Category Archives: Travel Guides

A Newbie's Travel Guide to Detroit

Editor’s note: This post comes from Eric Noyes, who lives outside of Detroit.

Friends and family looked at me dumbfounded and slack-jawed when I told them I was moving to Detroit. “No one moves to Detroit, people move away from Detroit.”  But not too long ago people were arriving to the Motor City in droves. What happened, what went wrong, where are the jobs? My guess is that it wasn’t just one thing.

Detroit isn’t the first city I have called home that most people would consider “depressed.” In the last 15 years I have called Buffalo, Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Columbus, and now Detroit home. Each city is unique and deserves to be visited, enjoyed, and respected. And each city has taught me that you cannot judge them based on first impressions; it takes time to find the gems or a guide. Maybe after a weekend you won’t think it is that crazy to move to Detroit.

When people come to visit, one of the first requests is usually to see the bad parts of the city, and this is the easiest request to check off. Detroit’s blight isn’t hidden or tucked away; it is on display for all to see. Almost proud of its scars, they are on every street in every neighborhood. The iconic Michigan Central Station beams as a beacon of blight as you approach Detroit from I-75. For those into decay porn, you probably already know this.

But along with the decay and hollowness, and often next to, there are some real treasures. The best place to stay to maximize your time is close to downtown. Most of the hotels are chains, and so if you aren’t into that sort of thing try, the Atheneum which is part of Greektown, or the St. Regis, which is part of Midtown. You will need a car: this is the Motor City, after all.

After checking in, you’re probably ready for a meal. Detroit is teeming with Coney Island restaurants. A Coney Island is a hot dog slathered with a chili-based sauce, topped with a variety of condiments. Like cheesesteaks in Philly people have tremendous loyalty to their favorite Coney Island. If you ask five people, you’ll get five answers. Coney Islands are budget-friendly and usually packed with Detroiters. At this point I should probably disclose that I am a vegan. And there are no vegan Coney Island establishments–yet.

Wake up early on Saturday and head to the Eastern Market. You will rub shoulders with Detroiters and suburbanites alike. This open-air marketplace is always buzzing with activity, whether it’s mid-December or mid-June, though Detroit is at its best in the summer. There are always plenty of tasty free samples and great people-watching at the market. If you need more substantial sustenance head to Russell Street Deli or Supino’s. Supino’s is great for thin crust pizza while Russell Street has excellent sandwiches and plenty of veg/vegan options. For something a bit more upscale, walk down to Roma Café, one of the oldest restaurants in Detroit, for Italian fare and great service.

One museum that you have to see is the Detroit Institute of Arts. This museum holds world-class fine art, including the amazing Diego Rivera murals depicting the inner workings of an automobile factory. It doesn’t get much more Detroit than that (wait–yes it does–you can still tour the River Rouge assembly plant on Saturdays). The DIA is located in Midtown and is within walking distance to many good restaurants, including one of the best and only vegetarian restaurants in town, called Se Va. For a more carnivore-friendly restaurant, try Wasabi, right next to the DIA. Wasabi offers Korean and Japanese fare, including sushi, and unlike most encompassing Asian restaurants, it actually does each variation well.

Hopefully you’ve planned your trip around one of the many Summer Festivals, like the Electronic Music Fest, Ho-down, Jazz Fest, or River Daze. There is hardly a weekend during the summer that doesn’t have something going on downtown, which makes your plans for the night a no-brainer. Besides these you can partake in one of the religious institutions celebrated in Detroit: Tigers, Lions, or Red Wings. But there is a new cult taking over: Detroit City Football Club. That is, the soccer kind of football. DCFC is a fourth division football club and made up of mostly Division A college players. When attending one of their home games at Cass Tech, be sure to stand with the supporters. Be advised you will hear colorful heckling, breathe smoke (not from cigarettes), and have a sporting experience unlike any you can have this side of the pond. After the game, head off with the hipsters to whichever bar is hosting the post-game party to continue the revelry.

For a night cap, Atwater Brewery is a great place to grab a beer. Jazzier individuals should check out CliffBell’s near the Fox theatre and the baseball park. Cliff Bell’s has live music and pricey drinks and is usually populated by couples. Neither bar really offers any pub grub so if you need something to soak up the libations head to Motor City Brewery and grab a pizza that’s better than you would think, coming from a bar.

That was a pretty packed Saturday, so sleep in a bit and then take a leisurely walk along the Riverwalk in downtown. This walkway hugs the Detroit River with great views of our Canadian neighbors. Runners, dog walkers, and bikers all use the Riverwalk.

Great Lakes Coffee will get you ready for the day. Great Lakes Coffee will remind you of your snarky, independent, hipster-filled, everyone-use-a-Mac coffee shop from back home. Avalon Bakery around the corner has a similar feel but with more edible options and less seating.

Belle Isle is the center of lot of controversy at the moment. This large city park might be sold/leased to the state of Michigan, which will take over the park and charge admission, with the promise of renovations and maintenance. This may make you think that Belle Isle is probably not a place to visit, but it’s actually one of the few things that anyone, including the state of Michigan, thinks is valuable–which is why the state is trying to buy it. The island sits in the Detroit River, offering great views of downtown Detroit and Windsor, Canada. Light traffic, trails, and an approximately six mile circumference make it ideal for runners, bikers, and dog people. If you’re traveling with children, Belle Isle is a great place, with a newly re-opened aquarium (although hours are limited), a small zoo, playgrounds, and a beach. Bring a picnic lunch and you are set.

More Food:

Roast – high end

Green Dot Stables – gourmet sliders

Slows BBQ – BBQ that is always busy

Orchid Thai – the peanut curry is great

Woodbridge Pub – seasonal menu with lots of meat/veg/vegan options

Al-Ameer – great Middle Eastern cuisine in Dearborn (the Detroit metro area is filled with amazing Middle EasternFood)

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The Epicenter of Craft Beer Brewing


In 2012, Grand Rapids, Michigan and Asheville, North Carolina tied in a nationwide vote as Beer City, USA. The Grand Rapids consolidated metropolitan area has no less than 19 craft breweries dotting its scenic West Michigan landscape and at least one more set to open soon.  According to these include:

·         B.O.B.’s Brewery

·         Brewery Vivant

·         Founders Brewing Co.

·         Harmony Brewing Co.

·         The Hideout Brewing Co.

·         HopCat

·         Grand  Rapids Brewing Co.

·         Jaden James Brewery

·         Michigan Beer Cellar (Sparta)

·         The Mitten Brewing Co.

·         New Holland Brewing Co. (Holland)

·         Old Boys’ Brewhouse (Spring Lake)

·         Perrin Brewing Co.

·         Pike 51 Brewing Co. (Hudsonville)

·         Rockford Brewing Co. (Rockford)

·         Saugatuck Brewing Co. (Douglas)

·         Schmohz Brewing, Co.

·         Waldorf Brew Pub (Hastings)

·         White Flame Brewing Co.  (Hudsonville)

As a result. Grand Rapids has been catapulted into the forefront of craft beer brewing on a worldwide scale and received the following additional accolades in 2012:

·         World’s 2nd best brewer (Founders) – per

·         World’s 3rd best beer bar (Hop Cat) – per Beer Advocate

·         Top 10 vacation city for beer lovers (with Kalamazoo) – per The Street

·         Top 25 world beer city – per

·         The National Homebrewers Conference will be held in Grand Rapids in June, 2014.

You only need visit Grand Rapids one time to feel the cultural and economic vibrancy that is taking place around its craft breweries and how that same vibe is literally foaming over into the community at large. This past Saturday, both Founders Brewing’s Tap Room and Harmony Brewing Company were absolutely packed. The region’s brewpubs, beer bars, and breweries are hopping (bad pun) every day of the week with or without  live entertainment, as they have become a significant economic engine in the community.

Founders Brewing - Source:

It is quite a sight to behold as historic structures are lovingly restored and inner city neighborhoods teem with street life, commerce, traffic, and residents. Combined with the immense success of ArtPrize, private-sector philanthropic and foundation investments, cooperative regional planning efforts, and Michigan’s economic revival, the 1.3 million resident Grand Rapids region has become the place to be in Michigan and certainly the epicenter of the craft beer industry in the Rust Belt and the entire nation. There is a perceptible “can-do spirit” in Grand Rapids that you do not feel in all cities. The region doesn’t wait around for handouts or bailouts. Instead, it has picked itself up by its own bootstraps and charted a successful course towards economic prosperity. Is everything perfect? Of course not, but there is definitely visible and identifiable progress taking place.

New Holland Brewing - Source:

Indianapolis, Columbus, and Minneapolis-St. Paul may get most national attention as vibrant Rust Belt cities, but Grand Rapids deserves to be included in this illustrious list.   Kudos to the city, the region, local leaders, and especially its citizens for showing us all how to get “hopping.”

Rick Brown



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Baltimore in a Weekend: A Rustwirian Travel Guide

Baltimore skyline
Sunset in Baltimore


By: Jeff La Noue of Comeback City

Baltimore–Charm City, Mobtown, Monument City, Birdland, Crabalot, Land of Pleasant Living–is a town:

  • whose people repelled a British invasion by land and sea just days after these royal forces left our nation’s capital smoldering in glowing embers
  • that required federal occupation during the Civil War to make sure it stayed on the Union side
  • where 70 blocks burned in the span of 30 hours in 1904
  • that rioted in 1835 (bank riot), rioted in 1861 (Confederate sympathizers), rioted in 1873 (railroad strikes), rioted in 1968 (assassination of MLK), and did not riot in 2013 (Ravens super bowl victory)
  • that was once the 2nd largest port of entry for immigrants
  • that is 63% African-American
  • where people lay newspaper cialis cost down on their patio table, listen to dem O’s on the radio, and spend hot summer afternoons dissecting and devouring Maryland’s famed Old Bay-covered crustacean

Just 38 miles to the south of the City on the Bay is another city exploding with new growth and local ambition reflecting its national and global power. My city is connected by a rickety 52 minute train that still passes over wooden cross ties, but functions mostly oblivious to the action to the south. My city is a very different colorful textured kind of place. Welcome to Baltimore. This is not the Visit Baltimore tour or the Wire tour.

Where to Stay?

While I do not regularly book nights in my hometown, here’s where my list would start. The Admiral Fell Inn, with architectural features that date to the 1780s, certainly has ghosts. It’s provided lodging for over 50,000 seamen over its long history, and today it’s evolved into well-reviewed hotel, sporting a great location at that.

You could also step into the grandeur of the 1906 Baltimore & Ohio Railroad headquarters, built from the ashes of the Great Fire of 1904, and stay at the new Hotel Monaco. The building is a testament to the power of the Era of Railroad, with sculptural adornments like the Roman god Mercury, a mythological symbol of commerce. You may desire cheaper places than these two, but try and stay in Fells Point, downtown/Inner Harbor East, or Mt. Vernon.

What to do?

Baltimore is a city of 200+ neighborhoods. These eight are the most visitor friendly: Federal Hill, downtown/Inner Harbor/Harbor East, Little Italy, Fells Point, Canton, Mt. Vernon, Hampden, and Station North, for the young and edgy.

Fells Point in snow

Don’t be afraid to go into the Baltimore Visitor Center (BVC) to begin your search for the right museum, but be wary that their mandate is to hawk the goods, the hotels, and the restaurants of their subscribing members. The BVC can help you decide from among 30+ museums spanning a range of topics from art, railroads, industry, dentistry, to Great Blacks in Wax. There are many good museum choices to meet the needs of the curious. I won’t completely cialis cost punt on the museum options–here are a few specifics.

Visit Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine unless you absolutely hate history. The nerdy rangers and the on-site film help interpret a very distressing couple of days for Baltimore and the country. When 5000 troops and an armada of naval ships attack your city with the intent of burning it to the ground, it makes for a quite a story. But the outcome turned out in our favor, and we are still patiently waiting for Hollywood to make a major motion picture out of the very worthy narrative that is the Defense of Fort McHenry and the penning of the Star Spangled Banner. The fort sits at the end of a little peninsula in a park-like setting, affording great views of different city neighborhoods and the outer harbor. From here, you can imagine naval ships tossing cannonballs your way, or watch the 21st century ocean-going vessels importing and exporting. You can get to Ft. McHenry either by the free Charm City Circulator (Banner Route) or the harbor taxi during the summer. If you need lunch in the neighborhood, go to Hull Street Blues or consider packing a picnic.

Baltimore Fort
Fort McHenry under siege 

The American Visionary Art Museum features the works of the “non-professional” artists. I saw an amazing emotional exhibit featuring the art of a girl imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. More traditional art enthusiasts should go to the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum.

Action Oriented

I wish our town had a well-marked sightseeing loop for bicyclists, but sadly we don’t. Therefore, the best way to see Baltimore by bicycle and not get lost is to time your visit with Tour Dem Parks or Tour Du Port, two well-organized rides that show off a lot of the city. The new Baltimore Bike Party offers riders a short dusk/night-time ride and takes place the last Friday night of the month. It departs from the Washington Monument and generally ends at a brew pub. Check ahead to see what the theme for the ride is. Bicycles can be rented at Light Street Cycles and Race Pace Bicycles, both in Federal Hill or Twenty20 Cycling in Hampden.

Baltimore Bike Party (Last Friday of every month)
Baltimore Bike Party (Last Friday of every month) 

For runners, there are many events that can give you the flavor of the city–from the rigorous marathon down to much easier choices. Every Monday evening, you can join a friendly group called the Federal Hill Runners for a nice six-miler covering some interesting parts of town that sometimes ends with a beer at a local tavern. If running or walking on your own, I suggest the Baltimore waterfront promenade or the perimeter of Patterson Park: each offer panoramic city views.

It should be easy to rent kayaks in our harbor city, but our old infrastructure can’t keep the sewage out of the water, so for now this dream will have to wait.


To quickly jump into Baltimore’s creative scene (one area in which Baltimore may claim to one-up D.C.), touch base with Station North Arts & Entertainment near the train station or the Creative Alliance in Highlandtown. More formal options are the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in Mt. Vernon and the performances at the beautifully restored Hippodrome downtown. Baltimore has festivals on most weekends in the warmer months. Artscape, Honfest, Maryland Film Festival, and the Fells Point Fun Festival are some of the larger ones.


You’ve got to eat. I won’t leave you stranded. For breakfast, go to the Blue Moon (Fells Point) and get there before 9:15 on weekends to get a table. The place is cozy and food is tasty. Other options are Miss Shirley’s (downtown), Golden West (Hampden), Gertrude’s at the BMA (Charles Village), Spoons (Federal Hill), or on Sunday morning, the Baltimore Farmers Market (downtown).

For lunch, try Mama’s on the Half Shell on O’Donnell Square (Canton). You can eat Maryland seafood while enjoying an outside table and watching the natives. If downtown, get a great crab cake at Faidley’s in the lively 225 year old Lexington Market.

Faidleys Seafood at Lexington Market
Faidley Seafood at Lexington Market 

If you had crab in your omelet and a crab cake for lunch, you are off to a good start. But for dinner I’ll offer something different. The Helmand is a fantastic Afghan restaurant (Mt. Vernon). Order their kaddo borwani (baked pumpkin) appetizer. Crème Restaurant Lounge is teetering on my list, but I buy viagra online have a soft spot for it. I love the southern-style food and the cool architectural space, but be wary of the quality of service. If you are looking to treat yourself to a special farm-to-table restaurant, hop on the light rail for an interesting panoramic ride of the eclectic Baltimore Jones Falls valley, get off at the Woodberry stop, and head to Woodberry Kitchen (be sure to make a reservation). This well-deservedly high-ranking restaurant is part of the old Clipper Mill, a former machine shop, iron foundry, and cotton duck mill. Be patient with light rail; it should come every fifteen minutes, but pay attention to the schedule. Other good choices for dinner are: Geckos (Southwestern/Canton), Jasa Kabob (Pakistani/Canton), Samos (Greek/Greektown), Café Gia (Italian/Little Italy), and Joe Squared (American/Station North).

For a beer, stop in at the Brewer’s Art. The restaurant and bar sprawl across the first floor and the basement of a grand 19th century Victorian mansion. Fair warning: their beers are potent. In Fells Point, Max’s Taphouse taps 140 rotating drafts. Draft Magazine agrees with my choices. The harbor neighborhoods have a local watering hole on almost every block, a vestige of Baltimore’s working class past, where corner bars functioned as today’s living rooms.

Getting around (without a car)

Charm City Circulator
Charm City Circulator 

The free Charm City Circulator will get you to about 2/3 of where you need to go. Use it! The Water taxi is a good way to and from harbor neighborhoods, but it can get hot, crowded, and sticky during peak tourist season. Unfortunately our subway is useless for visitors. Light rail is a north/south option from the airport to downtown or further north to Woodberry Kitchen. You can also get to the Avenue in Hampden by taking a half mile walk from the Woodberry stop. If you must go to or come from Washington, MARC or Amtrak trains are usually the best bet.

Baltimore is a big enough and interesting enough place, so much so that this post does not cover it all. Charm City is pretty charming. Come to Baltimore and have a great time–just don’t go in the water.

Also Recommended:

Pre-gaming at Pickles Pub before Orioles Game at Camden Yards.

The Avenue in Hampden.

The Jones Falls and Gwynns Falls Trail.

Morgan State marching band.

Charles Street 12.

Patterson Park.

Greenmount Cemetery.

O'sd pre-game scene
Orioles and Pickles


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An Impossibly Breakneck 24-ish Hours in St. Louis

By Matthew Mourning, Randy Vines and Amy Lampe. Photos by Jeff Vines


BUST OUT THE VIOLINS — So you’re visiting St. Louis? Let’s get the difficult part out of the way first.

Requisite example of urban decline

Nearly all native St. Louisans feel a compulsion to eulogize the city’s former life, as the 4th largest city in the country, host of the 1904 World’s Fair, and yes, recipient of the nation’s tallest, most beautiful, and most iconic monument, the Gateway Arch. Not that all St. Louisans are statisticians or demographers, but somehow we all seem to know our numbers when it comes to our horrific population drop: 857,000 in 1950 at our peak to 319,000 in 2010 (the nation’s steepest decline in that time period, including Detroit! Yikes). Downtown St. Louis, a once proud progenitor of the great metropolis built around it, was mercilessly hacked away by interstates and corporate citizens who were all too happy to trade urban character for lifeless plazas, parking garages, and stubby post-modern mid-rises.

St. Louis should suck. Suck hard. All the signs point to it. There should be Prozac dispensers at each street corner to help us cope with our own defeat.

Shockingly, though, St. Louis’s raw coolness destroys most of the competition, especially its west-of-the-Mississippi peer group. There’s just no other city like it. While St. Louis is described as the “Gateway to the West,” visitors to this formidable city by the river will discover an historic entrepot with deep connections to the great cities of the East Coast, from its rich historic architecture to its hard-nosed urban dialect to its extant ethnic enclaves. St. Louis is, decidedly, America’s last eastern city. A city of grand parks, rows upon rows of solid red-brick neighborhoods and top-tier cultural institutions, St. Louis has weathered some storms, but she has not lost her spark.


Where you stay in St. Louis matters less than you think because our illustrious light rail system (MetroLink, born 1993) reliably traverses several visit-worthy core neighborhoods. If you’re a purist and stay only in downtown settings, why not settle on the Westin at Cupples Station, a historic set of ware-houses in the shadow of America’s liveliest ballpark, Busch Stadium? Not only that, it sits atop a Metro-Link station.

The bird (hang-gliding man? hard to tell) can take the shortcut to the top of the Arch. YOU get the cramped pod- elevator.

Alternatively, if you’re more likely to catch a Broadway show than a ballgame, stay at the local boutique Hotel Ignacio, just adjacent to St. Louis University’s campus and to Grand Center, St. Louis’s theater and arts district. If you want to go more upscale and stay in a more vibrant area, opt for the famous Chase Park Plaza in the stunningly elegant Central West End or the Moonrise Hotel in the funky, pulsating Delmar Loop. Finally, if you dare, stay in the haunted Lemp Mansion, a beautiful B&B that witnessed some grisly Prohibition-era suicides among its namesake beer baron family. It’s on the South Side, nestled in one of St. Louis’s storied red brick neighborhoods.

Let’s presume you’re staying downtown at the Westin.

A couple assumptions are about to take place: (A) You’re in a new place, and you’re excited, so you’re waking up early. (B) You’re out of your home ZIP code, where diets don’t apply. You will eat roughly five times per day. (C) You’re superhuman and know nothing of this “nap” business. (D) You’re standing in a beer brewing shrine of a city, so you will drink adult beverages (E) You’re sane, and therefore visiting in the warmer months (March through October).


While locals should be harangued for their marriage to vehicular solo transportation, you’re visiting a city with somewhat spread out attractions and are entirely forgiven—rent/bring a car this visit. Before you head out, tune your radio to KDHX, 88.1 on the FM dial. Among the nation’s most well-supported community radio stations, KDHX is a clearinghouse of local flavor, from bluegrass to electronica.

8:00 AM – Wake up and get “it” out of the way. We know you’re a hipster and don’t want to be stereo-typical but, c’mon, you’ve never seen the Arch. Seriously, it’s okay…head east from your hotel past Busch Stadium and go up in the Arch. No, that building with the patinaey dome is not the Missouri Capitol (we wish…). It’s the Old Courthouse, built in phases between 1840 and the Civil War and now a part of what is called the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (which includes the Arch). The ride to the top of the 630-foot tall stainless steel mustache (in a trippy 1960s pod that stays level despite its awkward angular as-cent) will set you back $10. Claustrophobes need not apply.

9:00 AM – Hoof it to Local Harvest Café for breakfast in the restored Old Post Office (9th/Locust) downtown. Its food is either locally-sourced, organic, or both—and most importantly, delicious. Make it quick if you want to keep this impossibly breakneck schedule. While outside the Old Post Office, spin around. You’re in the heart of old downtown, with its turn-of-the-century stock of office buildings splayed out on a narrow street grid inspired by the early French settlers.

9:30 AM – Next walk to City Museum, at 16th and Lucas. The glorious canyon of warehouses you’re strolling through is Washington Avenue, downtown’s centerpiece of revitalization (seriously, in the late 1990s, nearly all of it was empty and abandoned). Make a right (north) at 16th Street and say hello to City Museum. You might be thinking, “it’s too early for a museum” but this is not the type of museum where you’ll ever hear “shhhh”. It’s literally made of the city—a good chunk of the detritus and demolition debris of the past city gets a new life here. There are man-made caves, crawlspaces, in-line skateboarding facilities, a rooftop Ferris wheel, a fourth floor thrift store and so much more in this whimsical monument to the notion that everything can be reused. Entry to City Museum costs $12, rooftop is an extra $5, and aquarium (yes, aquarium) an extra $6. Don’t sweat the cash—basically everything else even remotely touristy is completely free of charge or near to it.

Soulard Streetscape - quintessential red brick St. Louis.

12:00 PM – You spent a few hours clambering around City Museum and burnt enough calories to be hungry again. Make your way back to the hotel, grab the car, and drive to Blues City Deli in the delightful, red brick Benton Park neighborhood. If you’re lucky, this homage to blues town (New Orleans, Memphis, STL, and Chicago) will have some live music for you to munch to. If that’s the case, the party usually spills out onto the streets.

12:30 PM – Since you’re already in Benton Park, hop back in the car and head east to Soulard, St. Louis’s oldest neighborhood. Soulard is home to dozens of corner bars and restaurants, nearly all of them in mid to late 1800s red brick classic buildings. This national and local historic district also plays host to a particularly large and raucous Mardi Gras celebration in wintertime, so the fact that its name in French translates to “drunkard” is only fitting. Once in the neighborhood, stop by Soulard Market (9th/Lafayette), the city’s last remaining public market and the oldest one west of the Mississippi. After you’ve loaded up on spices, trinkets, and hurricanes from Julia’s, a stand inside the market, jump back in the car and head south to the looming Anheuser Busch complex at 12th and Lynch.

1:30 PM – – Take the FREE Anheuser-Busch tour, which comes with two complimentary beers for the 21+ crowd.

Cherokee Street -- where roadway is a canvas

2:30 PM – Assuming there’s a sober member of the party, find the vehicle and head south to Cherokee Street—the nexus of creativity in the St. Louis region. You might as well park on the east end of the street and just plan on walking back on the opposite side of the street. East of Jefferson, the building stock is older and the businesses tend towards antiques (this is old Antique Row, after all). West of Jefferson, the grittier side of Cherokee comes out. This is home to the city’s most thriving Hispanic/Latino business area, interspersed with random hipsterific offerings.

Notable attractions (from east to west include): the Mud House (where your barista will surprise you with latte art); St. Louis Curio Shoppe (an all-STL, all the time gift shop—nothing in it is made more than 50 miles from the heart of the city); Fortune Teller Bar (True to its name, fortune tellers descend upon this hipster watering hole on weekend nights); La Vallesana (awesome and authentic taco stand); and Firecracker Press (old-fashioned printing press retail shop with some killer designs). No trip to Cherokee Street—or St. Louis—would be complete without at least poking your head in the STyLe-house. STyLehouse is a t-shirt shop run by local boosters and entrepreneur twin brothers Jeff and Randy Vines. Their fount of knowledge of, and passion for, this city could render this guide moot in mere minutes. (Related: their Instagram photography peppers this guide).

3:30 PM – Fire up the car and head to Forest Park—the 1,300 acre, attraction-laden, largest urban park in the region (and one of the largest in the country). You’re running fairly late in the day (most attractions close around 5), so just pick one of these to do: Science Center, Boathouse, Art Museum, the Municipal Opera (The Muny), Jewel Box, or Missouri History Museum. A recommendation: the St. Louis Zoo is among the top-rated in the country and is totally free to enter.

5:30 PM – It’s time to head to the Central West End (CWE), a bustling neighborhood located at the northeast corner of Forest Park. If you’re hungry, you have plenty of options: Greek at the Majestic, Indian at India Rasoi, deep dish style pizza (which President Barack Obama dubbed the best in the nation during a 2008 campaign stop) at Pi Pizzeria, gastropub offerings at Dressel’s, and burgers/sushi at Sub Zero (which also has one of the largest vodka selections in the world). If you are a whiskey-for-dinner type, don’t skip out on Brennan’s. Grab some food and then walk it off along the neighborhood’s stately private streets. West of Kingshighway sit two of the city’s most grand—Portland and Westmoreland Places. Enter on Lake Avenue from the south and walk until private security questions your presence. Don’t worry…tell security you’re from out of town and they may even let you continue on your stroll.

7:00 PM – You might be tired of driving, so leave your vehicle on the street in the CWE and hop on the MetroLink westbound (Red Line to Lambert Air-port). Depart at the Loop Station and head west. You are now in the Delmar Loop—yet another astonishingly revitalized area of the city that was once terribly disinvested. The Loop of today is St. Louis’s best independent boutique and local shopping destination, not to mention an entertainment hotspot with a lounge/bowling alley (the Pin Up), a top-rated music venue (Pageant), a beautifully restored movie theater (the Tivoli) and the St. Louis Walk of Fame (look down at the stars on the sidewalk for a history lesson on who made St. Louis great). If you really want to get the lay of the land, take the elevator in the quirky Moonrise Hotel to the roof, where there’s a bar with sweeping views of everything from the Arch, 8 miles east, to suburban office center Clayton just to the southwest.

The Central West End -- a second skyline for the city

If you’re here for shopping, do not miss the patchouli-scented, old school Vintage Vinyl record store or relative Loop newcomer and stylish clothing purveyor Devil City, If you’re a music fan (of course you are), note that St. Louis is very proud to be the birthplace—and home, still—of rock ‘n’ roll forefather Chuck Berry. In fact, Mr. Berry performs at the Loop’s Blueberry Hill once a month, to this day. If you’re in town during one of his performances, you are obligated to pay homage.

9:00 PM – Head back to MetroLink (this time, walk down stately Skinker Boulevard and take the Blue Line back to the Central West End). Pick up your vehicle and drive east to Lafayette Square. The Square is one of St. Louis’s most ornate neighborhoods, replete with limestone-clad Victorian-era “Painted Ladies” that ring the oldest park west of the Mississippi River (yep, you guessed it, Lafayette Park). It is also home to an intimate business district on Park Avenue. You’ll want to grab a drink or two at Bailey’s Chocolate Bar, with its signature chocolate martinis and an ambiance nearly as aphrodisiacal as chocolate itself. If you skipped dinner earlier, check out the renowned 1111 Mississippi restaurant, or rooftop bar Vin de Set.

Definitely be sure to wander the neighborhood, though—one of the nation’s oldest private streets, Benton Place, sits just north of the park and is well worth a jaunt.

10:30 PM – Head back downtown, finally. If you’re going to call it a night (boo!), why not stop for a nightcap within a stone’s throw of your hotel? Head to the 360 Bar at the Hilton (rooftop) for panoramic skyline views and tasty cocktails. If you’re not ready to quit (yay!), it’s time to head to the Grove (MetroLink accessible via a long-ish walk, but you might as well cab it). The Grove (also known as Forest Park Southeast) is a lively strip of bars, from lesbian and gay bars to hipster havens to music venues and more. If you’re in the mood for some world-renowned mixological magic, stop over at the Day of the Dead-like Sanctuaria. Then go dance off the caloric intake for the day at Atomic Cowboy and/or Handle-bar and/or Novak’s.

Nightlife in St. Louis -- just loiter in the street of your choice

3:00 AM – Think all life ends in this sleepy Mid-western hamlet in the wee hours? Think again. Some liver-hating individuals cross the River into Illinois to take advantage of its 6 AM liquor licenses (and, well, its carnal offerings of the adult variety). But let’s leave Metro East alone for your first visit (aside: do eventually visit Cahokia Mounds on the Illinois side of the river—it’s one of the largest pre-European settlements in North America. Its earthen mounds are all that remains of the onetime Native American metropolis. The tallest of them, Monk’s Mound, offers sweeping views of downtown St. Louis, a poetic visual collision of two civilizations. Ahem, we now return to your regularly scheduled program of strip clubs and other late night salaciousness).

Staying on the Missouri side, your only option is to head to one of the city’s many diners. If you brought a car and a designated driver, head down to the 24-hour Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, where you’ll see all types of St. Louis revelers brushing shoulders in this mock-Tudor style roadside attraction. Equally popular, and also on South Kingshighway, is the more straight-up greasy spoon Courtesy Diner. Order the St. Louis Slinger here for a window into one of St. Louis’s odd culinary creations. For a more urbane people-watching experience, plant your-self on 24-hour Coffee Cartel’s patio in the Central West End. Slurp down some coffee to sober up, and reject the notion that this city is some washed up has-been. We’re nowhere near it.


So this brings us to the end of the (admittedly impossibly dense) tour. And you haven’t even set foot in St. Louis’s authentic Little Italy, the Hill, where Italian restaurants and Virgin Mary statues outnumber residents. Or the Irish neighborhood at the foot of Forest Park, Dogtown, where St. Patty’s day celebrants gather. Or Old North St. Louis, home of St. Louis’s oldest soda fountain Crown Candy and revitalization hotspot after decades of devastating decline. Not even a cameo for South Grand either, with its veritable buffet of international eateries. You haven’t brunched in the oddball Bevo Mill, or strolled through the world’s first (and greatest) geodesic dome conservatory (the Climatron in-side the Missouri Botanical Garden). You haven’t yet tried a Gus’ Pretzel from a street-side vendor or sampled the neighborhood-themed cocktails at The Royale. And you don’t know the meaning of the term “soul” yet, because you haven’t heard it belted from the chops of our city’s own Kim Massie at Beale on Broadway.

Come on, just look at our city. You'll be back

Obviously, no great city can be experienced in its entirety in 24 hours. But you shouldn’t take that as an endorsement to quell your curiosity to further explore our old, battered and beautiful city. This “Red Brick Mama” has always-open arms for anyone with a soft spot for a gritty embrace. Three million area residents can’t be wrong. Right?










Image courtesy of Explore St. Louis and the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, which are in no way affiliated with this guide. We just love their map.


City Population (2010): 319,294
Metro Population (2010): 2,812,896
City SIZE: 61.9 square miles (1.2X the size of San Francisco; 0.2X the size of Kansas City)

Founded in 1764.

  • We have the most free attractions outside of Washington, D.C. Baltimoreans take note: St. Louis is the only other major city in the nation to have “divorced” its name-sake county.
  • St. Louis City is a completely separate entity from St. Louis County since 1876. Locals will often use the word “County” as an adjectival shorthand for “suburban”—i.e., if someone leaves their purse visible on the seat inside their car, you’d say, “Oh, she’s so County”.
  • There are more stop signs than people in St. Louis.
  • When out at a restaurant, ask for your ravioli toasted and do be sure to also try: gooey butter cake, pork steaks, provel cheese on a St. Louis-Style Pizza (you won’t like it, but should still try), and the aforementioned slinger.
  • Not that frozen custard is a St. Louis-only thing, but it is done best at Route 66 stop Ted Drewes! The lines speak for themselves.
  • We think our city flag is better than Chicago’s; we KNOW our Cardinals are better than their Cubs.
  • Visitors from Indiana: DO NOT call a St. Louisan a “hoosier” or let on that you are one unless you want to elicit laughter. For mysterious reasons, in St. Louis only, the term connotes an “urban redneck” of sorts.

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