You may have heard of Ferguson, Missouri—the St. Louis suburb whose name has become shorthand for racial strife in America. Well, contrary to the apocalyptic images that circled the globe last year, Ferguson offers a charming, walkable downtown lined with restaurants, shops and visitor-friendly attractions just minutes from the Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri St. Louis and Lambert Airport. The action is centered along Florissant Rd. north of I-70 (not to be confused with West Florissant Rd., which is, confusingly, east of Florissant Rd.). Here are five great things to do in Ferguson, now the most famous burb of St. Louis:
1. The Challenger Learning Center provides simulated space missions, science education and teambuilding programs for students, corporations and the general public. Anyone six and up can participate in a Simulated Space Mission, which replicates what it's like to go on a mission to the moon, Mars or a comet, either aboard a space station or at Mission Control. $15, reservations required. 205 Brotherton Lane, Ferguson (off Florissant Rd), 314.521.6205.
2. It's all local growers who bring their goods to the Saturday-morning Ferguson Farmers Market, including Ferguson's own Earthdance Farms. And besides lots of fresh produce (much of it organic), there are eggs, meat, cheese, baked goods, chefs demos, souvenirs, crafts, and live music. The complete experience. 20 S. Florissant Rd., Ferguson.
3. Ferguson celebrates the rail line that bisects the city at the Whistle Stop, housed in a former train depot that looks like a mini-museum inside. The menu features railroad-themed sandwiches and locally famous frozen custard. 1 Carson Rd., Ferguson, 314.521.1600.
4. For lovers of Italian cuisine, Vincenzo's delivers the classics, like fettucini carbonara, chicken speidini, spaghetti Bolognese, plus seafood, steaks, and sandwiches. 242 S. Florissant Rd., Ferguson, 314.524.7888.
5. End the day at Cork Wine Bar, the charming little dispenser of drinks and small bites, with more than 100 wines, local, draft and import beers and signature martinis. Raise a glass to Ferguson! 423 S. Florissant Rd., Ferguson, 314.521.9463.