Flyover country: the section of the United States between the east and west coasts that is overlooked by many travelers. With historically significant and culturally enriching locales in “flyover country,” it’s a mystery why more people don’t consider places like St. Louis, Missouri, as a travel destination. As a native Chicagoan, I’m not supposed to like St. Louis, but I do. So when I was invited to write about St. Louis for the #HipmunkCityLove Project, I jumped at the chance. Here, my top 5 reasons to consider St. Louis as more than flyover country.
The Vibe. It’s all about geography. Where is St. Louis? Is it the South? Is it the Midwest? Part of what I love most about St. Louis is that it has characteristics of both regions. Visit in the summer when temperatures and humidity approach triple digits, and the slow pace is characteristic of the Deep South. Then there’s the genuine, wholesome Midwestern friendliness. That all adds up to a very comfortable, laid-back kind of vibe.
The History. American history enthusiasts must visit St. Louis. The iconic Gateway Arch commemorates the spot from which the epic Lewis & Clark expedition set off. These days, there are a number of ways to celebrate early exploration. In addition to the Gateway Arch, visiting history lovers should see the Missouri History Museum and Bellefontaine Cemetery, the final resting place of William Clark.
The Sports. St. Louis is home to a few of the most storied professional sports franchises, most notably Major League Baseball’s Cardinals. An intense rivalry formed in the late 1990s with my Chicago Cubs as the Cardinals’ Mark McGwire and the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa battled to break Roger Maris’ single-season home run record. More recently, my Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League have formed an equally intense rivalry. I’ve entered enemy territory in St. Louis many times for baseball and hockey games, and the most trouble I’ve experienced was harmless taunting and friendly banter.
The Hill. Like many major U.S. cities, St. Louis is home to different ethnic neighborhoods. One that’s still going strong is The Hill, which is predominantly Italian-American. I stop there every time I’m in St. Louis. It reminds me of the Italian-American Chicago neighborhood where I grew up. The Hill also features a number of Italian restaurants, bakeries, and businesses. For the locals, the spiritual center of the neighborhood is St. Ambrose Roman Catholic Church, where, once a month, Sunday mass is said in Italian.
The Central West End. With some European influence and a New York City feel, the Central West End (CWE) is a charming neighborhood steeped in history. Centuries-old grand homes sit on private places bordered by galleries, restaurants, boutiques, and cafes. CWE perfectly mixes the old and the new. Between the history and architecture, and the cosmopolitan culture, CWE is a destination all on its own.
Even though I’ve been to St. Louis several times, there is still so much more of the city for me to explore. Luckily, it’s an easy drive from Chicago down I-55, so I can make return trips sooner rather than later.