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The iconic Gateway Arch and the St. Louis Cardinals are no longer the only games in town in Missouri’s second largest city. A spate of new attractions and neighborhood redevelopments are now giving travelers plenty of reasons to meet up in St. Louis.

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Ride the Arch and explore its new grounds

The Gateway Arch, of course, is the city’s greatest landmark. Reflecting the city’s role in the westward expansion of the United States during the 19th century, the Arch opened in 1965. The inspired structure of Finnish-America architect Eero Saarinen (who died before its completion) is constructed of 43,000 tons of concrete and steel melded into a 630 foot tall arc. Take a tram ride to the top for incredible views stretching 30 miles east and west. Word of warning—the ride is not for claustrophobics. Even if you’ve been before, there are plenty of new features to check out here, including a new museum and upgraded parkland—thanks to a $380 million makeover that was completed in 2018.

Take in a panoply of American history

The Arch’s massive makeover included designating the surrounding land as a national park—now known as Gateway Arch National Park—as well as the construction of the newly expanded underground museum. The Museum at the Gateway Arch traces the story of the Native Americans, explorers and pioneers who made America possible. Themes of the interactive displays include Colonial St. Louis, Jefferson’s Vision, Manifest Destiny, The Riverfront Era, New Frontiers, and Building the Gateway Arch. More history can be examined at the Old Courthouse, also part of the new national park, where the first two trials of the Dred Scott case were heard. It was also the site of a major lawsuit dealing with women’s suffrage. Learn all about these historic cases and the 19th judicial system on a tour.

Track what’s up at Union Station

Photo courtesy of Explore St. Louis

St. Louis Union Station, which looks like a French chateau, is a National Historic Landmark dating back to the 1800s. It was the largest and busiest train station in the world when it opened and remained so until the 1920s. Today, the depot has been converted into the St. Louis Union Station Hotel, part of the Curio Collection by Hilton. Even if you aren’t staying overnight, pop in for local craft beers and small plates served in the Grand Hall. For entertainment, catch the light shows projected on the Grand Hall’s 65-foot tall ceilings. The award-winning technological extravaganza features vignettes told through sound, music and cutting edge 3D animation.

Check out St. Louis’ newest sea life

The greater grounds of St. Louis Union Station have been newly transformed into one huge entertainment complex. The highlight is the new St. Louis Aquarium, a 75,000-square-foot, two-story facility. It’s home to more than 13,000 sea creatures, including sharks, rays, piranhas and otters. The aquarium is highly interactive, and provides unique perspectives on the life of oceans, rivers and lakes. Go and get your hands wet.

Go for a spin and be a-mazed

Nearby, the new 200-foot St. Louis Wheel wows riders with a full circle perspective, with views spanning 20 miles in every direction. It opened in fall of 2019 and features 42 climate-controlled gondolas. Each ride lasts about 15 minutes. The Wheel has more than 1.6 million LED lights, which can generate over 16 million different colors and patterns. Adventurers can also opt to tackle Union Station’s Mirror Maze or a rope course, which also opened in 2019, featuring more than 90,000-cubic feet of climbing space and more than 45 obstacles. Toast your success at the Soda Fountain, a 1950s-themed restaurant serving boozy shakes, old school sodas, floats and countertop classics.

See what’s brewing in the STL

Photo courtesy of Explore St. Louis

In summer 2020, the former Century Electric Company building will re-open as City Foundry. There will be plenty of shops, a massive food hall and a Drafthouse Cinema. But if you want to see what’s brewing now, head to the Budweiser Brewery Experience. St. Louis is the flagship brewery and the headquarters of Anheuser-Busch. The free tour includes a visit through the brewing and bottling areas, the fermentation cellar and the packaging plant. Of course, there’s a chance to sample the suds at the end-of-tour tasting room.

Develop a palette for the arts

Explore the up-and-coming Grand Center Arts District. While still a bit remote and rough around the edges, it’s a logical place to explore the city’s burgeoning visual and dramatic arts scene. Take in a performance of the St. Louis Symphony or see a play at the historic Fox Theater. Then, set yourself down at the Angad Arts Hotel for the night. The hotel reflects the weird, eclectic arts scene of its surroundings. For example, as you enter the first floor to catch the elevator to the lobby, you’ll pass through a gallery of local art, including a cabinet of curiosities. The elevator ride serves up quirky videos, while the decor of the lobby is filled with surprises. As for the guest rooms themselves, this is the first hotel in the world where guests can book a room by color. Here’s the palette: If you are feeling passionate, go for red. If you are seeking tranquility, blue is for you. Yellow is for happiness, while green inspires rejuvenation.

Get your kicks at some cool digs

Photo courtesy of the Last Hotel

One other hotel worth hoofing it to is The Last Hotel. St. Louis was once considered the shoe-making capital of the world. The International Shoe Company pumped out brands like Red Goose and Converse. The company’s former factory has been converted into a hotel high on history, fashion and art. The name, of course, comes from the foot-form tool used by cobblers to craft kicks. Don’t forget to get your shoes shined in the lobby before grabbing cocktails on the roof or dinner at The Last Kitchen & Bar. Coming soon to the same neighborhood, the art-centric 21c Museum Hotel St. Louis will be opening within a former YMCA building constructed in 1926 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Tagged: Midwest

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Laura Powell

Laura Powell

Laura is a 20-year veteran travel journalist. She was CNN's first travel reporter, and has written for publications ranging from Alaska Airlines Magazine to The Washington Post. Find her at the www.dailysuitcase.com or on Twitter: @dailysuitcase

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