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Three Majestic America Line steamboats under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
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Special to msnbc.com
updated 10/23/2006 1:09:33 PM ET 2006-10-23T17:09:33

St. Louis is on the upswing. Approximately $3.5 billion dollars have been lavished on the downtown area over the past decade, with new entertainment districts, parks, condos, posh hotels and restaurants sprouting in their wake. So dramatic has been the transformation that the city caught the eye of the London-based World Leadership Forum, which has made it a finalist (along with Kansas City, Manchester in England and Kolkata, India) for its “urban renewal prize”. The award goes to cities where the leadership has shown “exceptional imagination, foresight or resilience in a number of key fields, especially cities that have reversed trends, shaken off traditional images and acted as an example and inspiration to others.” Does “Gateway City” deserve these plaudits? Is it more livable, and as importantly, visit-worthy, than it was before the massive revitalization of its core? Try the following 24-hour itinerary and judge for yourself.

8 a.m. - 9 a.m.: St. Louis is the 18th largest city in the US, and has a burgeoning nightlife scene which often winds down at the kitschy Uncle Bill’s Pancake House . But you don’t have to be trying to ward off a hangover at 4 a.m. in the morning to enjoy its fluffy, signature discs. They’re first-rate whether you down them just before dawn or at the civilized hour of 9 a.m., topped with ice cream and hot fudge (their so-called “Alaska” pancakes) or traditionally served with warm maple syrup. Don’t like pancakes? Eggs are another good choice here, made to order and always light and grease-free; for a side, try the thick-cut bacon.

9 a.m. - Noon: It’s odd to think that a city’s biggest claim to fame is that, historically, it served as a gateway to other areas of the country, basically a place to leave. But that’s the case with St. Louis and the city celebrates that role—unironically—with its Gateway Arch . Designed by Eero Saarinen in 1966 as a double tribute to the westward-bound pioneers of the 1800’s and Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, it’s the tallest monument in the US at 160 feet. A tram ride takes visitors to the top of this steel rainbow every four minutes. You’ll learn more about the figures honored by the arch, Lewis and Clark and the other pioneers who explored and then settled the west, at the Museum of Westward Expansion, at the base of the monument. Don’t skip the Oscar-nominated documentary about construction of the arch, that plays on a near-continuous loop at the museum.  An Imax movie theater, also on site, is the last enticement to spend the entire morning here.

MORNING ALTERNATIVE
Is it ever too early for a beer? Well, yes, but not if it caps off a fascinating tour of one of the country’s major breweries. Anheuser Busch established its first brewhouse here in 1892. Today, its 100-acre complex turns out as many as 16 million bottles and cans of beer per week. The factory is located in South St. Louis; you’ll smell the hops long before you ever get there. In addition to touring the brewery, visitors will see Annheuser’s noble team of Clydesdale horses, several of which stand 6 feet tall and weigh almost a ton a piece.

Noon - 2 p.m.: Tuck into a burger at Blueberry Hill , a memorabilia-packed St. Louis institution renowned for its comfort food. And you’ll dine bathed in the beneficent gaze of classic bluesman Chuck Berry: his memorabilia is everywhere here (the man himself is still going strong at 80 years of age and performs here several times a month), from vintage lunch boxes to brightly colored posters. Outside the restaurant, other great St. Louis citizens are commemorated in a small walk of fame honoring Ulysees S. Grant, Tennessee Williams and Tina Turner, among others.

2 p.m. - 5 p.m.: In 1904, St. Louis was at the center of the world, quite literally, as site of the 1904 World’s Fair. Sixty-two foreign nations sent exhibitions for the event, 1500 buildings (including several palaces) were constructed, and 20 million people visited between April 30 and December 1 of that year. It’s widely considered to have been the greatest world fair ever, and if you need further proof, how about this: it was at this world’s fair that the ice-cream cone and cotton candy were first introduced! You can visit the fair grounds (some of the original buildings are still up), when you head to Forest Park, which is also the site of the city’s top museums. Spend a few hours wandering the halls of the St. Louis Science Museum ,the St. Louis Art Museum , or the Missouri Historical Society . Which you pick will depend on your interests; each is bound to impress.

AFTERNOON ALTERNATIVE
Go to church. To the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis , an odd half Romanesque, half Byzantine structure completed in 1907, that is awash in glittering colors. That’s because the Cathedral boasts the largest number of mosaics in the world, some 4 million pieces of glass used by 20 different artists over the course of 75 years. American saints, biblical figures, scenes from American history—all of these are portrayed on the walls of this one-of-a-kind church. A basement museum explains how the art was created. After you’ve finished viewing the tiles, take in the neighborhood. The Central West End is a delightfully strollable area. Head to the Euclid area and spend the rest of the afternoon wandering in and out of small boutiques and sipping coffee at the various cute cafes here.

5:30-7:30: The cuisine’s a bit old-fashioned and the décor borders on the plain (or you could call it elegantly simple), but if you’re in St. Louis and feel like celebrating that fact, there’s no place like Tony’s . For several generations now, this has been the place where visiting celebs head, where graduations are commemorated and the most important of business dinners are held. The only restaurant in Missouri to have received five diamonds from AAA, it specializes in classic Italian food—rib chops, seafood linguini, ossobucco with risotto—and creates its dishes from the freshest, finest ingredients available. Not to be missed.

7:30-10:30: Make your way to Powell Hall, home to the St. Louis Symphony , the second oldest symphony orchestra in the United States (founded in 1880). Led by conductor David Robertson, it’s considered world class, and is known for its eclectic repertory, including many modern works. The Symphony has been awarded six Grammys over the years.

10:30-on: The night is still young in St. Louis. Head out to hear some blues, either at Blueberry Hill (see above) or at one of the other hopping clubs in town, including BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups or The Beale on Broadway . Those not into music can head to the President's Casino , setaboard a classic 1907 riverboat moored at Laclede’s Landing. (You’ll also find a number of happening bars and music clubs at the landing as well).

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer guides in bookstores now.

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Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, 3427 S. Kingshighway Blvd., phone 314/832-1973. Open 24/7.

Gateway Arch, 707 N. First St. phone 314-655-1700 or 877-982-1410; www.gatewayarch.com/. Trams run from 9:20 a.m. to 5:10 p.m. from Labor Day to Memorial Day, and from 8:20 a.m. to 9:10 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Trips to the top are $8 for adults; $5 for children age 13-16; and $3 for children age 3-12. Screenings of “Monument to the Dream” are an additional  $7 for adults; $4 for children age 13-16; and $2.50 for children age 3-12 (but very definitely worth the cost). Museum admission is free.

Anheuser-Busch, 12th and Lynch streets, phone 314-577-2626. During the months of March, April, May, September and October, the tour center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. From November through February, it is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11:30 to 4 p.m. on Sunday. In June, July and August, it is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free.

Blueberry Hill, 6504 Lamar, phone 314/727-4444; www.blueberryhill.com/.

St. Louis Science Center, 5050 Oakland Ave in Forest Park, phone 800/456-7572. Admission is free, except to the Planetarium ($6 adults, $5 students and seniors) and the Omnimax Theater ($7 adults, $6 seniors and children). Open Monday through Thursday and Saturday 9:30 am-4:30 pm, Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

St Louis Art Museum, on Fine Arts Drive atop arthill in the park, phone 314/721-0072. Admission is free, though special exhibitions can cost up to $10. Open Tues-Thurs and Sat-Sun from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Fri from 10 a.m.- 9 p.m.

Missouri History Museum, Jefferson Memorial Building in Forest park, phone 314/746-4599; www.mohistory.org/. Free admission, open Wed-Mon 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. and Tuesdays 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, 4431 Lindell Blvd., phone 314-373-8242. The Cathedral has no admissions charge (though a $1 donation is appreciated) and is open from 7 a.m. - 5 p.m. If you want to see the museum, you’ll need to visit between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Tony’s, 410 Market St, phone 314/231-7002; www.tonysstlouis.com. Open Mon-Thurs 5-11 p.m.; Fri 5:30-11:30 p.m.; Sat 5-11:30 p.m.. Reservations recommended, dress jacket required for men.

The website for the St. Louis Symphony is www.slso.org/. For ticket sales and concerts, you’ll head to the Powell Symphony Hall, 718 N. Grand Blvd., phone 314/534-1700.

BB's Jazz, Blues & Soups, 2 blocks south of Busch Stadium at 700 S. Broadway, phone 314/436-5222; www.bbsjazzbluessoups.com/.

The Beale on Broadway, 701 S. Broadway, phone 314/621-7880; www.bealeonbroadway.com/.

President’s Casino, at Laclede’s Landing, phone 800/772-3647 or 314/622-1111; www.presidentcasino.com.

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer guides in bookstores now.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Photos: Gateway City

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  1. Fun factory

    A girl walks through a hall of mirrors at the City Museum in St. Louis. The museum, housed in the 600,000-square-foot former International Shoe Company factory, is an eclectic mix of mosaics, sculpted caves to explore, slides to barrel down, even a massive outdoor playground where kids climb through tunnels, towers and suspended airplanes. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Brewed in St. Louis

    Visitors tour the Anheuser-Busch brewhouse in St. Louis. (Whitney Curtis / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Urban oasis

    Michael Marsh of Hopkinsville, Ky., stops to smell a flower at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. Longtime St. Louisans still lovingly refer to this urban oasis as Shaw's Garden, for the British businessman Henry Shaw who recreated the English gardens of his youth in what was then the outskirts of St. Louis. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Gateway Arch

    The Gateway Arch, surrounded by reflecting pools, is the world's tallest national monument. The Arch was built to be a symbolic gateway to the west, and is the centerpiece of the riverfront Jefferson National Expansion Memorial park. (St. Louis CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Eads Bridge

    The historic Eads Bridge spans the Mississippi River at St. Louis. Built in 1874 to accommodate carriages, pedestrians and steam trains, the bridge carries a portion of St. Louis' light rail system which connects to many of the community's major attractions. (Dan Donovan / St. Louis CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Busch Stadium

    Opening Day at Busch Stadium with the St. Louis Cardinals playing. (Dan Donovan / St. Louis CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. The Climatron

    The Climatron, located on the grounds of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, is one of the first geodesic dome conservatories built in the U.S. and the first ever to be used as a greenhouse. (St. Louis CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Western welcome

    St. Louis' evening skyline. (St. Louis CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Majestic Midtown

    The Fabulous Fox Theatre anchors the Grand Center arts district in Midtown St. Louis. Built in 1929, the Siamese-Byzantine movie palace plays host to touring Broadway shows, concerts, classic movie revivals and special events throughout the year. (St. Louis CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Lafayette Square

    Lafayette Square, filled with grand 19th century Victorian homes and row houses, is one of St. Louis' oldest residential neighborhoods that is experiencing a renaissance. (St. Louis CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Spirit of St. Louis

    A replica of the 'Spirit of St. Louis' soars in the grand hall of the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. Charles Lindbergh's flight was the 20th century equivalent to Lewis and Clark's journey of exploration. (Lewis Portnoy / St. Louis CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Missouri History Museum

    The Missouri History Museum houses exhibits on the history of the St. Louis area, including extensive personal collections of aviator Charles Lindbergh and explorer William Clark of Lewis & Clark fame. (St. Louis CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Brick beauties

    St. Louis' historic Soulard neighborhood is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city with homes dating from the mid to late 1800s. It's home to antique shops, restaurants, Jazz and Blues clubs, and the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. (St. Louis CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Botanical garden

    A Victorian Garden is one of dozens of elaborate and beautiful gardens within the Missouri Botanical Garden. (St. Louis CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
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