Up your Lou IQ with a guided tour of the city's best nabes

It's a holiday week. You're tired of being cooped up with your relatives. You've gotta get out of the house, find something cool to do, get your mind off all this Yuletide cheer -- and it wouldn't be a bad idea to exercise a little and work off all that eggnog.

The perfect solution: a walking tour. So what if temperatures are dipping into the single digits these days? Frostbite be damned! And besides, haven't you finally resolved to appreciate this fine city and revel in all its historical, architectural and folkloric grandeur?

Here to help is Melanie Harvey and her company, Daytripper Walking Tours. Harvey plans, schedules and leads custom-made neighborhood walking tours, as well as area expeditions via public transit. Whatever parts of town float your boat, Harvey is happy to design a tour through and around them. Her most popular nabes include the Central West End (encompassing the Chase Park Plaza and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, among other landmarks), Soulard (and its next-door LaSalle Park enclave), South Grand, Benton Park (with possible pit stops at both historic breweries there), Midtown, Lafayette Square and downtown.

In digging up dirt on St. Louis history, Harvey leaves few stones (or, more appropriately, red bricks) unturned. For example, betcha don't know what "ripple row" is, huh? Don't worry, we didn't either: It's the name for that row of connected red-brick townhouses on Soulard's South 12th Street, near the Mad Art Gallery. This row is so named because its bay-window structures give a wavy effect to the building's façade.

Harvey says her tours have been enjoyed by out-of-towners looking for links to family stories, history buffs reveling in Lewis & Clark folklore, and St. Louis newcomers hoping to learn more about the city's distinct neighborhoods -- but we all could stand to learn a little more about St. Louis.

Tours can last from one to three hours, and they cost $15 per tour-goer with a $20 minimum per tour. For more information visit; to request a tour, call 314-367-3098 or e-mail [email protected].

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