Named after the Missouri Native Americans that inhabited the fertile lands around the tributaries of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, the state of Missouri became part of the US after a long colonial tussle between France and Spain. The original Missouri people were driven out by the flood of European immigrants who came to settle here, founding the two fur trading centres of St Louis and Kansas City. The state's central location on the Mississippi River's north-south trade route and the east-west railroad made it an important crossroads. Kansas City, and St Louis in particular, established themselves as major gateways to the western frontier.
Today the state is associated with historical figures from the nation's past, such as Mark Twain and his famous stories about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, the gun-slinging outlaw Jesse James, western pioneers like Lewis and Clark, and the 33rd president of the United States, Harry Truman. The brown waters of the great Mississippi River and its small river towns, paddle steamers, the stockyards of Kansas City and the jazz and blues clubs of St Louis are other images representative of the state. The dominant city of St Louis is recognisable for its Gateway Arch and is the 'Home of the Blues', while the only other significant city, Kansas City is famous for its steaks and barbecues as well as its hearty jazz. In contrast, the south features the beautiful hillsides and lakes of the Ozark Mountains that are great recreational areas, and the conservative country-and-western tourist town of Branson.
Music, history, arts and heritage are all an intricate part of Missouri… 'Where the Rivers Run'.
Within the riverside park known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the Gateway Arch is a soaring landmark above the city's skyline -the thin stainless steel arc reaches to twice the height of the Statue of Liberty at 630 feet (192m) tall. It symbolises the role of St Louis as the 'Gateway to the West' for the pioneers who journeyed along the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails towards the western frontier. It is also dedicated to the US president who was responsible for opening up the West. An observation deck that is reached by a tram system provides magnificent views over the city, the Mississippi and the spreading plains. Also on the site with the Arch is the Old Courthouse Museum that was the venue for the hearing of several momentous cases during the 19th century. At the base of the monument is the excellent Museum of Westward Expansion with exhibits covering exploration of the west and its honoured pioneers, including Lewis and Clark, the Plains Indians and buffalo soldiers. The Odyssey IMAX Theatre shows big-screen films about the region and its history.
The beautifully landscaped Forest Park is larger than New York's Central Park and its leafy grounds are filled with attractions. The acclaimed St Louis Art Museum has a magnificent international collection of art, covering works from prehistoric times to contemporary, and houses one of the most extensive collections of German Expressionism worldwide. The St Louis Science Center features life-size dinosaurs along with displays and interactive exhibits on the environment, aviation, technology and more. There is also an OMNIMAX Theatre and Planetarium. Thousands of animals roam the beautiful grounds of the St Louis Zoo, with indoor and outdoor cageless displays, and a Living World Exhibition features an animated robotic figure of Charles Darwin who summarises his theories on evolution. The Missouri History Museum documents life in St Louis with old photographs and displays on river life, black music and western expansion.
18th and Vine District
In the 1920s the neighbourhood of 18th and Vine was the heart of the jazz scene and today the museum complex houses the celebrated American Jazz Museum, the Blue Room Jazz Club and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The Jazz Museum honours jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker and visitors can experience the rich culture and history through dozens of exhibits and an interactive studio. The fascinating history of the Negro Leagues is documented in the Baseball Museum and exhibits, video presentations and memorabilia reveal stories about baseball stars like Buck and Paige.
Laumeier Sculpture Park
The mission statement of Laumeier Sculpture Park - an open-air museum, covering 105 acres and containing over 70 outdoor sculptures dotted along a 1.4 mile (about 2.3km) walking trail - is to "expand the context of contemporary sculpture beyond the traditional confines of a museum; [and to] initiate a lifelong process of cultural awareness, to enrich lives and inspire creative thinking, by engaging people in experiences of sculpture and nature simultaneously." Visitors to the Laumeier Sculpture Park - which also boasts outdoor movies and an indoor gallery housed in an 1816 stone Tudor mansion - are unanimous in their approval of this goal, with more than 300,000 people visiting the park every year. Over and above being a wonderful picnic site, Laumeier Sculpture Park offers visitors a fresh and exciting way to engage with the plastic arts, and should not be missed.
National World War I Museum
The National World War I Museum in Kansas City is America's official museum dedicated to the Great War. Housed within the Liberty Memorial, its state-of-the-art facilities provide visitors with the chance to explore the nation's most extensive assembly of WWI artefacts, photography, art and narratives ever brought together in a single collection. The museum's mission is to inspire thought, dialogue and learning, in order to make the experiences of the World War I era meaningful and relevant to present and future generations. Visitors enter the museum across a glass bridge above a field of 9,000 poppies (each one representing 1,000 war combatant deaths), and inside, the museum boasts two theatres, exhibitions with period artefacts (including a tank, uniforms, guns, maps, and photographs of major forces) in cutting edge interactive displays, an enormous research centre and a library. In the face of a barrage of fascinating audio-visual stimulation, visitors to the National World War I Museum are sure to leave having had an unforgettable experience.
St Louis City Museum
One of the most popular attractions for kids in St Louis, the St Louis City Museum isn't a stuffy hall with dusty dioramas; it's part playground, part funhouse, and all fun! Boasting attractions like a ten-story slide, rooftop ferris wheel, treehouses, enchanted caves, a 200-year-old frontier cabin, aquarium, and plenty more. There are also educational exhibits on natural history and architecture, and special areas for toddlers. There is a gift shop on the ground floor and several cafes throughout the building. With a reasonable admission charge and so much on offer, the St Louis City Museum is definitely a must for those travelling with kids in St Louis.
Kansas City International Airport
Location: The airport is situated 20 miles (32km) northwest of Kansas City.
Contacts: Tel: +1 816 243 5237.
Time Zone: GMT -6 (GMT -5 from March to November).
Departure tax: None.
Transfer between terminals: The RED bus provides a free shuttle service between the three terminals, leaving approximately every 10 minutes.
Facilities: Facilities include ATMs, Internet access, bars, restaurants, shops and a business centre. Wireless Internet services are also available. Disabled facilities are good; passengers are advised to contact their airline in advance.
Parking: Parking at Kansas City International Airport starts at $3 per hour to $20 per day for short-term parking, and $6 per day in the outer lot at the edge of the airport grounds (served by free shuttles running every 15 minutes).
Transfer to the city: The Metro Bus provides services to the city centre on weekdays for $1.25 and the Airport shuttle buses link the airport with hotels in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Taxis can be organised from the courtesy telephones in the baggage reclaim areas; the fare into Kansas City is about $28 and taxis can be shared.
Car rental: Car rental companies include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz and National.
Lambert-St Louis International Airport
Location: The airport is situated 13 miles (21km) northwest of St Louis.
Contacts: Airport information: +1 314 426 8000.
Time Zone: GMT -6 (GMT -5 from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November).
Departure tax: None.
Transfer between terminals: Free shuttles as well as the Metrolink run a regular service between the Main and East Terminals.
Facilities: Airport facilities include ATMs, a bank and currency exchange. Restaurants, snackbars, shops, postal services, Internet kiosks, tourist information and hotel reservations are also available. Disabled facilities are good.
Parking: Short-term parking at Lambert-St Louis International Airport is charged at $2.50 per hour and $21 per day. Long-term parking is available in lots A ($13 per day), B ($10 per day), C ($9 per day) and E ($7 per day). All lots are serviced by a free shuttle.
Transfer to the city: The Metrolink light rail system departs from both terminals between 5am and midnight to the city centre. Shared van services provide transport to city centre hotels, and airport taxis are also available from both terminals.
Car rental: Car rental companies include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz and National. Counters are located on the lower level of the Main Terminal, and phones are available for phoning off-site companies; courtesy rental car company vans shuttle customers to their offices from outside both terminals.
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