Westward Bound by the Gateway Arch

St. Louis, Missouri is a great weekend getaway or overnight stop for travelers.

Westward Bound by the Gateway Arch

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by flowergurl on September 3, 2007

St. Louis is a wonderful, "happening" city with an abundance of fun things to do and see. We had originally chosen St. Louis as our stopover city for our summer trip from Michigan to the Branson area. We were in for a wonderful surprise. We spent the late afternoon, evening and morning in St. Louis both on the way to Branson and on the way home. We fell in love with this city and wished we had planned more time to spend there. We now plan to definitely return. Don't hesitate to plan a trip to the area. You will find there is plenty to do and see. ${QuickSuggestions} We made last minute hotel reservations on a Thursday for a Friday night stay in August, 2007. We were able to reserve the Crowne Plaza hotel in downtown St. Louis which is one of the hotels looking directly out at the Gateway Arch. We got an excellent price of $93 for the night. Our room was on the 25th floor of the hotel looking directly out at the Arch! The view was priceless! I recommend trying for a last minute room if you don't mind taking the chance and are looking to save some money. I also recommend ordering a travel guide to the St. Louis area before you go. I went online at www.explorestlouis.com and ordered mine. It was very thorough and helpful in planning for our stay. I was able to read about the subway in advance and brought maps that I printed out online of the subway routes, etc. ${BestWay} The absolute best way to get around is on their great Metro subway system. We bought all day passes for $4 each. Getting on and off of the Metro was easy and people were friendly and helpful everywhere we went. We bought subway tickets right at the station through ticket dispensers hanging on the wall. A friendly St. Louian helped guide us in the proper ticket we'd need.

Crowne Plaza Hotel St. Louis Downtown

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by flowergurl on September 15, 2007

The Crowne Plaza Hotel is a downtown luxury hotel with all the bells and whistles. It overlooks the Gateway Arch and the riverfront. It is close to Busch Stadium, casinos and LaClede's Landing, an entertainment district in downtown St. Louis. Rates for the weekdays can run from about $150/night up to close to $250 per night. The rates drop on the weekends, especially if you wait until mid-week to book a weekend night. This is exactly what I did. I booked us in for a Saturday night stay on the Thursday before. This was for an August Saturday night stay and our room charge was only $93/night. We were thrilled to say the least.

We arrived and checked in with no problems. There was a football preseason game in town for the night we were staying, so the town was busy. Hotel guests park in the garage next door to the Crowne Plaza and are charged $10/day. The normal rate in the garage is $20/day so be sure to get a validation pass from the front desk of the hotel. Upon showing this to the garage employees, you are not charged at all to park in the garage. Your charge will appear on your hotel bill. The bell captain for the hotel was very busy directing cars. In spite of being so busy, he went out of his way to direct cars to move and back out so my husband could maneuver his vehicle around and get over to the garage. They also offer valet parking at this hotel. My husband parked while I completed check-in.

The decor of the hotel was immediately impressive with all the ambience of a luxury downtown hotel. Immediately to the right of the front desk is the bar and lounge area that soars three stories high. If the weather is agreeable, they also have an outdoor patio with views right into the Arch. An additional full service restaurant is available on the second floor of the hotel. An escalator is available right in this main lobby area and there are abundant elevators available also.

Our room was on the 25th floor and looked out directly at the Arch. The view was breathtaking. We sat window side for awhile just to take it all in. Our room did not have a balcony, but other rooms were available that did. We had a standard double room. The room was exceptionally spacious. Immediately upon entering there was a counter space containing a refrigerator, microwave, and coffeepot. The room had two luxuriously outfitted queen beds. There was an entertainment center with TV, desk with lamp and chair and an additional comfortable chair. The bathroom was charming but small. The water pressure was super for showering.

A small organza envelope on the bed contained a sleep CD and earplugs. The clock radio would play the CD which had nature sounds, etc., presumably to block out the urban noise.

I loved this hotel and you will too!
Radisson St. Louis Downtown
200 N. Fourth St.
St. Louis, Missouri, 63102
(314) 621-8200

Hampton Inn St. Louis - Downtown

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by flowergurl on September 15, 2007

Hampton Inn Union Station is conveniently located on Market Street about one block down from Union Station. This location provides easy walking distance to the subway station at Union Station. You can literally pull in, park in the secured garage at Hampton Inn, walk to Union Station, buy a subway ticket, and you're off to see St. Louis. The hotel has an open, friendly lobby area adjoining a large breakfast area. Continental breakfast is provided free of charge.

Check-in for us was smooth and seamless and the front desk personnel were helpful in orienting us to where we needed to go. They were also helpful in assisting us in getting tickets to the baseball game, although upon further thought, we declined, especially since we were in town for only one night. Two computer terminals were available in the lobby area, although every time I passed through the lobby, unattended children were on the computers.

This hotel has recently been renovated so the rooms were small but very nicely furnished. Our room had a king size bed, entertainment center, refrigerator, desk, and sofa. The bed was very comfortable and afforded a good night's sleep.

We loved the location of this hotel to the Union Station and the subway station there. We also liked having secure parking. You could walk to downtown if you were so inclined, although it would be about twenty city blocks to get to the Arch. When we were there in mid August, we hit a streak of one hundred degrees plus weather, so we chose to take the subway.

The people in the area were friendly and helpful. Also included in this hotel is a full service restaurant. The restaurant is attached to the hotel, however, ownership and management of it is separate.

We also liked the close proximity of this hotel to the highway. Both upon arriving and upon leaving, we had easy access to the highway. The streets were not busy on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning when we were leaving.

The rates at this hotel were quite a bit lower than any other rates for a Friday night stay in mid August. If you are looking for a view of the Arch from your room, this is not the hotel for that. If you are looking for nice accommodations for a reasonable price and a location reasonably close to downtown, then this is your place.

I recommend this hotel to families and couples looking for the above qualities in a hotel in downtown St. Louis.
Pear Tree Inn Union Station
2211 Market Street
St. Louis, Missouri, 63103
(314) 241-3200

Hard Rock Cafe

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by flowergurl on September 16, 2007

The St. Louis Hard Rock Cafe is inside the Union Station. It is one of the restaurants bordering the lake in the back of Union Station. You can arrive by car or by the MetroLink subway. If you take the MetroLink get off at the Union Station station and simply walk across the street to the cafe.

Approaching the Cafe, you can see its domed roof. Upon entering, you will see what is common in all Hard Rock Cafes, a wide assortment of rock and roll memorabilia. This Hard Rock is a smaller building than many of the other Hard Rocks I have visited. There is a small upper level and the main level. Seating is available both in booths and in tables. We were seated at a table in the upper level right by the railing.

The menu offers the typical Hard Rock fare with starters such as smoked chicken, spinach and artichoke dip (the most requested starter) and Joe Perry's "Rock Your World" Quesadilla. A full line of entrées, smokehouse items and burgers are offered. Plenty of choices for those desiring a full dinner or the lunch crowd. We were there for a light dinner so we ordered sandwiches. The French dip for myself and my husband ordered the chicken club sandwich. The meals arrived quickly and they were well prepared and tasty.

Here's a couple tips for you if you plan to visit any Hard Rock Cafe. First, they honor a AAA discount of 10%. You must show your card of course to receive the discount and I believe they want you to present your card when you place your order. The second tip...if you are going to want a Hard Rock souvenir glass, ask them to put your drink in the souvenir glass. They will charge you extra for it, but it will end up costing less than if you buy the glass outright in the gift shop. Our waitress cleaned and boxed my souvenir glass for me.

No trip to the Hard Rock is complete without visiting their store. We always like to visit the store when we have finished dining. That way we know we won't be interrupted. The Hard Rock store here, like all others, offers t-shirts in all sizes and styles, and of course, the souvenir glasses and pins. I am a collector of the pins, so I took some time to ask about the signature pins special to St. Louis and picked two of them from the ones they had. The pins are changing continually and have become a collector's item to many.

All in all, we are never disappointed when we visit a Hard Rock Cafe and this was no exception. The meal was good, the atmosphere was great with good music and memorabilia surrounding us and we were able to buy a t-shirt for my husband and a couple of souvenir pins for myself. A great evening meal at a reasonable cost...what more can you ask for?
Hard Rock Cafe
450 St. Louis Union Station
St. Louis, Missouri, 63103
(314) 621-7625

Hannegan's (Laclede's Landing)

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by flowergurl on September 16, 2007

Hannegan's is one of the many restaurants located in the historic Laclede's Landing area of downtown St. Louis. The restaurant is modeled after the U.S. Senate Dining Room. What fun! Each booth has a plaque inscribed with the name of a senator who voted to repeal Prohibition.

You can walk to Hannegan's if you're staying in one of the nearby downtown hotels, such as the Crowne Plaza. You can also arrive by MetroLink by getting off at the Laclede's Landing station. If you drive by car, you will most likely need to park in one of the nearby downtown garages.

Laclede's Landing is the site of the original city of St. Louis. The area at one time was the site of many warehouses. In fact, Hannegan's itself is in one of the old warehouses that has been transformed into a restaurant. The old warehouse area has been transformed into a small area that has many restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues.

The menu offers a wide assortment of appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta and entrées. Many of the menu items are unique offerings. I ordered the Chicken Hunter, a dish offering a chicken breast sauteed with Portabello mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, and skillet-made Demi-glace. It is served with garlic mashed potatoes and mixed veggies. It was delicious, so much so, that my hubby was enviously eyeing my plate. My husband ordered the Cajun Bayou Pasta, and was fairly disappointed that he had to hunt through the pasta to find only two small shrimp. The portion on his plate was smaller than he is normally used to and I can fairly say he was not full when he finished since he was able to finish eating what I had left on my plate. The food was well prepared and tasty though.

While we were eating, the entertainment for the evening started. We were expecting jazz, however, a piano player was playing Elton John type songs instead. He did a good job and the live music was a nice touch that we enjoyed both during dinner and afterwards as we moved to the bar area.

All in all, the food was good, service was good and the prices were reasonable. I would return to Hannegan's although my husband will order the Hunter's Chicken next time!
Hannegan's Restaurant and Pub
719 North Second Street, Laclede's Landing
St. Louis, Missouri, 63102
(314) 241-8877

St. Louis Union Station

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by flowergurl on September 16, 2007

St. Louis Union Station is a National Historic Landmark. The restored train station has been transformed into a marketplace containing approximately 85 shops and restaurants covering two levels. You can't miss finding the station. The front appears to almost look like a castle, which is how the locals describe it to visitors trying to find it. It sits on Market Street, about twenty blocks down from the riverfront and the Arch. A Hyatt Regency hotel is on site along with such popular restaurants as the Hard Rock Cafe, Landry's, and Houlihans.

We found it a little confusing deciding where to enter Union Station. We were looking at a grill named TKO trying to decide if this was the entrance to the station or not. We weren't alone as there were several other tourists doing the same thing, scanning up and down the block and surveying the entrance to TKO. Finally, a local advised us that if we wanted to go into Union Station, it was okay to enter through the grill's door and just "pass through" and exit out the back into the station. A little confusing, but once we knew this was "okay", it's exactly what we, and other tourists, did.

The inside of the station has been transformed into a light and bright, open and airy mall. We strolled through, enjoying the coolness after leaving the hundred degrees plus heat of the city...we were there in August. Many well-known shops are in the mall along with specialty shops unique to the area. If you are strolling through prior to a game night, get ready for the sea of red...you'll know the Cardinals are playing! Everyone wears their Cardinal shirts and it appeared to us that many locals park and ride the subway down to the game.

Exiting out of the back of mall area takes you to an open air pavilion of sorts. Historically, this was the area where the trains once pulled in. This area has Landry's, Houlihan's, and the Hard Rock Cafe. They surround a lake that has paddle boats available for rent and a cute arch walkway over the water and landing area where you can buy pellets to feed the large goldfish. We had fun doing this and so did the kids in the area.

If you are looking for the subway station at Union Station, you will exit through this back area and walk across the street.

We enjoyed going through the Memories Museum located on the upper level of the station. It is free to walk through and contains many original memorabilia items including photographs and actual artifacts from the grand train era. We love history and so thoroughly enjoyed browsing the memorabilia and reading more of the history of the station here.

This is a fun stop with something for everyone in the family to do and enjoy. Make it a stop on your vacation and plan to eat at one of the great restaurants while there!
St. Louis Union Station
1820 Market St
St. Louis, Missouri, 63103
(314) 421-6655

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by flowergurl on September 16, 2007

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is comprised of The Gateway Arch and the Old Courthouse. The Arch is certainly the most popular and most widely known of the two.

We took the St. Louis subway, known as the MetroLink, to the LaClede's Landing station. This is the closet subway station to the Arch. Upon exiting the station, I would estimate it was approximately a half-mile walk in to get to the entrance to the Arch. The walkways are wide blacktop paths leading through cool tall trees. The park is beautifully landscaped and maintained and the walkways are wide enough to accompany both families with strollers and couples strolling at a quicker pace.

Approaching the Arch, especially if it's your first time, you just have to stop and look in awe at its majesty. It was built to commemorate the Louisiana Purchase and the westward expansion of the United States, hence its description as the "gateway to the west". It accomplishes giving you the feeling of welcoming and beckoning you to enter a grand new territory to explore. You can close your eyes and imagine the pioneers in their wagon trains heading west. The Arch is 630 feet tall and is made of stainless steel. It is taller than the Washington Monument and more than twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

The planners did a great job of keeping the surface clear and uncluttered by creating an underground entrance to the tram rides, museum and mercantile shop which are housed in an underground area below the Arch. A gift shop is located underground. It contains a wide assortment of souvenirs, books, photographs, and memorabilia celebrating the Arch.

Tram rides are available to ride up inside the Arch to the top. The rides go up both sides of the Arch. Tickets are $8 and can be purchased on site. Be prepared for long waits. When we arrived on a Friday evening at 4:30pm, we were told we would be purchasing tickets for a tram ride at 7pm! Unfortunately we were there when one side of the tram rides were shut down after there had been a mishap in the ride two weeks prior to our arrival. We already had dinner reservations so we had to pass. It might be best to go early in the morning to avoid such long waits, especially with kids in tow!

There are two other events that charge a fee in this area. They are the Odyssey theatre big-swcreen movies and "Monument to the Dream", a documentary film about the building of the Arch.

When back outside, make sure you take a stroll over to the magnificent staircase they have just recently put in. It leads from the Arch right down to the Missouri riverfront and is majestic. The staircase is used for seating for special events and activities that are held riverfront.

The Arch is majestic and well worth the trip to view. Don't miss it!
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
11 N 4th St
St. Louis, Missouri, 63102
(314) 655-1700


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