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October 5, 2005
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Greetings! Last week we traveled to Pennsylvania, then back to California to watch NASCAR. This week we do a quick overnight in Chicago, before flying to St. Louis. That city is full of surprises, and we are happy to demolish the myth that St. Louis is just for flyovers. St. Louis has loads of interesting places to visit, including museums (I found my new favorite), a famous zoo, a brewery tour of the most popular beer in the world, and much more. (Many of the attractions are free!) And let’s not forget all the different neighborhoods and good food (plus ice cream!).

CHICAGO
Every six weeks or so I go to Chicago to do a travel segment on a popular local TV show, "Chicago Tonight" on channel 11. I make the trip not only for its good exposure, but because I love the people who work there. It’s also a great excuse to visit one of America’s best cities (even for just 18 hours). I try to stay at different hotels, so when I booked the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers I thought I had never stayed there. But when I walked into the lobby, I wondered how I could have forgotten it. This is where I had the craziest experience ever (here’s the link to that story). The Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers is huge (1,209 rooms), making it ideal for business travelers. It’s in a good location, the rooms are comfortable (love the Sheraton's Sweet Sleeper Beds), and there’s high-speed internet for a reasonable price ($9.95 for 24 hours) and a fine restaurant in the lobby (Don Shula’s). The pool and workout room need makeovers, but at least the hotel has them. Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, 301 E North Water St # 1, Chicago; tel.: 312-464-1000.

ST. LOUIS
From Chicago I took a short 1-hour flight on one of United’s new regional jets with three classes of service (first, economy plus with five extra inches of leg room, and coach). I normally don’t like regional jets, but this was really comfortable. At the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport I was greeted by Mary Hendron from the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission. She would be my tour guide for the next two days, because her office talked me into checking out their city (it wasn’t that difficult -- I ‘d been to St. Louis for a wedding five years ago, and really enjoyed it).

SOULARD
Our first stop was lunch. We went to Juniper Grill in Soulard, located just south of downtown. Soulard is named after the Frenchman who surveyed the area for the King of Spain, and the neighborhood is St. Louis’ oldest. It’s known for its brick row houses, the country’s oldest farmers market, and diverse restaurants and bars. The bar scene is outrageous, from blues music clubs to Irish pubs and everything in between. The same goes for the restaurants -- there’s even one in an old church. Juniper Grill serves delicious casual gourmet food, from hamburgers to Creole risotto. I had a salad and two really tasty side dishes: bourbon smashed sweet potatoes and smoked gouda dumplings. Juniper Grill, 1928 S. 12th St., St. Louis; tel.: 314-621-9195.

MARDI GRAS
At lunch we were joined by the organizers of the St. Louis Mardi Gras. I had no idea that St. Louis celebrates its French heritage with the nation’s second-largest Mardi Gras. Did you? They also have the word’s biggest pet parade, which I hear is a real hoot! (get it -- "hoot"?!). The St. Louis Mardi Gras was started in 1981 by a group of bored Soulard neighborhood residents who were at the bar Hillary's (now Johnny's). They wanted something fun to do to celebrate the neighborhood's French heritage. The inaugural parade attracted 200 people and they marched from Hillary's to John D. McGurk's Saloon only one-block away. They were quickly thrown out of McGurk's but each year it has grown considerably in length and now the entire city has adopted it. There are multiple parades, wild parties and fundraising balls. Last year’s grand parade drew over 500,000 people and 107 floats! That’s incredible, as the population of the St. Louis region is roughly 2.5 million. If you’re interested in going to next year’s St. Louis Mardi Gras, here’s their website with a listing of the 2006 events.

BREWERY TOUR
In the 1800’s Soulard had 47 breweries (the area had many caves, which were ideal cool storage places for beer in the summer). Now there are only two breweries, but one is the headquarters of the world’s largest beer maker: Anheuser-Busch. What’s amazing about this place is that tours and parking are free. During the summer tours leave every 10 minutes, and they’re usually full to the max (100 people). The tour lasts approximately one hour, and includes visits to both indoor and outdoor facilities. It starts with an introduction of how the company was started by two German men. In 1860 Eberhard Anheuser purchased a small brewery. A year later his daughter married a young brewery supplier named Adolphus Busch. In 1864 the two joined forces. The tours go through a working brewery, and some places photography was prohibited (they don’t want to give away their secrets). The highlight for most people comes at the end, when you can relax and enjoy two free glasses of cold beer (or soda). My favorite was seeing the famous Clydesdale horses (they are HUGE!), used during the early days to deliver beer to local taverns and hotels. Anheuser-Busch Brewery, One Busch Place, St. Louis; tel.: 314-577-2626.

THE HILL
There are so many neighborhoods in St. Louis I couldn’t see them all. But of course I had to see where my grandparents would have lived if they had immigrated to St. Louis. "The Hill" is the Italian neighborhood, settled in the early 1900s. Visitors to this old-school neighborhood can dine at many Italian restaurants, shop at the mom-and-pop grocery stores, and get their sugar fix at the local bakeries. My favorite was the Missouri Baking Company (love those chocolate macaroons). Missouri Baking Company, 2027 Edwards, St. Louis 63110; tel.: 314-773-6566.

THE ARCH
St. Louis’ most famous icon -- and one of America’s most noted -- is the Gateway Arch. It was built in 1965, and symbolizes a door to the west. It stands 630 feet high -- twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty -- and each leg has a tram to the top (more like a space capsule). In the summer it’s best to arrive early, because lines are long and those suckers get hot (no air conditioning). Visitors can bypass the line by pre-purchasing tickets online. However, you still must arrive earlier than the check-in time, because after 9/11 they implemented a security checkpoint just like at airports (and you know how those lines can be).

Inside there are shops, exhibits and movies that return you to an era in the 1800s when the St. Louis riverfront was bustling with steamboats, fur traders and merchants. The tram to the top of the arch costs $10 for adults, $7 for kids 13-16, $3 for children 3-12. Watch out if you’re claustrophobic -- those "space capsules" are tiny. They only hold five slightly hunched-over people, and there is only one small not-to-be-opened window. It takes four minutes to ride up, three to go down. Surprisingly, it’s not that bad for people who are afraid of heights (like me). Maybe that’s because it’s not open air, and at the top a wide hallway with small windows gives visitors a 30-mile panoramic view of the city and the Mississippi River To see more pictures and view a short Johnny Jet video, click the video links at the bottom of this column. The Gateway Arch Riverfront, St. Louis Riverfront, St. Louis; tel.: 877-982-1410.

SPECIAL 40th ANNIVERSARY EVENTS AT THE ARCH
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the monument. Special events will be celebrated from October 28 on, including the opening of the exhibit "The Creative Spirit of Eero Saarinen," honoring the creative genius of the Arch’s architect. Turning the clock back to 1965, the Arch will offer tram rides to the top for $1 for adults and 50 cents for children. On October 28 and 29, employees will dress in retro uniforms, and the documentary film on the construction of the Arch, "Monument to the Dream," will be shown free of charge.

THE CITY MUSEUM
My biggest surprise in St. Louis was the City Museum. I had no idea a place like this even existed. This wacky, exciting, 4,000-square foot place made out of recycled, salvaged and reshaped treasures was created seven years ago by Bob Cassilly. Everyone loves this place, from kids to adults. It is filled with giant slinkies (wire-welded tunnels in the sky that can be climbed through) and slides. There are slides of all different shapes and sizes. The biggest is a 10-story spiral that formerly was a chute used to move inventory through a shoe company.

There are many different exhibits, too. Visitors can walk, climb, crawl and slide through the Enchanted Caves, create their own work of art, watch professional artists demonstrate their crafts in Art City, play at the Skateless Park (an area of old skate ramps and half pipes), watch circus entertainment at Everydaycircus, take a ride on the Tiny Train Town Model Railroad, swim through thousands of giant rubber balls at Thunderdome, pet a shark or hold a turtle at the World Aquarium (a 13,500-square foot aquatic water world with over 10,000 creatures). My favorite exhibit was playing on the outdoor five–story MonstroCity, where folks of all ages can climb and crawl through sky tunnels, castles, cranes and planes. That’s right – there are two Saber 40 gutted aircrafts. Getting up there is an experience in itself, because walking up five stories on see-through walkways that don’t feel sturdy (though they are) is scary. That’s what makes it so much fun. Many people rent this place out for parties and corporate events – what a great place for a Johnny Jet party! The City Museum, 701 N. 15th St., St. Louis; tel.: 314-231-CITY. Entry is $12. After 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, it’s $8.

CARDINALS
I love baseball, so I was excited when I found out that one of our stops was to see a game at Busch Stadium. Mary (like most St. Louisians) is a diehard Cardinals fan. I have never been to a ballpark where practically everyone in the stadium is wearing the team jersey or hat. St. Louis fans are incredible. We had great seats to watch the Cards take on the N.Y. Mets (the Cards kicked their butts, as Albert Pujols hit two home runs). It was a real treat to be at Busch Stadium, because there were only 11 more regular season games left at this ballpark that opened in 1964. That’s because a new Busch Stadium is currently under construction next door. Half of it has been built. When the season ends for the Cards (by the way they’re playing it could be after the World Series), they will implode the current stadium and build over it. The new Busch Stadium is so close that the old right field foul pole will be near the new stadium’s left field foul pole. I can’t wait to come back next year and sit behind home plate to see the dramatic views of the Gateway Arch and the downtown St. Louis skyline. Scroll down for a Johnny Jet video of my visit to the ball game.

RED MOON
Before the game I had dinner at Red Moon. Red Moon was created by two popular Chicago restaurateurs (I’ve eaten at some of their restaurants, including Red Light, Opera and Bistro 110). Red Moon is in a newly restored terra cotta lofts building. The interior is excellently decorated — it’s hip and comfortable. They serve authentic Asian cuisine, prepared with a unique French accent. I had the Thai beef salad and Thai red curry chicken wrapped in crispy phyllo. Both were really good. However, even if they had not been I would still love a place that, instead of offering a large bowl of mints by the door, has atomic fireballs. Now that’s creative marketing! Red Moon, 1500 St. Charles, St. Louis; tel.: 314-436-9700.

VIDEO’S
This week we have two Johnny Jet videos. The first is of my trip to the Gateway Arch (click the hyperlink). The second is of Busch Stadium. With high-speed the video takes about a minute to load; with dial-up, about three weeks.

NEXT WEEK
Next week we finish up our trip to St. Louis, then fly to a location I haven’t been to since I was 5! Here’s a hint: There’s lots and lots of gushing water.



Happy Travels,

Johnny Jet

*Please tell us what you think of this week's newsletter!


 



THIS WEEK'S WEB RESOURCES

  • ExploreStLouis.com
  • Chicago Weather
  • St. Louis Weather
  • museums
  • Chicago Tonight
  • Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers
  • St. Louis farmers market
  • Juniper Grill
  • St. Louis Mardi Gras
  • Anheuser-Busch Brewery
  • Facts on Bud tour
  • The Gateway Arch Riverfront
  • Arch tickets online
  • The City Museum
  • Busch Stadium
  • new Busch Stadium
  • Red Moon
  • Lewis and Clark Exhibit


  • RECOMMENDED ST. LOUIS BOOKS & MOVIES

  • Insiders' Guide to St. Louis
  • City Smart: St. Louis
  • Walking St. Louis
  • The Spirit of St. Louis (Paperback)
  • Rand McNally 2006 St. Louis Street Guide
  • St. Louis Rams Weekly 2006 Calendar
  • St. Louis Cardinals 2006 12-month wall calendar



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    • It's about time you become a NASCAR fan!! Joelle L – Las Vegas
    • Johnny: Great newsletters. I live in the Cleveland area and visit Mitchell's ice cream all the time. Favorite flavors-Key Lime Pie and Raspberry Cheesecake. SO GOOD. Keep up the good work. Thank you, Rich-Solon, OH
    • Hey Johnny--more great pics from your article this week! The sunset and the horse pics were incredible. I have to find out where your sister got the two bags she was holding up in one of the pictures that had pics of her children on one and a family pic on another.............these bags are incredible and I would LOVE to get one for myself!! Keep up the great and enjoyable column--I'm a loyal fan!! Veronica from Chicago REPLY: Thanks for the kind words and support! Check out this week’s website of the week! P.S. Don't forget to tell your friends/colleagues to sign up to our free newsletter and use our "one time" search engine.
    • Reading this week's newsletter was like reading my own! In June, I had a business trip to Port Clinton, OH, and for dinner one night we took the ferry out to Put-In-Bay. You're right about the sunsets, see the picture I attached! Later in the week my boyfriend and his son flew out and we spent some time in the suburbs of Cleveland. The thing that caught my eye was Crocker Park... hey, I was there! (we ate at Max & Erma's). People don't normally associate the Cleveland area with vacation, but I'm here to tell you there's lots to do... and we didn't even go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Science Center, or Cedar Point! As for the NASCAR story - I am so jealous about the helicopter ride, I can barely contain myself! You may think you have been to a NASCAR race, but until you've sat in that bumper to bumper traffic for HOURS, you just haven't experienced the real deal! (like I said, I'm really jealous) And watching the race from the pits! I've come to the conclusion that I need AJ to be MY cousin. Keep up your great newsletters... maybe someday our paths will cross - hopefully not in bumper to bumper traffic, either! Kori S - New Jersey
    • I've skimmed your newsletter for the past several months and have used many of your tips. This time, I read the eulogies section devoted to your Mother...it was beautiful.... My Mom died three years ago--after a 94-year lifetime of working and loving and raising ten children...and as your brother Frank said, each of us secretly knew that we were her favorite....Thank you for sharing your family's love....Kay Lennon - Chicago
    • Hey Johnny--more great pics from your article this week! The sunset and the horse pics were incredible. I have to find out where your sister got the two bags she was holding up in one of the pictures that had pics of her children on one and a family pic on another.............these bags are incredible and I would LOVE to get one for myself!! Keep up the great and enjoyable column--I'm a loyal fan!! Veronica from Chicago
    • Our payroll clerk wrote down "Johnny Jet Li" on the envelope and was about to mail it to you like that...... Apparently, she watched a 'Jet Li" movie last night... (It was a huge laugh in our office). Johnny’s Tax People
    • I love the newsletter because I have traveled all over the United States and now I am ready to start seeing the rest of our world. FYI, my girlfriend and I who have been friends since elementary school (and that's a long time ago) were talking about a trip to Venice when low and behold there was JohnnyJet in Venice with so many helpful hints, especially transportation. It was just soooo timely I had to laugh!!! A. - Dedham, Massachusetts


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    Who knew that leaving your balcony door open would set off your cabin's smoke detector? But that's what my travel companion and I learned about 10 minutes after boarding Royal Caribbean's newly renovated and lengthened ship, the Enchantment of the Seas. We'd stepped out to explore our balcony and take in the view of Boston Harbor when the smoke detector kicked in with a high-pitched beeping that sent us into the hallway, wondering if we had to evacuate the ship. A savvy (and probably bemused) crew member explained that we should keep the door to the balcony shut to prevent further mishaps. Click Here To Read Article
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