ST. LOUIS — The PGA Championship is celebrating its 100th birthday at Bellerive Country Club this week. That said, host city St. Louis is in the midst of its 254th birthday. And when you’re not at the golf tournament, the Mississippi River town, founded in 1864 and named after Louis IX, of France, has a lot to offer.
Here are a few things to check out while in town:
After undergoing a $380 million renovation, the Gateway Arch National Park reopened in early July. OK, yes, the 630-foot, stainless steel plated structure looks somewhat like a buried coat hanger. But make no mistake, the catenary curve is an iconic structure on the banks of the Mississippi River and a symbolic portal to all things west.
Twenty years in the making, the Arch was completed in 1965 and sits atop a 150,000-square-foot national museum, which tells the story of westward expansion. The renovated script includes a loud shout out to the peoples who already were living in the West, essentially apologizing for their oppression. Almost makes you regret Lewis and Clark were ever born.
If you’re not overly claustrophobic, a tram ride to the top of the Arch provides a view that, on a clear day, spans 30 miles in any direction. Hey, you might see Tiger Woods miss a fairway from 20 miles away and 63 stories up.
Amid 91 acres of landscape, the Arch now connects seamlessly with the Old Courthouse, which was the tallest structure in St. Louis from 1864 to 1894. Among other things, the building was the site of the famous Dred Scott trials, which eventually went to a landmark Supreme Court decision. Friday night, Aug. 10, would be an especially good time to visit, with the annual “Blues at the Archl” concert series going on, absolutely free.
Every Cardinals game begins with a “Welcome to baseball heaven” announcement and the team has exceeded the 3 million mark in attendance 14 consecutive seasons. Baseball Camelot or not, the Birds on the Bat certainly are one of Major League Baseball’s historic brands.
But if you want to see them this week, you will have to drive 250 miles west on I-70 to Kansas City, where they will visit the Royals over the weekend. Nonetheless, it’s worth a trip downtown to see the third version of Busch Stadium and pay homage to the Stan Musial statute. The anatomically awkward sculpture of “The Man,” who played his entire Hall of Fame career in St. Louis, has been a controversial conversation piece since it unveiled in August 1968. The 18-foot tall bronze Musial also has become a traditional meeting place for those headed into the yard, standing outside the main entrance at Gate 3.
Even though the Cardinals are out of town, fans can relive some of the franchise's great moments in the “Baseball: America’s Game, Art and Objects” exhibit at the International Photography Hall of Fame. Among the images is this grouping of great Cardinals — from left, Jesse Haines, 1920-37; Leo Durocher, 1933-37; Johnny Mize, 1936-41; and Chick Hafey, 1924-31. (Photo: Richard Sprengeler Photography)
The International Photography Hall of Fame
The current exhibit, “Baseball: America’s Game, Art and Objects,” is worth a gander for any fan of photography and/or baseball. The collection celebrates the game’s place in the American story, and features George Brace’s photographs of baseball heroes, Jim Dow’s triptychs of major league stadiums, works by iconic photographers Garry Winogrand and Ernest C. Withers, illustrators J.C. Leyendecker and Lonie Bee, and writers Jimmy Breslin, W.P. Kinsella, and Doris Kearns Goodwin. As Cardinals Hall of Fame announcer Jack Buck used to say, “That’s a winner!”
When at Busch Stadium, slide over to Ballpark Village for a burger and cold brew. The entertainment complex, just beyond the left field boundaries, has become part of game day activities in St. Louis. Even though the club’s out of town, you can have the experience by watching the game on the 40-foot LED screen in the middle of the marketplace.
Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour
Another staple of the St. Louis experience, the brewery was founded in 1852 and used to be the epicenter of the beer world and a cornerstone of the city, operated and owned for generations by the Busch family. Ten years ago, it became part of the $52 billion sale to the Belgian brewer InBev and became merely a division of the world’s largest brewing company, Anheuser-Busch Inbev.
Nonetheless, the suds factory in historic Soulard, south of downtown, still cranks out 13 million barrels a year, most among A-B InBev’s 12 U.S. breweries. And the “Home of Budweiser” still conducts a complimentary, family friendly tour, which includes stops at the Clydesdales stable, beechwood aging tanks and the Brew House. Perhaps most importantly, for adults anyway, the tour also includes a couple of free samples of the brewer’s art and concludes in the delightful Biergarten. Longer, more detailed tours, are available for a $10 fee.
The Muny Opera
Also celebrating it’s 100th year, America’s largest and oldest outdoor theater appropriately features Meet Me In St. Louis during PGA week. An adaptation of the 1944 film of the same name, the production includes famous songs like “The Trolley Song,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “The Boy Next Door” and the title number.
The weather promises to be hot, but the theater copes with a system of fans that keep things comfortable during summer evenings. Tickets start at $15 for The Muny, which is located in Forest Park, where several other attractions, such as the Art Museum and Science Center, are located.
City Museum: One of the most unique places you might ever see, the wildly creative City Museum brings out the kid in everyone. Located in the former International Shoe building in the Washington Avenue loft district, the museum has four floors of exhibit space, and 600,000 square feet of avant-garde art that has been converted into a wondrous playhouse.
Many of the objects incorporated — such as a rooftop Ferris Wheel — have cultural or historical significance for St. Louis. Highlights are too many to mention, but one of the most popular activities is traversing the “Enchanted Caves and Shoe Shafts,” an elaborate system of hand-sculpted tunnels that contain, among other things, a 1924 Wurlitzer pipe organ from the Rivoli Theater in New York City. Whaaaat?
Every town has a claim to fame where restaurants are concerned, but The Hill in St. Louis matches Italian heritage and eateries with the best of them. Yes, this is the neighborhood where pals Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola grew up, the neighborhood where several members the U.S. soccer team that famously upset England, 1-0, in the 1950 World Cup grew up, the neighborhood that never seems to change. A collection of authentic Italian bakeries, grocery stores, restaurants and mom-and-pop trattorias still populate The Hill, and if you’re really feeling it, you can stop in for a game or two at Milo’s Bocce Garden.