis to choose from. While hostels are harder to come by, there are many budget options for tourists looking to pinch pennies in the Midwestern city.