Cities Less Traveled: Why St. Louis is Not Just “Flyover Country”

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.

Lewis and Clark Riverfront Sculpture | St. Louis

Lewis and Clark Riverfront Sculpture | credit

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.

Busch Stadium | St. Louis

Busch Stadium | credit

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 Italian Immigrants Statue | St. Ambrose Church | The Hill | St. Louis

St. Ambrose on The Hill

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.

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6 Responses to Cities Less Traveled: Why St. Louis is Not Just “Flyover Country”

  1. Mindi @ 2foodtrippers December 9, 2014 at 7:08 am #

    St. Louis really is more than just the home of the iconic arch. Great article!

  2. Pola (Jetting Around) December 13, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    STL has been on my radar for a while, ever since I heard a family member rave about the food scene. I’d also love to see a baseball game (not because I’m a Sox fan, but because I want to visit every MLB stadium). Funny, I’ve always considered the city to be Midwestern, now I’m curious about the Southern vibe.

    (Also, I think they should get an MLS team – imagine the rivalry with the Fire and the easy road trips!)

  3. Leah December 15, 2014 at 9:05 pm #

    Can you believe I’ve never been to St. Louis? It’s just not something that crosses my mind, though I’d love to visit even if it’s just for the arch and to try the BBQ. Thanks for giving me some insight to this city.

  4. Lance | Trips By Lance December 17, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    I’ve been to St. Louis many times. It’s a cool city with lots of fun neighborhoods. As a resident of Memphis I’m happy you are giving love to us “flyover country” destinations.

  5. craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous) December 18, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    St Louis is on my list and not just because St Louis now plays for the New York Rangers 😉 …. its a place, a city, that has always intrigued and a place I’ve never visited… I will make it happen, thanks for reminding me not to skip “flyovercountry”

    stay American, Craig

  6. Ben Warner January 26, 2015 at 10:52 am #

    Spot on with St. Louis. As it is an easy 5 hour drive from Chicago, I’ve been more than 20+ times.

    The Hill is fantastic for great Italian food. But that’s not why I’m posting here.

    Don’t forget about Mardi Gras in St. Louis! One of the largest Mardi Gras celebration in the world! HugeParty.


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