Notes from St. Louis

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If you are under the age of 30, you should run if you ever hear this phrase : “XXXX” is a great place to raise a family. St. Louis is one of those places, and unless you are visiting somebody that’s down with a scene and knows the happening spots, you should pick a place that has more going on, both socially and architecturally. But if you have a family, by all means, indulge in all the fear-free frolicking that this city has to offer. Just stay out of North St. Louis.

The benefits of St. Louis are

a) There is always parking. If you paid to park your car, you got fooled.

b) Things are cheaper there. A decent sized meal will be under $10, and that’s if you even eat a full meal. I found people who eat full meals few and far between. People here are constantly eating on-the-go. Snack food and pop are everywhere. Dinner is at the Quaker hour of 4-5 PM (at least for the people with whom I was staying–Yes, this was a family trip).

Some people here think of themselves as somehow better than people on the East or West coasts because St. Louis is a cheaper city. That is, if you can even call it a city. There is one 24-hour coffee shop, and the corner store down the street from where I was staying (South St. Louis) sells crack pipes and knives. It was also sandwiched between 2 currency exchanges. Sound sketchy ? It was. That’s another thing about St. Louis–it’s hit or miss, and when you miss, you miss by a long shot.

I’ve heard travelers rave about the soul food, the barbecue, and the kind people in STL. I guess all those things exist, but when I travel, I look for culture, diversity, and aesthetic appeal. I did not find these things in St. Louis.

My favorite part of the trip was my visit to the City Museum. On the way there, I saw a giant meditating bunny called the “Earth Rabbit” in a square. I wanted to get closer, but the museum was calling my name. The outside of the St. Louis City Museum has an industrial design with tubes, slides, and ropes to climb on for kids and adults alike. The late Bob Cassilly built the museum in 1997, and it became the hottest thing since St. Louis fried chicken. I can understand why–it was the coolest thing I had seen in St. Louis. I went down the 10-story slide, saw the aquarium upstairs, avoided the generic cafe, and climbed through the tubes and tunnels until it was time for lunch.

Fishtastic Museum Theme

Fishtastic Museum Theme

My last lunch was at Soulard‘s Coffee Garden in one of the old French neighborhoods where they hold Mardi Gras every year. I got the Veggie Bennie and must admit that it was a decadent vegetarian version of the classic eggs Benedict. The Highlander Grog was a hazelnut infused coffee that attempted to be Scottish and failed miserably. The Scottish drink espressos, not Americanos.

If someone asked me if I like St. Louis, my answer would be a resounding “No.” This family-friendly area is neither big nor beautiful, and outside of Washington Street, the environment is shockingly suburban. But if you like small-town charm, less crowds, and Midwestern openness, then this is the place for you. Oh, and the Budweiser brewery calls St. Louis home.

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