All the World’s A Fair

“Meet me in St. Louis, Louis” will be more than just a famous Judy Garland tune after your group experiences the sights and cultural legacy of the most-fabled of all World’s Fair’s – The Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904.

The Fair celebrated the centennial of President Thomas Jefferson’s fantastic real estate deal with Napoleon Bonaparte of France: $15 million for 600 million acres of the Louisiana Territories. The deal was struck in 1803, but it took until 1804 for the word of the transaction to reach St. Louis. That same year, Jefferson’s exploration team, led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, departed St. Louis to map the newly minted U.S. lands.

Day One

1. Gateway Arch

1.0 Hour

It is fitting that the tour starts at the Gateway Arch – the internationally recognized symbol of St. Louis, Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, and subsequent westward expansion of the nation. Groups can take the popular tram ride to the top of the 630-feet-tall monument for amazing views of the majestic Mississippi River and all of St. Louis. | Get Directions

2. Forest Park

2.0 Hours

When the world came to St. Louis in 1904, Forest Park served as the main fairgrounds for the great Fair. Today, the 1,300-acre park remains one of St. Louis’ premiere attractions and visitor destinations not only for its World’s Fair heritage, but for the treasure trove of free attraction within it. | Get Directions

3. Saint Louis Art Museum

2.0 Hours

Visitors can walk in the footsteps of fairgoers at the Saint Louis Art Museum, the only permanent exhibition facility built for the 1904 “Meet Me in St. Louis” World’s Fair. As it did in 1904, the museum houses masterpieces and ancient artifacts reflecting thousands of years of human culture from around the world. Words engraved above the main entrance to the museum read: Dedicated to Art and Free to All. The Saint Louis Art Museum’s permanent collection is open to the public free of charge.

Note the statue of Saint Louis, King of France outside the museum’s main entrance. The statue originally was located at the head of the Plaza during the Fair and was the first large piece of statuary to greet visitors passing through the main entrance gates. | Get Directions

4. Saint Louis Zoo

3 hours

Another spectacular structure remaining from the Fair is found at the Saint Louis Zoo, just east of the Art Museum in Forest Park. The giant walk-through Flight Cage was the Smithsonian Institution’s exhibit at the Fair. At 228 feet long, 84 feet wide and 50 feet high, it was the largest aviary ever built and today it remains one of the largest free flight cages in the world. The landmark structure, which served as the impetus for the development of the Forest Park location of the Saint Louis Zoo in 1913, is a cornerstone of the Zoo’s Bird Garden. It brings visitors closer to the feathered creatures who reside in a lushly landscaped exhibit called Cypress Swamp, a habitat for birds native to the lower Mississippi River. | Get Directions

5. World's Fair Pavilion

0.5 Hours

The World’s Fair Pavilion is perched high atop a hill to the east of the Flight Cage. Built on the site of the Fair’s original Missouri Building, the Pavilion was designed to be a lasting memorial to the Fair. | Get Directions

6. Forest Park Boathouse

1.5 Hours

In 1904, a popular mode of transportation through the fairgrounds was a boat ride through the miles of canals that wound through Forest Park. Modern day visitors can relive the romance of the Fair on a paddleboat ride from the cheerful Forest Park Boathouse. Boaters can paddle to a picnic island in the lake, cruise around a wildlife island and enjoy eight new fountains that now dot the Grand Canal beneath the Saint Louis Art Museum. | Get Directions

7. Missouri History Museum

2 hours

The magnitude and pageantry of the Fair sometimes overshadowed the event it was staged to commemorate – the centennial of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase and the consequent exploration of the new territory by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. At the Missouri History Museum, also located within Forest Park, groups can see the original Louisiana Purchase Transfer Document that formalized the transfer of the Upper Louisiana Territory from Spain to France to the United States on March 9 and 10, 1804 in St. Louis. A map of the Louisiana Purchase territory that traces Lewis & Clark’s Corps of Discovery route is etched in the stone walkway at the museum’s north entry. Galleries within the museum also include artifacts from the Lewis & Clark journey and the rest of Clark’s life in St. Louis.

The Missouri History Museum’s continuing exhibit, “1904 World’s Fair: Looking Back at Looking Forward,” showcases the people, entertainment, food, and the many objects, artworks and examples of technology that were on view in St. Louis during the seven magical months that the Fair was open. | Get Directions

8. Francis Field at Washington University

1.0 Hour

In addition to hosting the Fair, St. Louis became the first American city to host the Olympic Games. The 1904 games were held at Francis Field on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, just west of the World’s Fair grounds in Forest Park. Drive by the athletic field and gymnasium, still in use today by the university, which held the majority of the track and field events. Francis Gymnasium and Francis Field, both used as venues during the 1904 Olympics, are named for David Rowland Francis, an 1870 graduate of Washington University, governor of Missouri, president of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company (1904 World’s Fair), and U.S. ambassador to Russia. | Get Directions

9. St. Louis Union Station

1.0 Hour

To get to the fair, thousands traveled to the city by train, and they were greeted by a stunning architectural gem in St. Louis Union Station. Today, the National Historic Landmark has been beautifully restored and redeveloped as a festival marketplace of specialty shops, restaurants and a luxury hotel. Union Station provides self-guided exhibits, including one on the World’s Fair that celebrates the station’s history since opening in 1894. Historic memorabilia is housed in display cases located throughout the station and within the free “Memories Museum.” | Get Directions

Dinner Suggestion: Just south of Forest Park, dine at one of many tasty establishments on The Hill, St. Louis’ Italian neighborhood.

Day Two

1. Central Library – St. Louis Public Library

1 hour

Visit the century-old St. Louis Public Library, a magnificent building designed by world-famous architect Cass Gilbert in 1912 and restored for its 100th anniversary. Known as Central Library, it is one of 16 branches in the St. Louis Public Library system. The building’s classic beauty, now complemented with 21st century technology means visitors can find information about the 1904 World’s Fair, Civil War battle maps, learn a new language or create their own high-quality recording. | Get Directions

2. Scott Joplin House

2 hours

Composer Scott Joplin’s famous Rag, “The Cascades,” was inspired by the beautiful fountains in Forest Park that welcomed visitors to the Fair. The popular entertainment of the era, including Ragtime music, could be found along the section of the Fairgrounds known as “The Pike.” A stop at the Scott Joplin House allows visitors to tour the two-story antebellum structure that was home to the “King of Ragtime” during some of his most productive years. | Get Directions

3. Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion

2 hours

The restored 1848 Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion houses an extravagant and diverse collection of 1904 World’s Fair memorabilia. More than 1,200 pieces are on view including photographs and souvenirs in excellent condition. Visitors can tour the entire antebellum Greek Revival home, a National Historic Landmark. | Get Directions

4. Missouri Botanical Garden

3 hours

Founded in 1859, the Missouri Botanical Garden is the nation’s oldest public garden and was a tourist attraction at the time of the 1904 World’s Fair. Beautiful stone lanterns from the 1904 Fair are displayed within Seiwa-En, the largest traditional Japanese garden in North America located on the Gardens southern edge. | Get Directions

5. Grant's Farm

3 hours

Among the interesting exhibits at the 1904 World’s Fair was the log cabin home hand-built by 18th U.S. President and Civil War general Ulysses S. Grant. Just as Fairgoers did in 1904, modern day group visitors to St. Louis can view the cabin which is the only house still standing that was hand-built and occupied by a U.S. president. At the time of the Fair, the home had been moved from its original St. Louis County location and brought to the fairgrounds. After the Fair, Grant’s Cabin was purchased by Adolphus Busch (of Anheuser-Busch brewing fame) who was an admirer of Grant. Busch moved it to his property on Gravois Road that was once owned by Grant’s in-laws. The land is now part of the Grant’s Farm animal preserve which is operated as a free family attraction by Anheuser-Busch. | Get Directions
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