The St. Louis metropolitan region, with a population of about 2.8 million, is the 16th largest urban area in the United States. It is a friendly midwestern city, easy to navigate, and with just a touch of southern charm.
Founded in 1764 by Pierre Laclede and Auguste Choteau, St. Louis sits on the Mississippi River, not far from the confluence where the Missouri River flows in from the west. In 1803, the Lewis and Clark expedition set out from that point travelled up the Missouri to explore the vast territory just acquired by the Louisiana Purchase. St. Louis is often called the "Gateway to the West."
The Mathematics Department is on the Danforth Campus, the main campus of Washington University, about 7 miles from the Mississippi on the western edge of the City of St. Louis. It is bordered on three sides by suburban neighborhoods.
To the east, within a few hundred yards of the Department's home in Cupples Hall, sits Forest Park, one of the largest urban parks in the United States. Larger than Central Park in New York City, it is a haven for bicyclists and joggers. There are tennis courts and three 9-hole golf courses that can be paired together to provide different golfing experiences. Within the park you can also find the St. Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Science Center (which also contains the James S. McDonnell Planetarium), and one of the finest zoos in America.
At the eastern edge of Forest Park is the Washington University Medical School and associated hospitals. Bordering the medical school campus is the Central West End, a trendy and cosmopolitan neighborhood full of old mansions, fine restaurants, sidewalk cafes, shops and galleries. It is also home to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, with some of the most stunning mosaic work in the Western hemisphere.
From the Danforth Campus, a 10 minute walk north arrives at the "Delmar Loop," a neighborhood with a very diverse local flavor and frequented by students. It is home to the restored Tivoli Theatre, the Pageant concert nightclub, the St. Louis Walk of Fameand the landmark Blueberry Hill. There are several blocks of affordable restaurants and bistros, galleries, shops, and entertainment. About a mile to the west of the main campus is Clayton, where there are also numerous shops and excellent restaurants.
A short trip into the city gets you to one of the "crown jewels" of St. Louis: the Missouri Botanical Garden -- a 79 acre urban oasis, 14 of which make up a beautiful Japanese strolling garden. The Botanical Garden is also home to the Climatron, the first geodesic dome to be used as a conservatory, and a wide array of other special gardens and exhibits. Each summer the Garden sponsors the outdoor Whitaker Music Festival, and it maintains the Shaw Nature Reserve, about an hour's drive from the city. The Garden is also an internationally known center for botanical research.
A bit further east, about halfway between the Danforth Campus and the Mississippi is Grand Center -- a concentrated area for the arts, music and theatre including the Fabulous Fox and Powell Hall, home of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
A few more miles to the east is downtown and the banks of the Mississippi River where the St. Louis Gateway Arch stands in theJefferson Memorial National Expansion Memorial. Downtown St. Louis is full of interesting places to visit including the relatively new Citygarden, the uniquely eccentric City Museum, the "Old Cathedral" (the first cathedral west of the Mississippi, officially called the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France), and the cobble-stoned riverfront entertainment area known as Laclede's Landing, the birthplace of the city. Visitors also often take in the Eads Bridge, historic Union Station or one of the riverfront casinos. In recent years, the downtown area has experienced growth with redevelopment of the old garment district into the St. Louis Loft District.
Just south of downtown, the historic Soulard neighborhood offers historic homes, restaurants, bars and music, the Soulard Farmers' Market, and each spring, one of the largest Mardi Gras celebrations outside New Orleans.
St. Louis is a major sports venue. The St. Louis Cardinals have their home downtown at Busch Stadium; the National Hockey League St. Louis Blues play at Scottrade Center; and the NFL St. Louis Rams season is based at the Edward Jones Dome.
St. Louis is also a culturally rich region. Scott Joplin, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Tina Turner, and many other popular artists have made their homes in St. Louis. There are large venue concerts around the area at places like Scottrade Center and Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre. The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is one of the country's best, and each spring Opera Theater of St. Louis offers a vibrant selection of performances. The renovated Peabody Opera House will reopen for its encore season in fall 2011. St. Louis has chamber music ensembles, dance, the Union Avenue Opera and a large selection of theatre companies.
St. Louis is a easy-going and likeable place, with moderate costs of living, many ethnic restaurants and a lot to enjoy. An added convenience for students at Washington University is that parts of St. Louis -- including the downtown, the Central West End, Washington University, and Lambert-St. Louis International Airport -- are connected by a modern light rail system called Metrolink. There are Metrolink stations at two corners of the Danforth Campus.