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Trip Report To the 'Lou: A brief report on St. Louis

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Who: My husband (32) and Me (31);

Where: St. Louis, Missouri;
Logistics: American Airlines CLT-ORD- STL ($189 rd trip/per person); Hotel: Moonrise in Delmar Loop (Pricelined for $80/night- with taxes, fees, etc, 2 nights totaled $195).

Why: Our main purpose of going to Saint Louis was to visit my husband's grandparents (they visit us and his parents in CLT at least once a year). Although he grew up outside of Saint Louis, he had not been back in 10+ years. As we have now been together for 6 years (and the last time I was in Saint Louis was about 25 years ago), it was important to me to see where he came from and what the 'Lou is all about.

In my short time there, I found Saint Louis to be a conundrum. The Arch standing with great dignity on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi; it has long represented the gateway to America's Western frontier; giving hope and promise of a better future for those willing to work hard and endure all the trials of the Wild West. Now, that same Arch is surrounded by dilapidated, empty warehouses where the American dream was once built piece by piece by hardworking Midwesterners. The dream, once crafted in those buildings, no longer exists, but the heart and deterimination of the Midwesterner remains. Industry may have left for Asia and Anheuser-Busch may have sold out to foreign investors, but the people of Saint Louis haven't given up- not yet.

You can see the resolve of the people in the rebirth of areas like Soulaurd, Delmar Loop, and Laclede's Landing. You can see the city's committment to citizens and visitors with the MetroLink. You can feel the pride on opening day in the new Anheuser-Busch stadium. Yes, Saint Louis has a long way to go- turn the wrong corner and you could end up in a very, very bad neighborhood- but, it's getting there. Beneath it's gritty exterior, lies a great city worthy of a visit.

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    Upon arriving in Saint Louis on Thursday, March 31,2011, we found our way to the upperlevel and the MetroLink station (it can be confusing, so pay attention to the signs). $7 bought us an all-day pass and we hopped aboard the train heading into Saint Louis. The MetroLink is a well-planned, yet simple, train that goes from the airport through Saint Louis, hitting all the major tourist stops, and continuing into Illinois. There are only 2 lines, so it is easy to use if your destination is along the line.

    Our hotel was the Moonrise in Delmar Loop- 2 blocks from the MetroLink. The hotel was great- especially for $80 a night! The staff was courteous, the room was nice, the rooftop bar was awesome. Although it is next door to several live music venues and the rooftop bar is a popular scene, it was quiet and secure. You had to use your room key to access your floor and, at night, they close the doors from the elevators to the room corridors with signs posted to remind guests to be quiet as they head to their rooms late at night. We would definitely stay there again and would recommend the hotel to others.

    Back to our arrival: got off at the MetroLink Station in Delmar Loop, walked the short 2 blocks to our hotel, but our room wasn't ready for check in- it was 10:45a. As it was opening day for the Cardinals (it was completely sold out and we couldn't get tickets) and we wanted to be near the stadium by game time (3pm), we had some time to kill.

    I had heard that the best Saint Louis Barbecue was at a place called Pappy's Smokehouse near SLU. Rumor had it that Pappy's only makes a certain amount of Barbecue and once they are sold out, it is gone until the next day. As they open at 11am, I thought it to be in our best interest to go ahead and go there for lunch to make sure we didn't miss out on any deliciousness. The front desk hailed us a cab and off we went in search of good eats.

    By the time we arrived, it was about 11:20am. Every table in the place was full; the line wrapped all the way through the building and out the back door. Clearly, this must be THE place for barbecue if it's this packed at 11:20 in the morning.

    With each plate that passed by as we waited in line, we were getting hungrier and hungrier. Finally, it felt like an eternity but it was only 20 minutes later, we were at the front of the line ordering a half rack of ribs, a beef brisket sandwich, greenbeans, and baked beans. Magically, right after we ordered, a table opened up and we were seated.

    The people at Pappy's are operations geniuses. You can't sit down at a table until you order your food, there is only one register taking orders, and there seem to be a perfect amount of tables. Thus, there is no long wait for a table or people hunting tables. You wait in line, you order, you sit, they call out your name to deliver your food, you eat, you leave at your leisure, and then the cycle starts with the next customers. It was a well oiled machine, but back to the food...

    It was spectacular, some of the best I have ever eaten. I will make it a point to go back to Pappy's and tell everyone I know how great it is. Add it to the must list if you're in Saint Louis.

    A long walk around SLU to burn off a small portion of the calories consumed and then a cab ride back to the Loop. We checked in and got ready for the game.

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    People in Saint Louis bleed red- not just any red, but Cardinals red. It is a baseball town in every sense. From the minute we landed at the airport, everyone we saw was dressed in Red- from head to toe- Cardinals hats, Cardinals shirts, Cardinals bags. When I say everyone, I mean everyone: black, white, yellow, rich, poor, homeless- everyone was donned in Cardinals' gear, ready for opening day.

    The new Busch Stadium is along the MetroLink line. When we first got on the MetroLink at the airport, we noticed the train was filling with fans who were bound for the parking lots and bars around the stadium- some 5 hours before the first pitch. When we left our hotel around 2pm to head to the Stadium, it was completely full- not a seat to be had and limited standing room- with fans talking about the team, the prospects for the season, and the unifying hatred of the Cubs. A short, fun, boisterous, 10 minutes later, we were at the Stadium stop.

    My husband and I did not have tickets to the game. This was a last minute trip and when I tried to buy tickets, there were very few to be had. We had hopes of scalping tickets, but only two guys were out selling tickets at above premium prices. We headed to Patty O's- a bar located right behind the stadium- to watch the game and drink cold beer with the rest of Cardinal nation. My husband felt at home amongst his fellow Cardinal fans- me? I love baseball and just enjoyed the experience of being there.

    In the 6th inning, we left to head back to Delmar Loop. We wanted to beat some of the crowds out on the MetroLink. An easy jaunt back to the Loop and we hunkered down at Blueberry Hill to watch the remainder of the game. Blueberry Hill, Chuck Berry's joint, I am told, was a great place to grab a beer and watch the game go into extra innings. We didn't eat there, but they serve cold beer. Although the Cards lost, it was a fun afternoon to be in Saint Louis.

    To end the evening, we grabbed dinner across from Blueberry Hill at Ranoush. It's a middle eastern restaurant and we had an awesome sampler of tabbouleh, babbaganouche, hummus, homemade bread, falafel and more- forgive me if I butchered the spelling. It was wonderful- a small, cozy place. I would recommend it and would definitely go back. After dinner, it was back to the hotel to tuck in for the night.

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    Enjoyable report by and large thus far.

    Re this statement: "...that same Arch is surrounded by dilapidated, empty warehouses...", doesn't jive with what I remember about the Arch. The Arch is in fact situated within a large and well kept-up green park, which is framed on three sides by interstate highways and on one side by the Mississippi River. North of this is Laclede's Landing, which has turned any such remaining buildings that might have fit this description into happening dining and night spots as well as other businesses. West of this are the Old Cathedral, Old Courthouse, Kiener Plaza, and several hotels and other businesses in downtown. Maybe that's true south of this park space? Or maybe this is all meant figuratively?

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    Excellent report. I plan to show this to my husband who was born and raised in St. Louis. He is a die-hard Cardinal baseball fan. He remembers Stan the Man, Bob Gibson and all the other great hall of fame-ers the Cardinals have produced. They do support their team. When we go to a Padre home game against the Cardinals - half (maybe more than half) the stadium is filled with dressed in red Cardinal fans! They are fans for life.

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    Interspersed with the warehouse and buildings that have been "redone", if you will, are still several that are empty and boarded up. Laclede's landing has been redone very well, but one block over, for example, is this once beautiful old electric building that has broken windows and looks to have been vacant for years. When we were walking and driving around, it would be one building vibrant and filled and the next empty and abandoned. I just hope a developer comes in and repurposes these grand old buidings. You hate to see such things go to waste...

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    Friday, April 1, 2011:

    The next morning, we were up and at'em early. We went back to the airport via MetroLink to pick up our rental car for the day. As my husband's grandparents live about 45 minutes out Highway 30, we would definitely need a car. Although we prefer to use public transportation in cities, Saint Louis is very spread out and most of it is not accessible on the MetroLink. I didn't have the energy to figure out the bus routes, so a rental car was our best option. (Enterprise: about $50 for a large Tahoe to be returned Saturday morning before our flight out).

    I won't bore you with the details of family visits and the tour we undertook of my husband's old stomping grounds, reliving of the transgretions of his youth. It was a wonderful day and his grandparents were so excited to have breakfast and lunch with us. It was nice for me to see where my husband spent his childhood. We were long overdue and I am so glad we had the opportunity to go.

    That afternoon, we ventured around Laclede's landing and Soulard. We didn't take the tour of Anheuser-Busch, but it was still pretty amazing to see from the outside. We plan to take the tour the next time we're in town.

    That evening, we met up with some old high school friends at Cisnero's in the Loop (food was fine, LOTS of cold beer on draught, not the best service). Later, we ventured out to the bars in Soulard for more cocktails and old war stories. Finishing with a nightcap at the rooftop bar at the Moonrise. A great day and night with great people- what more can you ask for?

    The next morning, we were up at the crack of dawn with a slight headache from the cocktails and lack of sleep. We made it to Enterprise to return our car, back to the airport, and through security in no time at all: one of the pluses of traveling early on a Saturday morning. Flight left STL on time, arrived in ORD early. We grabbed some Garrett's popcorn and waited for our flight. An hour later, we were on our way back to CLT.

    It was a quick, but wonderful trip. We'll be back, of that I am sure. However, there won't be 10+ years between visits this time.

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    Thanks for your trip report on St. Louis, I'm glad you had a good time here.

    I would have to agree with bachslunch in that your impression of the area around the Arch is somewhat off. The land where the Arch currently sits was a vibrant area with warehouses. If it had been rehabbed, instead of torn down for the Arch, it would have mostly resembled New Orleans. The building of the Arch and the interstates downtown separated the Arch grounds from downtown. They've been arguing about a fix for that for a couple of decades!

    What is left of that vibrant warehouse district is Laclede's Landing which is full of bars, restaurants and the newish Lumière Place Casino and complex. I have to say I haven't been to the Landing in at least 15 years.

    Yes, redevelopment in the downtown area has been full of starts and stops. It's horrible that the old Busch stadium was torn down with promises to create a vibrant "ball park village" in time for the 2009 All Star game - it still sits there as a grassy field. But a recent success has been the rehab of the Cupples warehouse buildings (I think there are 9 of them)...into a hotel (Westin) and many loft apts. There are still others waiting to be finished, but it has been a great re-use of old warehouses in downtown.

    Pappy's was a great choice for lunch, but perhaps not on opening day. It's always busy, but I'm sure it was that crowded with people heading to the game.

    Glad you enjoyed the Moonrise. Joe Edwards, who owns Blueberry Hill, as well as the Pageant and the Pin-up Bowl in the Loop, did a great job in the development of the Moonrise. And Chuck Berry does play at B-hill once a month, a very hard to get ticket.

    Sounds like you had a nice visit with your husbands grandparents and that a future visit may be in order. Come back and ask questions next time, there are several posters here who live in St. Louis (not "the Lou"...I hate that expression but that's just me :) we'll be happy to help out.

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