A city of colorful history and traditions, Saint Louis, Missouri, is unafraid to evolve and embrace what is new.
With the COVID-19 pandemic finally moving into the rearview mirror, there’s ample opportunity for Evansville residents — even those who think they know Saint Louis attractions well — to discover something new and exciting in the city.
What’s New in Sports
On the sports scene, there’s more in Saint Louis these days than the iconic Cardinals baseball and Blues hockey franchises. The proverbial new kid in town is Saint Louis CITY SC, a Major League Soccer club that’s soared to the top of the Western Conference in its debut season, with an electrifying swirl of worldly sport, culture, and food.
A Saint Louis CITY SC home game at CITYPARK is an experience, and one that Evansville Living had, courtesy of Explore St. Louis. A tornado warning delayed our mid-April match for two hours, but a packed house of 22,423 was undeterred, standing, chanting, and waving flags from start to finish during Saint Louis CITY’s late-night victory against Ohio’s F.C. Cincinnati.
In addition to MLS action, CITYPARK earlier in the week hosted a friendly between the U.S. Women’s National Team and the Republic of Ireland, drawing a sold-out crowd that included many young women and girls.
The stadium cost nearly $460 million to build and hosted its first match in March. It also has a canopy roof protecting most seats from the elements. The pitch is 40 feet below street level.
“There’s not a bad seat in the house,” says Matt Sebek, a former University of Evansville soccer player who’s now Chief Experience Officer for Saint Louis CITY. “It’s really close, really intimate, really loud.”
Construction material “was deliberately picked to look like the Gateway Arch,” says Sebek, a Saint Louis native who fondly reflects on his years at UE. “Our ownership group is from Saint Louis, and the project is all about Saint Louis.”
On matchdays, the area known as Downtown West is swarmed with soccer fans, including many families, enjoying pre-match and post-match entertainment and activities. The stadium has a grassy plaza area outside its entry gates with a big screen and concessions, allowing fans without tickets to enjoy the match.
No discussion of CITYPARK and a Saint Louis CITY match would be complete without a dive into the food and drink scene. Soccer (or football, if you please) is a global sport, and the CITYPARK menu has cuisine representing several cultures, all prepared by Saint Louis vendors.
A favorite among Saint Louisans is Balkan Treat Box, featuring savory beef kebab with veggies and feta. Our host enjoyed a Vietnamese bowl from DD Mau, and Steve’s Hot Dogs is well-known among locals.
CITYPARK has too many concession alternatives to list, but upon its opening, the stadium boasted of 52 areas for fans to access food and drink items, the most in MLS.
Even if your soccer knowledge is fairly limited to what you’ve seen on the now-former TV series “Ted Lasso,” you’ll find plenty to love at a Saint Louis CITY match. Home games are scheduled through October.
What’s New in Attractions
CITYPARK is steps away from Saint Louis’ Union Station. If you haven’t been lately, the mall-type area you might recall is gone. In its place is the Aquarium at Union Station. Visitors can get up close with creatures found in local streams, the mighty Mississippi and Missouri rivers rolling past Saint Louis, and waterways around the world.
You’ll want to set aside 1-3 hours for a visit. There are six main areas to discover, two of which are an ocean shore and a 250,000-gallon shark canyon, with underwater views of thousands of exotic fish including devil rays and sharks.
The aquarium isn’t brand new, but in a way, it still is. It opened at Christmas 2019, about three months before COVID-19 arrived. Now, more visitors are discovering the aquarium.
“We are starting to finally see some consistency to admission,” says Cameron Schoeffel, director of sales and entertainment with Lodging Hospitality Management. “We had a somewhat odd existence through COVID, but now, it’s been great to showcase it. We’re hitting our stride.”
The aquarium has timed, hourly admissions. It opens at 9 a.m. daily, closing at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 5 p.m. the rest of the week.
The aquarium is only one part of the revived Union Station property, with other attractions arriving in September 2019. Those include the Saint Louis Wheel, Carousel, and Mini-Golf course, all open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. seven days a week.
For the brave and adventurous, the indoor Rope Course, which goes three stories up opens at 9 a.m., closing at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and at 5 p.m. the rest of the week.
Those passing through Union Station’s massive Grand Hall can enjoy a colorful light show on the ceiling every hour from 5 p.m. till 10 p.m. Food and drink choices include The Pitch, a soccer-themed restaurant and bar which is packed before and after every Saint Louis CITY match across the street. We downed a couple of Schlafly beers here during our stay.
What’s New at the Arch
The Gateway Arch towering above Downtown Saint Louis was completed in 1965, but even here, there’s a sense of new. The visitor center and museum underwent a $176-million renovation and addition, completed in 2018.
The revamped, spacious displays of St. Louis and Arch history bear little resemblance to long-ago visits. And yes, we journeyed to the apex, 630 feet above the ground.
Visitors this summer will have unique opportunities to experience the Arch, as well as the massive, lush acreage surrounding it. Gateway Arch National Park offers daily Ranger-led walking tours of the park’s trails, as well as the museum.
This summer’s special events calendar includes a pet crawl on the park’s grounds and programming tied to Juneteenth, the Fourth of July, and — planning farther out — the 2024 solar eclipse.
Saint Louis takes great pride in its green spaces, at the Arch and across the city region. Like Evansville and many other communities, Saint Louis has prioritized trail connectivity over the years. At Green Rivers Greenway, you can find maps of the area’s 128 miles of trails, plus a listing of events, which include bird watching, yoga, and walking tours.
While this doesn’t fall under the category of “new,” Mississippi River cruises available at the Arch are worth mentioning. Visitors can enjoy nighttime views, brunch, lunch, and voyages with music or a movie.
Cruises, of course, are also great occasions to snare a Saint Louis photo, as we did here.