ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis is turning 250 this year, and visitors who want to join in the celebration can find plenty to do without spending a dime.
The Gateway City was founded by Pierre Laclede and Auguste Chouteau on Feb. 15, 1764. A series of anniversary events are planned throughout the year. Some are serious, including a reenactment of the founding on Feb. 15 at the Laclede's Landing area on the Mississippi Riverfront downtown. Others are more whimsical, like a "Burnin' Love" festival in which 250 couples are expected to become engaged on Valentine's Day.
Amid the hoopla, there's plenty to do for free, including visits to one of the world's biggest breweries, two popular animal attractions, a science center and a towering monument that has come to define St. Louis.
The iconic Arch, built as a monument to westward expansion, stands 630 feet tall (192 meters) along the banks of the Mississippi River. For a fee, visitors can ride a tram to the top of the Arch and gaze over downtown St. Louis to the west or the cornfields of Illinois to the east.
But many attractions at and around the Arch are free. That includes the Museum of Westward Expansion in the basement of the Arch, focusing on life in the West in the 1800s. Visitors can also wander the expansive Arch grounds, where a multi-million dollar upgrade project is under way and expected to be completed by 2016.
Also free are visits to the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis, also operated by the National Park Service. The courthouse was the site of the famous Dred Scott case that played a role in eventually freeing the slaves.
Construction of the Arch, designed Eero Saarinen, began in 1963. The final piece connecting the two legs was installed in 1965, and the Arch opened to visitors on May 25, 1968.
ANHEUSER-BUSCH BREWERY TOUR
The Busch family sold Anheuser-Busch to the Belgian brewer InBev in 2008, but the massive brewery remains an integral part of St. Louis, making some of the nation's best-selling brews, including Budweiser and Bud Light.
The complimentary tours are open to visitors of all ages — but only those 21 and older can taste the finished product after the tour. Younger visitors get soft drinks.
Visitors not only get a glimpse of how the beer is made but see the Budweiser Clydesdales, kept at stables on the brewery site.