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wide angle shot of St. Louis skyline
Photo courtesy of St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission

What are some of the “things” or activities that residents of St. Louis do for fun?

ANSWER: St. Louis was recently named one of the top cities for cheapskates, with the second most free attractions in the US after Washington D.C. But that's just the beginning: St. Louis is proud to offer numerous free concerts and activities throughout the year, especially during the summer. From Jungle Boogie at the Zoo and Twilight Tuesdays at the Art Museum to Movies at Post Office Plaza, there's always something happening in St. Louis! Plus, St. Louis has some amazing concerts along the riverfront during the summer, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, St. Louis Summer Concert Series features headline acts such as The Offspring and Nelly. St. Louis just helps your travel budget stretch farther.

When it comes to sports, St. Louis is perhaps most famous for the Cardinals, the 2011 World Series Champions. And with the second most World Series wins in the MLB, it's not hard to see why. But with attendance over 3 million for the 9th season in a row, it's obvious that St. Louis has Cardinal Fever. Walk around downtown on a gameday and you'll be awashed in a sea of red jerseys as everyone gets into the spirit of the game. Plus, the view of downtown from the stadium encompassing both the Old Courthouse and the Gateway Arch is magnificent!

Not into sports? Enjoy a ticket of a different sort and experience the numerous live theatre companies in St. Louis. The former movie house turned stage Fox Theatre welcomes Broadway Blockbusters and concerts, while smaller theaters such as the hard-hitting black box St. Louis Actors Studio create a season around themes like "Good and Evil" and "Law and Order."

An unusual pastime that acts as entertainment as well as fund raising are Trivia Nights. Typically churches, private schools and non-profit organizations host 1 to 2 per year and can pull down any where from $2K to $30K in funds. The night usually consists of 10 rounds of 10 questions (sometimes modified to adjust for time) and tables of 8-10 people compete. To get an idea to the extent they are popularized go to Peggy's page.

She has the longest running information page that I am aware of. She shows trivia masters down the left column. There are several professional trivia masters including a long time DJ, Ron Elz aka Johnny Rabbit, who are a big draw for the "professional" trivia tables. The interesting part of it is that it is akin to bowling for the mind. You hang out with a group of people for 2-3 hours and visit while intermittently arguing about and then agreeing on answers to questions. In addition you often have included beer and wine plus you can BYOB. They will sometimes serve food and always there will be tables that could enter the food wars with the creations of the players. We all have our standard Trivia Night food. My personal one is BBQ Meatballs.

Ted Drewes’ Frozen Custard, St. Louis
Photo courtesy of St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission

What's one thing the public probably does NOT know about St. Louis?

ANSWER: St. Louis was once the 4th largest city in America, and was the gateway for all those heading west on the Oregon Trail, and many shrewd businessmen made their fortunes either in supplying the settlers and trappers or selling the furs that came down the Missouri
River. It's why the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial has the Gateway Arch.

St. Louis is a very musical town, the home of Chuck Berry and Johnnie Johnson, the latter of which inspired the likes of Keith Richards and Eric Clapton. If you head to Delmar Ave, you'll see the St. Louis Walk of Fame, with the notable residents names along the sidewalk, from movie stars to sports legends. And speaking of sports legends, St. Louis is the only city where two Baseball Hall of Fame legends grew up along the same street. Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola grew up just a few doors down from each other in a neighborhood called the Hill, the St. Louis Little Italy complete with a weekly Italian newspaper and numerous beloved restaurants.

69% of St. Louisans were born and raised here. They sometimes leave and then come back. Many never leave their neighborhood and live in their parents' and even grandparents' homes. For a metropolitan area that's a pretty staggering statistic. Our French roots are witnessed in the fact people still identify where they live by the Catholic parish of their neighborhood and that where you went to high school surpasses if or where you went on to higher education. The Catholic parishes worked hard to build a strong parochial school system. The similarities to New Orleans make sense as we are just up river as the large city prior to going out west on the Missouri.

We host the 3rd largest Mardi Gras event in the world after Rio and NOLA. It is the Saturday prior to Mardi Gras and we have krewes and parades during the day and partying all night in our historic Soulard Market area.

The cast iron dome with a copper exterior on our historic courthouse where the Dred Scott decision was made was completed 8 months prior to the dome on the US Capital Building. It was patterned after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and was quite an architectural feat for 1862 as many doubted the dome could withstand it's own weight. The architect constructed a test model and proved it would hold.

The City of St. Louis is not part of any county due to a constitutional change after the Civil War. Today Baltimore is the other city in the US to have its government set up in this manner. Thus many statistics are skewed because the city is 318,000 but the metro area is considered to be around 2.8 million.

St. Louis City Garden at night
Photo courtesy of St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission

What has St. Louis contributed to the world?

ANSWER: In 1904 Missouri hosted both the Worlds Fair and the Summer Olympics. Many food items now considered an essential part of Americana were popularized there, such as the waffle cone, Dr. Pepper and Puffed Wheat. St. Louis businessmen were the ones who backed a young pilot named Charles Lindbergh on his attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean in an airplane, and more recently were some of the largest group of contributors to the X-Prize for the first reusable commercial spacecraft. Marlin Perkins, most famous as the host of Wild Kingdom was the director of the St. Louis Zoo and created a wolf sanctuary to help dwindling species survive and be re-introduced to the wild.

McDonnell-Douglas created the Mercury Capsule here and tested it across the river in rural IL so the Russians would not know what they were doing. Our Missouri Botanical Garden is ranked among the top three in the world due to the breadth and depth of plant holdings. Monsanto is headquartered here and invests heavily in research. A botanical garden is a garden strictly for the study of plants and their traits and genetics. The beauty is just a bonus. Barnes Hospital was home to one of the four US physicians who broke the code of the Influenza in 1917. (The Great Influenza by John Barry talks in depth about this research in an interesting way.)

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Ed Boitano's travel blog/review
Three Musical Pilgrimages: Mozart, Grieg and Hendrix

Troldhaugen Villa in Bergen, Norway
Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) could read and compose music, plus play the violin and piano, when he was five years old. Born into a musical family in Salzburg, Austria (then the Holy Roman Empire), he had a unique ability for imitating music, which first became evident when he recited a musical piece by simply observing his father conducting a lesson to his older sister. This led to a childhood on the road, where the young prodigy performed before many of the royal courts of Europe.

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Tom Weber's travel blog/review
Treasures of Ireland: The Irish Goodbye (Dispatch #20)

Irish sunset

The Palladian Traveler brings to a close his 20-part series on the Emerald Isle from an upscale restaurant in downtown Dublin where he files his final dispatch and then quietly slips away.

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John Clayton's travel blog/review
Two "MUST SEE" Truly Spectacular Places in Europe. Here's Why.

Culzean Castle, Scotland
The Han Grotto and Culzean Castle. As the name of my Traveling Boy feature is "Travel With a Difference," it's important to me to always bring you offbeat and unusual tourist places around the world you may not know about. These two fit that category to a T, and they're absolutely worth a visit. One's in Scotland and one's in Belgium. Culzean (pronounced CULLANE) Castle is located near Maybole, Carrick, on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland.

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Ringo Boitano's travel blog/review
Highway 49 Revisited: Exploring California's Gold Country

aurora borealis lights up the night sky near Fairbanks
In the 1840s, the population of California was only 14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived from all over the world – and they came for one reason: gold. James Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutter’s Mill in El Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.

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