Following old Route 66 back downtown, we stop for a nightcap at the Venice Cafe, another gotta-see-this St. Louis design. Every square inch of the outdoor patio is plastered with the flotsam and jetsam of pop culture, from plastic trolls to street signs. A palm reader works the crowd. We're too beat to fork over $5 just to mock. Another time.

SUNDAY MORNING and the Arch, half enveloped in clouds, could be called the Pillars. We consider riding its trippy, '60s sci-fi elevator capsules, but a large group of Clarkies, as Lewis and Clark zealots are known, have descended to commemorate the expedition's bicentennial, so we motor north along the Mississippi to the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, a mile-long overpass once part of Route 66 but now open only to pedestrians and cyclists. So long, St. Louis. You're the perfect city for a quick getaway - unexpected and effortless. Not to mention a cheap date.

the tally

here's how we spent our $499-for-a-weekend-in-st.-louis dollars and still managed to have 20 cents left over.

lodging: $160.29
millennium hotel st. louis, (314) 241-9500, rooms from $59.

dining/entertainment: $217.34
bb's jazz, blues & soups, (314) 436-5222, entry $5.

boathouse in forest park, (314) 367-2224, sandwiches from $7.

broadway oyster bar, (314) 621-8811, en­­try $5.

cabin inn the city and city museum, (314) 231-2489,,
bar no cover, museum $7.50.
n chez léon, (314) 361-1589. three courses $32.

city diner, (314) 772-6100,