St. Louis Bargains Make a Nickel Worth a Dime, So to Speak
Byline: Mike Michaelson
"When you come to a fork in the road, take it." That convoluted travel advice comes from Yogi Berra, Baseball Hall of Famer and infamous (but endearing) butcher of the English language.
You can learn about the famed catcher, who earned a record 10 championship rings and multiple listings in "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations," if you head for St. Louis - Berra's hometown - and visit the "Baseball as America" exhibit at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park.
If you feel that, as Berra once observed, "A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore," St. Louis is the spot to stretch your travel budget. Many of its attractions offer free general admission, including a world-class, 90-acre zoo that contains more than 11,400 exotic animals of 810 species, many rare and endangered. Also gratis is admission to a science museum, fine-art museum and history museum.
All of these cultural attractions are in leafy Forest Park. Last year, a $90 million renovation spruced up this 1,370-acre park that is larger than New York's Central Park.
Also helping stretch travel budgets are numerous discounted hotel packages in conjunction with events. These include the baseball exhibition and this year's 40th anniversary of the Gateway Arch.
"Baseball as America," organized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, features more than 500 artifacts from Cooperstown. It runs through April 24, coinciding with the Cubs' first visit (April 20 and 21) to the St. Louis Cardinals, its traditional archrival. (This is the last season the Redbirds will play at Busch Stadium. Next year, the team moves to a new stadium just south of the current field.)
On display are record-setting bats from Babe Ruth and Roger Maris as well as Jackie Robinson's jersey, vintage trading cards and film clips of baseball's historic moments. Pride of place goes to a Berra glove and baseball.
On the narrow streets of the neighborhood known as "The Hill," Berra first flexed his muscles (and perhaps began mangling the language). Full of friendly trattoria and colorful markets, The Hill is well worth visiting - especially around the dinner hour. Lined with tiny, neat bungalows with well-tended postage-stamp front yards, this 20-block neighborhood is as Italian as the bocce ball games played there. More than 75 percent of its residents are of Italian descent.
Dining choices on The Hill are numerous and virtually every St. Louis resident seems to have a particular favorite. Favazza's, for example, enjoys a large local following. It occupies a circa 1905 building,once an Italian confectioners, and offers well-made pastas, traditional Italian specialties such as veal piccata and addictive garlic bread. Decor features bar-brick walls, stained glass and a high, brown tin ceiling.
For a splurge, Dominic's is an intimate restaurant where waiters wear black ties, tables wear crisp white napery and Renaissance- style decor features crystal chandeliers, red carpets and oil paintings. Emphasis is on traditional regional dishes. Try virtually any pasta dish and thick, tender veal chops, starting, perhaps, with tenderloin carpaccio or mussels in white wine with fresh tomato.
Newest habitat at the progressive Saint Louis Zoo is Fragile Forest, which debuts May 13 as home of the zoo's great apes. It expands the outdoor habitat with natural-like areas for two endangered species, chimpanzees and orangutans. …