Skip to site content
Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader

Where the Mississippi and Missouri meet

Situated near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, St. Charles and St. Louis represent both the heritage and future of eastern Missouri.


The St. Louis Gateway Arch is one of America’s signature icons.
Courtesy St. Louis CVC

Main Street St. Charles claims the state’s largest designated historic district with buildings dating to the 1800s. In contrast, the St. Louis Arch symbolizes modern sophistication and continued renewal.


Historic St. Charles

More than 200 events in 200 days commemorate St. Charles’ yearlong bicentennial celebration. The 200th anniversary of the town’s 1809 incorporation climaxes this October at the annual Cultural Heritage Festival in Frontier Park. Live entertainment, a bicentennial parade, an old-fashioned picnic, historical tours aboard the St. Charles trolley and bicentennial flag-raising ceremonies round out the weekend.

The new iPod walking tour gives visitors an overview of life as it was in the early days of St. Charles, when the Boone family, Lewis and Clark, and hundreds of pioneers walked the streets. The tour covers 18 historic sites on North and South Main streets in approximately 90 minutes.

The iPod audio brings the past to life. Horses’ hooves clip on cobblestone streets, and the town crier announces, “Thomas Hart Benton of the Democratic-Republican Party has been elected as the first senator of Missouri … the newest state in the Union.”

The first stop is the Federal-style Peck Bros. Dry Goods and Hardware store, whose second floor was the seat of Missouri’s first government.

The tour also stops at the former American Car and Foundry, part of which has been converted into an art museum.

Living-history interpreters bring the past to life in historic St. Charles.
Courtesy St. Charles CVB

The commentary concludes near Stone Row, a series of hand-cut stone buildings that served as the state’s first penitentiary from 1821 to 1826.

“While people are walking about, the iPods show then and now photos of the buildings on the screen that correspond with the audio,” said Carol Felzien, public relations and communications manager for the Greater Saint Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The iPods are checked out at the visitors center and can accommodate groups of 15 to 20 at a time.”

 A complimentary trolley is another popular way to loop the district. It follows Main Street, with its shopping and dining, before traveling past the Frenchtown District’s antique and collectible stores, and the Frenchtown Heritage Museum.


Modern St. Louis

In the past 10 years, downtown St. Louis has invested more than $4.3 billion in a variety of projects. Another $842 million in development is slated for 2009. Major projects such as the newly opened Lumière Place and the revitalization of the Washington Avenue Loft District have added to the city’s energy.

“Our goal was to bring back that sense of community,” said Donna Andrews, public relations director at the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission. “We’ve rebuilt and renovated St. Louis’ vibrant entertainment districts.”

Lumière Place boasts a 75,000-square-foot gaming floor, the Lumière Theatre, a luxury spa and stunning rooftop views of the St. Louis Arch. The casino and its Four Seasons Hotel feature $7 million of commissioned original artwork.

Lumière Place is a symbol of the massive investment in downtown St. Louis.
Courtesy St. Louis CVC

The city’s former garment district, the Washington Avenue Loft District invites exploration. Galleries, boutiques, pubs and restaurants keep this area hopping long after twilight.

Opening in July, the City Garden combines a public sculpture and landscape garden on the Gateway Mall. Three water features, a cafe and an 8-foot limestone wall with state-of-the-art LED video wall highlight this urban oasis.

Located on the Webster University campus, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis opened in 1966 after the Sisters of Loretto secured funding through Conrad Hilton. The theater combines local and national talent with six shows on the main stage and three productions in its Studio Theatre.

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.