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Show Me "Mo"

The St. Louis riverfront.

The St. Louis riverfront.

Explore St. Louis

(page 1 of 4)

History-rich river towns, mountain-music hideaways and just-right family attractions make Missouri as inviting as any destination in the Midwest. What’s even better for boaters is that it’s possible to cruise the length and breadth of the Show Me State on two of the country’s mightiest waterways — the Mississippi and Missouri rivers — soaking in every last bit of the pioneer spirit, with side trips to beautiful lake resort areas creating a varied and unforgettable adventure.

Established in 1764 as a trading outpost by Pierre Laclede, St. Louis is a big city with a small town feel. The confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, just to the north, made it ideal as a point of embarkation during America’s westward expansion, and much of the culture can be traced back to immigrants from all over the world who left their significant footprints here. Today, the Gateway City is defined by its historic locations, eclectic neighborhoods and welcoming charm.

You can’t miss the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, literally, thanks to the 630-foot-tall Gateway Arch, which stands as its iconic centerpiece. Other sites within easy walking distance include the Museum of Westward Expansion, the St. Louis Cathedral and the Old Courthouse, made famous by the Dred Scott case. Two replica 19th-century paddle-wheel boats, Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher, offer a full schedule of daily cruises departing from downtown.

At the base of Eads Bridge, the first road and rail bridge to cross the Mississippi, Laclede’s Landing is St. Louis’ oldest district and top riverfront entertainment destination. The nine-block area was once the manufacturing, warehousing and shipping hub of the city. Now, it hosts 20 great restaurants, clubs and shops. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride on the cobblestone streets for a true back-in-time experience.  

Tie up at Dardenne Slough, home to several marinas that serve the St. Louis area. It runs along the Missouri shoreline behind several small islands. The upstream entrance is at mile 228.5 at the Golden Eagle Ferry landing. The downstream entrance is at mile 221.7, some 100 to 200 yards below the can buoy. Recommended full-service marinas include North Shore Marina and Port Charles Marina.

Nearby Portage des Sioux, Mo., and Grafton and Alton, Ill., likewise serve local boaters, as there are no recreational docks on the Mississippi River in downtown St. Louis. The Alton Marina provides a protected harbor and quality amenities.

Mark your calendars for Fair St. Louis, a Fourth of July tradition for more than 30 years. Held on the Arch grounds, the patriotic affair features free air shows, big-name concerts, kids’ activities and amazing fireworks on July 4, 5 and 6.

In addition, the annual Taste of St. Louis brings together the area’s best food, art and music in the middle of Market Street, attracting approximately 400,000 people last year. For 2013, the dates are September 27 to 29.

Visit nearby St. Charles, west of St. Louis on the Missouri River, once home to frontiersman Daniel Boone and launch point for explorers Lewis and Clark. These days, the village center has quaint shops, restaurants and hotels, as well as the Lewis & Clark Boat House and Nature Center (see “Now That’s ‘Edutainment,’” April). Prefer some pampering? Look no further than the bevy of nearby wineries, spas and salons, and the Ameristar Casino.

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