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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Modest Proposal for Guiding Tourists Around St. Louis

The Baltimore Visitor Center is located on Light Street, just adjacent to the city's bustling Inner Harbor.

All photographs by Michael Powers

This is a simple, but not un-serious structure to show to visitors. Its contents are much better than its exterior, though.

Inside are booths with brochures grouped by activity. A spacious front desk was staffed by four attendants when I visited. There is even a small theater that plays a Baltimore promo that looks as if it dates to 1997. My favorite part, though, was Baltimore's boasting of its ridiculous number and variety of neighborhoods:

Here are some random shots of the facility:

Baltimore does a great job of branding itself as a maritime/seafood destination. Crab paraphernalia is everywhere, as are sailboats, seen above.

This is the basics: have well organized booths where tourists-on-the-go can grab information about local attractions and restaurants.

The Inner Harbor was absolutely packed when I was there; the visitor center therefore had a good amount of pedestrians strolling through as well.

Two people staffed the welcome desk while two others roamed the floor.

St. Louis needs its own propaganda theater.

Guess what else? The Baltimore Visitor Center is located just outside a splash fountain popular with children...

I would like to see a nice St. Louis Visitors Center on Gateway Mall, specifically the block that houses Twain, better known as the Serra Sculpture. The center would feed into what has become a destination for St. Louis--Citygarden--much as Baltimore's does and could help visitors interpret and interact with the Serra Sculpture more than ever before. In addition, obviously, it would serve all the functions of that any visitor center should. The neighborhood map is a must!

I'm aware that St. Louis already has something similar to the example shown above in Baltimore. I volunteered briefly with the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission at the Visitor Center on the northwest corner of 7th and Washington. This seems like a great spot, connected to the convention center and closer to the Loft District. The space, though, to me was a bit underwhelming and the programming is not as good as Baltimore's. With St. Louis Centre being retooled into a parking garage, perhaps it would be better to pick up operations and move the center to the Gateway Mall, where it could have an interplay with Citygarden and truly show the city at its best.

Using an extant storefront for this purpose would be fine, too. Basically, this post is just a plea for our visitors center to produce video propaganda promoting this city and to put up a neighborhood map. We can do at least that. We can all move along, now. Nothing else to see.


Anonymous said...

great idea, matt. i'm also underwhelmed by the visitors center on washington. i think it should be somewhere between the old court house and citygarden. all those garages around kiener are quite unfortunate though. the ideal thing in my mind would be to replace the garages with leased class-A office space with ground-level retail, remove I-70 and create a pedestrian path between the arch and citygarden, and create a visitors center in kiener plaza. guess i'll get on that...

on a similar note, i was walking around DC a few weeks ago and came across several large, colorful signs detailing historic neighborhoods, buildings, events, etc, complete with awesome old-timey photos. i REALLY would love for STL to implement something similar. currently, there are a few small signs on some buildings in cherokee and one pretty good one in front of the arsenal and that's about it i think. we NEED visitors to roam around our neighborhoods and explore and appreciate our built environment and our history. we have a TON of inspiring history in STL and i doubt that most tourists know anything about it. i took a couple of photos of DC's signs but i don't have a blog so...

one last thing: i'm going to be visiting baltimore in about a week and i'd like to see some of baltimore's best neighborhoods. any suggestions?

STLgasm said...

Good ideas, Matt. Baltimore is one of my favorite cities. Adam-- don't miss Mt. Vernon, Hampden, Fells Point, Federal Hill, and Canton. I'm sure Matt can offer a more detailed list of must-see neighborhoods.

Steve Patterson said...

I like the Baltimore example! But note a visitors center already exists in the two blocks containing Kiener Plaza.

Anonymous said...

@gasm: thanks for the suggestions! i'll check out as many of those as time allows.

@steve: where is the kiener visitors center? is it in the base of one of the adjacent garages? (i'm kind-of joking but it probably is.)

Matt M. said...

Hey Adam--

Email me at and let me know when you're coming and where you're staying.

Anonymous said...

thanks, matt. will do.

i found a link with a small photo of one of the signs i mentioned in DC. apparently the signs are part of their self-guided walking tours. these would be perfect for saint louis.

scroll down to "Washington, DC Walking Tours".

i'll try to post my (better) photo on flickr this evening and link it.

Ryan said...

Hi Matt, I've been following your blog for a few months now, and I just wanted to say welcome to Baltimore. I hope you are enjoying your time here.

Ryan said...

@Adam: If you haven't already come Baltimore, I would suggest checking out the Pagoda in Patterson Park. The top level provides great views of the surrounding neighborhoods, downtown, and harbor. It's open 12-6 Sundays, and it's free.

Doug Duckworth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

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