Cards Out of Town? Other St. Louis Diversions

Sunday, April 30, 2006

· Forest Park, 500 acres larger than New York's Central Park, has a free zoo (parking is $9), a skating rink, two golf courses, an art museum, a history museum, paddle boats and rowboats on Post-Dispatch Lake, and a science center. Tired yet?

Nineteen million people came to this spot in 1904 for the World's Fair. The story of the transition of a thousand-plus acres of swampland into a magnificent landscape of boulevards, waterways and gardens is well told in an exhibit at the Missouri History Museum. The museum also contains an outstanding collection of memorabilia from Charles Lindbergh. The park is bounded by Skinker, Kingshighway and Lindell boulevards, and U.S. 40. 314-289-5300, .

· Missouri Botanical Garden is within walking distance of a MetroLink station, as is nearly every main attraction in St. Louis. Its Victorian section, Japanese and Chinese gardens, magnolia walk and day lily garden are outstanding. Its 1960 Climatron was the first geodesic dome greenhouse and holds rain forest plants. A $3 tram takes you through the 79 acres. An extensive children's western-themed village, with many opportunities for small hands to garden, will open May 1. 4344 Shaw Blvd., 800-642-8842, . Admission is $8.

· Sportsman's Park was a baseball fun house where Babe Ruth once hit three home runs in a game and St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck pinch-hit 3 feet 7 inch Eddie Gaedel. Gaedel walked. From 1920 to 1953, the Browns and Cardinals played here, the longest period in history that two major league teams shared a ballpark. The site of three All-Star Games and 10 World Series, Sportsman's Park was donated by the Busch family to become the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club. Only a huge faded banner remains to commemorate the building, but the playing field is in use today as a youth football field. All that remains for baseball is a tiny T-ball field of dandelions. Sportsman's Park is at the corner of North Grand Avenue and Dodier Street.

· The Loop of University City is the funky strip of sandwich shops, used-book stores and T-shirt places you would expect near a university (in this case Washington University), but with a distinctive Walk of Fame. The sidewalk on both sides of Delmar Boulevard is marked with brass stars and plaques honoring more than 100 famous people associated with St. Louis, including Betty Grable, Bob Gibson, Stan Musial and Chuck Berry. We found 15 stars with baseball connections. 314-727-7827, .

· The St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum is located with the International Bowling Museum across the street from the old Busch site. This is a first-rate tribute to baseball in St. Louis from the 1890s, to when Cool Papa Bell played for the Negro League St. Louis Stars and up to the present day. It's worth a visit, and admission includes bowling. 111 Stadium Plaza, 314-231-6340, . Admission $7.50.

· The Old Courthouse, that gorgeous domed building you've seen in photos of the Gateway Arch, is where slaves Dred and Harriet Scott sued for their freedom in 1846, setting off a chain of judicial proceedings that ended with the Supreme Court's decision invalidating the federal government's effort to prohibit slavery in the new territories. If you are lucky as we were, you might see a reenactment. Two blocks west of the Gateway Arch, it's part of the National Park Service's Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. 314-655-1700, .

· The City Museum and World Aquarium are two of the wildest, most creative children's attractions around. You're greeted by a five-story climbing creation, MonstroCity, with a school bus falling from the roof; there are also two-story chutes, a museum of kid art, cafes, a toy train and lots of kids racing to explore every nook. 701 N. 15th St., 314-231-2489, . Admission is $12. World Aquarium: 314-647-9594, . Admission is $6.

· The Anheuser-Busch Factory Tour of the world's largest brewery is free and open to all ages. The brew house is spotless and sports four-story chandeliers from the 1904 World's Fair. Only adults get the two free beers at tour's end. 12th and Lynch streets, 314-577-2626, .

· The Arch. You can ride to the top of the 630-foot stainless steel arch created by Eero Saarinen, and the four-minute tram gives you an unparalled view of the Mississippi. There are also two pay movies. Info: 877-982-1410, . Tram is $10.

-- Bruce Adams and Margaret Engel

© 2006 The Washington Post Company