Known since the early days as the “Gateway City” because of its access to transportation routes in all directions, St. Louis continues to be an important center of commerce and culture for the Mississippi River Basin. The area includes a broad assortment of mostly residential neighborhoods to the west and the more industrial East St. Louis and several agricultural counties on the Illinois side of the river. For years the downtown area had few highlights outside of the landmark Gateway Arch and the restored Union Station. The population of the city itself had declined gradually for decades, and most of the infrastructure had declined as people moved into the suburbs or away altogether. But more recently, the downtown has started to come back, with new residential facilities and reclaimed warehouse lofts downtown anchored by new sports venues. Similar restorations are going on in other important inner neighborhoods.
The St. Louis area is known for its parks, and the flagship is Forest Park, the 1,300-acre site of the 1904 World’s Fair, now the location of several high-quality museums. To the west lies a patchwork of mostly quiet, shady neighborhoods, including the University City area, home to the highly rated Washington University. Grittier neighborhoods lie to the north of the city, and good family neighborhoods lie along the I-70 corridor to the northwest across the Missouri River and around the I-270 beltway. St. Louis offers plenty of urban and suburban living choices, and home prices and living costs are quite reasonable for this type of city. The diverse economy is led by such companies as Anheuser-Busch, McDonnell-Douglas (now a part of Boeing), Monsanto, and a number of other manufacturing, distribution and service firms. Due to acquisitions and some relocations, the area is less prominent as a corporate headquarters than in the past, and projected job growth is modest. There is some concern about the auto industry in particular; there are four auto assembly plants in the area.
The St Louis area has a very strong base of cultural and entertainment amenities for a city its size. A number of amenities are directed at children, and St. Louis in general is considered a good place to raise a family. Other advantages include a highly educated population for a large city and popular professional sports teams- MLB Cardinals, NFL Rams, and NHL Blues- which are accessible and inexpensive by national standards. Violent crime rates have dropped significantly. Some may not like the hot, humid summer weather and air quality could be better.
The city is located on a plain on the west bank of the Mississippi River with gently rolling hills and undulating plains rising to the west, and mostly level terrain to the east. Hilly areas are wooded and level areas are mainly farmland. The continental climate is affected by warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and cold air masses from Canada, the mixing of which produces a variety of weather conditions and four distinct seasons. During summer, Gulf air tends to dominate, producing warm, humid conditions. Temperatures of 90 or higher are common. Winters are brisk and stimulating, but prolonged periods of extreme cold are rare. Temperatures of zero or below are infrequent. Summer thunderstorms are common and sometimes severe. Spring is the wettest season. Snow is infrequent, with measurable snowfall on 5 to 10 days in most years. First freeze is mid-October, last is mid-April.