The online home of The Group Travel Leader, America's leading publication for the group travel industry. Articles on hot destinations, attractions, news and travel trends from across the country and around the world.
Issue link: http://digital.grouptravelleader.com/i/669604
25 G R O U P T R A V E L L E A D E R . C O M GROUP GROU P TRAVEL LE ADER T H E B Y B R I A N J E W E L L L O T S O F N E W R E A S O N S T O C H E E R I f you haven't been to St. Louis recently, you don't know what you're missing. Many travelers have stopped for pho- tos in front of the Jefferson Expansion Memorial, also known as the Gateway Arch, and some groups have gone in to visit the on-site museum and take the tram ride to the top of the arch. But St. Louis is not the city that it was even two years ago, as widespread develop- ment and innovation have brought a number of new attractions and activities that are reinvigo- rating this classic American city. St. Louis today enjoys a number of great new museums, including the highly anticipated National Blues Museum, which opened in April. And even longtime favorite visitor activities, such as the Anheuser-Busch brewery tour and the Arch itself, have seen significant new developments that are reshaping the visitor experience. I spent three days exploring the city's new developments early this spring and was excited by what I saw. A M A R Q U E E M U S E U M My visit to St. Louis, coincidentally, took place just days before the opening of the National Blues Museum at the beginning of April, and I was delighted to get a sneak peek before it debuted to the public. The museum has been in the works since 2010, when a number of enthusiastic blues fans and pro- fessionals conceived the idea. Today the museum stands as a hip, educational and interactive tribute to the blues, which is an important part of the St. Louis cultural landscape. The museum's galleries trace the origins of blues from their West African roots to their development in the Mississippi Delta and their migration upriver to St. Louis and beyond. Along the way, displays highlight influential performers such as Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry and feature instruments played by luminaries like B.B. King. Galleries con- tinue to trace the evolution of blues into the modern era and explore its influence on other genres, such as contemporary country and rock 'n' roll. While the exhibits themselves are great, what makes this museum stand out is its state-of-the art interactive experiences. Visitors have the oppor- tunity to create their own short blues riffs as they explore the museum by choosing guitars, pianos and other musical instruments at special interactive stations throughout the museum. At the end of the tour, they can mix all the elements together to cre- ate audio files, which they can email to themselves to keep. The museum also includes a number of social media stations where visitors can photograph themselves onstage in classic blues clubs, and an interactive game lets them try their hand at playing together live in a four-piece jug band. Groups should try to schedule their visits to coincide with some of the many live musical per- formances scheduled to take place in the museum's on-site, high-tech jazz club. A N I C O N I M P R OV E D If you have previously taken people to see the Gateway Arch, you might remember the large underground museum beneath one foot of the monument or the expansive view from the tiny windows at the top. What you might not remem- ber is that accessing the Arch has not always been easy. But a massive new project under way in St. Louis called CityArchRiver aims to reinvigorate the Arch, the downtown neighborhood and the riverbanks surrounding it. The project entails six agencies and a num- ber of private donors, and when it is completed, it will amount to a $380 million investment into the National Park Service site and the surrounding downtown blocks. One of the most important parts of the project is a new land bridge that crosses over a busy highway, making it easy for visitors to walk S T. L O U I S FA N S H AV E THE GRAND HALL AT ST. LOUIS UNION STATION HAS BEEN RESTORED TO ITS HISTORIC SPLENDOR. Courtesy St. Louis Union Station Hotel