Founded by a French fur trader in 1764, this frontier town became part of the United States through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. It soon became known as the “Gateway to the West” as pioneers followed the trails blazed by Lewis and Clark. The Gateway Arch at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial attracts more than four million visitors a year. Take a tram ride 630 feet up to the top of our nation’s tallest man-made monument.
Then explore the world of American Indians and 19th-century pioneers at the Museum of Westward Expansion, which is located at the base of the arch. Located in Forest Park, the Missouri History Museum tells the history of the region, including the 1904 World’s Fair. “Shifting Gears: The Automobile Industry in St. Louis 1890-1930” will be on display until April 7, 2007. Also in Forest Park, the St. Louis Art Museum has a renowned collection of American art. Specialty museums include the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame, St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum, Museum of Transportation, American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog, and the Miniature Museum of Greater St. Louis.
From beginnings as a fur trading post and leading railroad center of the west, Kansas City has turned into a vibrant 21st-century city with high-end amenities. Housed in Corinthian Hall, a 50-room Beaux Arts-style mansion, the Kansas City Museum displays regional history. Save time for a treat at the recreated 1910 corner drugstore complete with working soda fountain. Imagine a 67-story office building lying on its side to get an idea of how large the $200 million expansion of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art will be when it is completed in 2007. First opened in 1933, its permanent collection contains more than 34,500 works of art. This world-renowned facility is best known for its Asian art, European paintings and modern sculpture. A recent acquisition is the entire Hallmark Photographic collection with more than 6,500 works by 600 artists.
The Steamboat Arabia sank in the Missouri River just north of Kansas City in 1856. Her cargo held 200 tons of supplies headed for general stores and pioneer settlements. Through the years the river changed course and the Arabia was unearthed from a Kansas field in 1988. Surprisingly, the dishes, clothing, food and other items were well preserved. Visitors can see these items at the Arabia Steamboat Museum, which is often called a time capsule of 19th-century frontier life. Strawberry Hill Museum & Cultural Center is located in a circa-1887 Victorian home that had been a private residence and a Catholic orphanage. Today it honors the region’s Slavic heritage by displaying costumes, crafts, jewelry and crystal from Croatia, Ukraine, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia and
Russia. Specialized museums include Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Garment District Museum, Airline History Museum, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, American Jazz Museum and Kansas City Fire Museum.