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Youth Focus: St. Louis

Photos courtesy St. Louis CVC

Located in the geographic heart of America, St. Louis celebrates the country’s heritage of westward expansion and pioneering spirit. Take a youth group to this city, and they’ll find plenty to explore, from inventive museums and attractions to iconic monuments and museums.

Downtown, the Gateway Arch gives visitors a stunning view and a fascinating lesson in history. The City Museum uses recycled objects to create a playhouse for young bodies and minds. Farther afield, groups will find a great children’s museum at the Magic House and world-class horticulture at the Missouri Botanical Garden. And the ever-popular Six Flags St. Louis gives youngsters a place to add some white-knuckle adventures.

[ Gateway Arch ]
No group should visit St. Louis without checking out the Gateway Arch, the city’s most iconic structure. Formally known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the arch was built in 1963 as a tribute to Thomas Jefferson’s role in opening the West, as well as a tribute to the many pioneers and explorers who blazed the trails all the way to the Pacific.

A visit to the arch begins in the Museum of Westward Expansion, which sits underground beneath the bases of the arch. Visitors learn about events in the opening of the West, such as Lewis and Clark’s journey, and see tools, guns, wagons and animals used by pioneers.

Groups also have the opportunity to take a ride to the top of the arch, which towers 630 feet above St. Louis and the Mississippi River. Riders step into small tram cars that are whisked upward to the observation area at the top of the arch, from which one can see for 30 miles on a clear day.

[ City Museum ]

What do you get when you take a 600,000-square-foot former shoe factory and turn it over to your youthful imagination? The City Museum, a facility that opened in 1997 and has become one of the favorite spots for St. Louis visitors young and old alike.

The City Museum is the brainchild of Bob Cassilly, an internationally known artist and sculptor who recruited a team of 20 artisans to turn the abandoned shoe factory into an interactive museum and funhouse for young visitors. The team used found items and salvaged refuse from around the city to construct the museum’s interior, so today’s visitors will find pieces of old chimneys, bridges, construction cranes, ceramic tile and even two abandoned planes built into the architecture.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.