Recharging creative battery in St. Louis
February 22, 2008 4:29 PM   Subscribe

I have decided that this April I want to take a trip to St. Louis, MO. I don’t know anything about St. Louis, which is exactly why I want to go. I don’t know anyone from there, or anyone who has been there. I was wondering if anyone could possibly suggest a good part of St. Louis I could make my temporary home.

Posted for a friend:

I am an occasional writer, and sometimes I get so caught up in day-to-day stuff that I totally lose my mojo. So, every four years or so, I like to take a 2-week break from everything in my life and go somewhere I have never been, all by myself, just to clear my head and be someplace new… and hopefully to get inspired and do some writing. I like to stay in one place and get a feel for one area of the city. No “sightseeing” per se… I like being in one section or district and act like I live there.

I like being in areas that have a lot of “cool” activity, as these areas have the most personality. When I went to Seattle, I spent most of my time on Capitol Hill. When I went to Phoenix, I spent most of my time in Tempe on Mill Avenue. When I went to New York I stayed in the Hell’s Kitchen area. When I went to San Francisco I lived in the Mission District, which was the best. I live in LA – if I were to come here, I would probably spend my time in Santa Monica or Venice, probably on Lincoln Boulevard or Abbott Kinney.

Thanks for any advice!
posted by Kloryne to Travel & Transportation around St. Louis, MO (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

I guess I'd recommend the South Grand area. It's got a lot of cool restaurants and bars and young people, but lacks the yuppie feel of the Central West End and the frat party atmosphere that you can run into in Soulard. Both of those are worthy neighborhoods too, though. South Grand has Tower Grove Park, a definite bonus, though the CWE has Forest Park, which is even bigger. I'd recommend having a car if you're going to be in St. Louis. I never felt like it was a city where I could stay in one neighborhood and get all of the things I needed/ wanted or do all of the things I wanted to do. And, since the public transit system is sorely lacking, you'll probably have to drive from neighborhood to neighborhood. Or bike. I guess I rode my bike a lot when the weather was good.
Shoot me a MeFiMail for further advice from a twenty-something who lived and taught in StL for two years.
posted by PhatLobley at 5:00 PM on February 22, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks mynameismandab - I checked those out initially - ok, I skimmed them :) - but I guess I felt most of the advice seemed geared toward sight-seeing. However, I missed the "Great place to live in St. Louis" one. I'll send that to my buddy.
posted by Kloryne at 5:00 PM on February 22, 2008

I would pick Webster Groves, Kirkwood, Maplewood, or certain parts of University City to live in. They are centrally located (close to the city, and not very far from the state parks and Six flags out in SW county), somewhat cheap depending on the areas, and pretty safe. All of them have a small town feel, especially kirkwood and webster groves. Many stores and restaurants are within walking distance.
posted by sixcolors at 5:40 PM on February 22, 2008

Look at the U-city area if you can swing it. The loop, Wash U, Forest Park, Central West End are all right there.
posted by chrisamiller at 5:48 PM on February 22, 2008

Public transportation in STL is not THAT bad, depending on your needs. The metrolink takes you to many popular STL attractions. There are two routes. One goes from the airport from north STL county all the way to the metro east in ILL. The second and newer one goes from the webster/maplewood area and merges with the original route. I would recommend that you go during the daytime, or with a bunch of friends at night.
posted by sixcolors at 5:48 PM on February 22, 2008

I preferred living in the Central West End as opposed to the South Grand area. It's more yuppie, for sure, but I used to live above a 24-hour coffee shop around the corner from a library down the street from an upscale grocery store two blocks away from a movie theater inside a very nice hotel (you're also five or six blocks from one of the best hosiptals in the country). There are plenty of places to eat and drink, including great Italian, Jewish deli and Irish pubs. I would go happy weeks without using my car, a near-impossible task in St. Louis.
posted by Bookhouse at 6:47 PM on February 22, 2008

Seconding South Grand. You're in a very walkable neighborhood, and within reach of light rail, downtown, Soulard, the Central West End, and Forest Park. If you want to get out to the 'burbs, it's got easy access to the interstates. I've lived in U. City Loop area, South Grand, and Soulard, and spent a lot of time in the CWE. I think I'd move back to South Grand before any of the others (Tower Grove Park & the Botanical Gardens are pretty much all I need). YMMV, of course. Email's in the profile if you have more specific questions.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:48 PM on February 22, 2008

University City Loop or Central West End (CWE), with Soulard as a wild card.

The Loop would be my first choice if I was relocating to St. Louis, but perhaps because I've spent my share of time in the CWE and Soulard, and would like a larger taste of the Loop.

The CWE is near the western edge of St. Louis proper, just before the city gives way to the large expanse of suburban St. Louis County. I've always felt the CWE radiates from the intersection of Maryland & Euclid, an area of restaurants, shops, galleries and a few high-rise hotels. The largest mosaic collection in the world is to the east at the New Cathedral, and to the southwest you'll find Forest Park (site of the 1904 Worlds Fair and 500 acres larger than Central Park in NYC). Twenty years ago the area was funkier, but new development has homogenized bits and pieces. It has dozens of sidewalk cafes, most of which I adored during the three years I worked there.

The U-City (or Delmar) Loop has grown from a semi-seedy place to become a entertainment hub. Lots of restaurants (with more ethic diversity than the CWE), a few theatres, a high-end bowling alley and a younger feel (I think) with nearby Washington University. I visit here often, but don't know about lodging--- no hotels/motels that I know of, but perhaps B&Bs or temporary "student" housing is available.

Soulard can be a real hoot. It's the site of the annual Mardi Gras and has its share of restaurants and bars, a big farmer's market and I'm pretty sure there are a couple of B&Bs here. It's just south of downtown-- close enough for easy adventure. It's got a seedier element to it, perhaps the slightest whiff of New Orleans due to its French heritage, and certainly home to a lower income bracket than the CWE.

A previous poster mentioned Kirkwood, which is certainly nice, but a bit suburban for my tastes. The CWE can be overburdened with upper-crust visiting art galleries at lunchtime, but that can be offset by the stray transvestite or panhandler, so I think it evens out.

South Grand was also mentioned, and has a lot going for it. I'm just not sure I could live there for two weeks... I lived in various nearby places for decades, and I have a slightly uneasy feeling when I visit at night. Could be personal phobias and old ghosts, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt.

Your writer friend won't find the Mission District or Hell's Kitchen in St. Louis, but he/she just might have an interesting few weeks of diversion.
posted by F Mackenzie at 6:49 PM on February 22, 2008

If you end up choosing the University City Loop (where I live, but unfortunately have no room to put someone up), you'll probably want to check for a place to stay your two weeks. There currently are no real hotels or B&Bs that I know of, apart from Washington University's Knight Center (where business guests generally stay on campus). They're working on a hotel across Skinker above The Pageant concert venue, but it's not open yet that I know of.

The Central West End might be best for you in terms of having a lot of things, both new and historic, upper-crust and decidedly lowbrow, within walking distance.

There's also another area no one's mentioned (at least not that I saw) kind of adjunct to South Grand: Cherokee Street. That's kind of a burgeoning, up-and-coming area. It's still a little sleepy, though.
posted by limeonaire at 9:39 AM on February 23, 2008

I have a slightly uneasy feeling when I visit at night.

Yeah, I suppose in the interest of full disclosure I should mention that my friend got mugged and shot (in the leg, he's okay) outside of another friend's house in South Grand. But I lived there too and never felt unsafe. I think that kind of thing is liable to happen in just about any part of St. Louis, which has its seriously struggling north side.
posted by PhatLobley at 9:40 AM on February 23, 2008

Yeah, when I lived off South Grand, both my car and my roommate's car got stolen within the space of two months. Of course, if you live in St. Louis, you need to own The Club no matter what.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:45 AM on February 23, 2008

Seconding the Loop and South Grand. Back when I lived in STL, I spent pretty much all my time in these two areas. The Loop would probably give you a younger crowd, as well as more weekend tourists from the 'burbs. South Grand is more of "the real deal" - it's where all of the artsy people live and hang out. If I were to move back to STL, this is undoubtedly where I'd want to live.

I never spent any time in the CWE - it was always a bit yuppie for my tastes, although perhaps now that I'm older I'd appreciate it more.

Webster Groves and Kirkwood? WTF? I guess if you're looking for a place to start a family or something. But I wouldn't recommend either area to tourists or people looking for fun.

And yeah, STL can be a bit sketch. Follow all the normal rules for urban survival and you'll be fine.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:47 AM on February 23, 2008

For real, speaking as someone who lived in Webster Groves for 2 years, he'll get bored in Webster Groves or Kirkwood after about 36 hours.

I'd say the Loop, if you can find a place to stay there, for all of the reasons listed above. And if not the Loop, then the CWE.
posted by Quidam at 2:13 AM on February 24, 2008

Let me clarify. I think webster and kirkwood are nice places to LIVE, being that they are close to the city, but much safer. Otherwise, I definately agree with you guys, the loop, CWE, and south grand are better places to hang out.
posted by sixcolors at 8:33 AM on February 24, 2008

Response by poster: FROM THE QUESTION ASKERER:

THANK YOU! OK, so CWE, The Delmar Loop, South Grand… and maybe Cherokee Street as a diversion if I get curious… That’s a huge, massive, silly-crazy help. It sounds to me like St. Louis might be a perfect place for this little adventure of mine. Not sure where to land, but this certainly narrows things down to a manageable state. Please thank the people on Metafilter for their advice for me!

(And some other personal stuff I decided to leave off. Heh. Thanks so much you all.)
posted by Kloryne at 9:29 PM on February 29, 2008

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