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Things To Do In St. Louis

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With the Vikings 2014 opener in the Gateway To The West, one of our staff writers gives you the 411 on the 314.

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Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Hi kids.  With the opener coming up in a little under a month, it kind of struck me that a lot of you might want to come see the Vikings here in St. Louis.  The last time they were here (at least in the regular season) was in 2009, and before I was part of the staff of DN.

So I thought this time, it might be nice to give you some lowdown on my favorite city outside the Fatherland. Because I know some of you have a lot of burning questions about St. Louis, at least if you're travelling here.

TED TED OHMYGOD ST LOUIS IS SO DANGEROUS OHMYGOD OHMYGOD WILL WE BE SAFE

Meh.  Look, if you listen to the FBI, St. Louis is one of the most dangerous cities in America, but this isn't Detroit. Yeah, there's more than our fair share of violent crime here, but we're not some urban wasteland.  Here's the thing: I've lived here a decade, I've explored damn near every part of the city and I've never had a problem, other than the occasional begging and panhandling. I've never been mugged, robbed, or had my car broken into, and I've left my car parked overnight downtown more than once.

You know why that is? Because 90% of the violent crime in this city takes place in two areas: North St. Louis and East St. Louis.  Stay clear of those areas, unless you're on the Interstate, and you'll be fine.  Seriously, this is a great city, and I love living here. Don't let these headlines full of hyperbole dissuade you from visiting.

WHERE SHOULD I STAY?

I don't know what your budget is, but there are a lot of great hotels in downtown St. Louis, and if you're serious about travelling here, you can find something that you can afford.  Right next to the stadium, like literally a block or less, is a Hampton InnEmbassy Suites, and a Drury Inn suites. The local high end place, the Renaissance Grand Hotel, is right across the street, too.  There's also the Lumiere Place Casino and Hotel, and there's also a Four Seasons Hotel located with the casino. Renaissance Grand and the Four Seasons are the priciest, I think, but they're all good, safe places to stay. Word is from friends is that Lumiere Place is where you might see players from visiting teams when they come into town. There's a sports bar there (along with several restaurants) where that happens regularly, at least according to my boss' daughter, who works there.

And that's just downtown.  You can stay out in West County, or on the Illinois side in the Metro East. They're both no more than 20-30 minutes from downtown, and in my neck of the woods, the Metro East, there are a lot of good places to stay and eat, too.

NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT, TED, WHERE SHOULD I EAT AND/OR DRINK?

Wow, this is a loaded question.  Because for every one great place I give you to eat, I'm going to miss five.  There's so many good places downtown to eat, I'll just give you a sampling. No kidding, St. Louis is a foodie's paradise. If you're doing your own research and have a question about a place I don't mention, hit me up in the thread or email me, and I'll do my best to answer the question.

Washington Ave: Washington Avenue is the trendy loft area that a lot of the younger generation (like just out of college type kids and early 30-somethings) live and hang out. There are literally dozens of bars and restaurants down here on this street that caters to just about every type of appetite. From pizza,, to Peruvian, to fusion, to American steakhouse, to Irish Pub, I don't remember eating a bad meal at any restaurant down here.  On weekends, they block off a section of the street, and it becomes one big ass block party.  It's pretty awesome, not gonna lie.

The Schlafley Tap Room--Schlafley is a local brewery with a great variety of beer...and a great restaurant. It's kind of on the edge of the trendy Washington Avenue area, located at Locust and 21st, but man, if you like craft beer and good food, go here. You can thank me later.

Morgan Street Brewery: Another local brewer that opened a restaurant, this place is right on the corner of Morgan St and 2nd St, in Laclede's Landing. Again, great burger fare type food, and a ton of local craft beers. And it's a lot closer to the stadium, like within walking distance. Laclede's Landing is like a mini-Bourbon Street, in some ways.  Not nearly the size in terms of bars, but it's really hopping on Friday and Saturday night.

Tigin Irish Pub: This is my favorite drinking place/eatery in St. Louis.  I love Tigin, and it's attached to the Hampton Inn downtown. Why do I love it?  Strongbow Cider on tap, and the Shrimp Boxty.  Just order it, and get a Strongbow. You'll be in your happy place, and I'll be happy that you're happy. And you'll be happy that I'll be happy that you're happy. Or something. Oh, if you're into the other futbol, it's the best bar for that in St. Louis for watching.

Pappy's Smokehouse BBQ: If you like BBQ, go here.  They're closed on Sunday, so you'll need to make it on Saturday. Get there early, be prepared to stand in line, but it goes pretty fast. After you have Pappy's BBQ, you'll think Kansas City, North Carolina, and every other BBQ you've ever eaten in your life is irrelevant. Get the ribs of the beef brisket, which are my two favorites, but regardless, whatever you order will be fantastic.

Bogart's BBQ: Located in the Soulard District (which is my favorite part of St. Louis), if Pappy's is BBQ joint #1, Bogart's is 1A. It's just as good as Pappy's, just not as famous outside the city. Their mustard based sauce? Yeah, I could drink it all by itself.  It's BBQ crack. Oh, they're also closed on Sunday, too.

Square One Brewery: At this point you're thinking 'Jesus Ted, you might have a drinking problem.' That's another topic for another day, but I do love craft beers. And St. Louis really has some fantastic local craft brewers and restaurant. Square One is no exception. Located in the historic Lafayette Square Section of St  Louis (5 minute drive from downtown) they have some great stuff, including a 'game burger of the week'. I've had a wild boar burger, and the free range Bison burger. They were excellent.  Excellent. And for my money, this is the best combination craft brewer/restaurant in the city. But they're all good.

Crown Candy Fountain: So here's the deal with Crown Candy. It's in the middle of North St. Louis, which I told you not to ever venture into.  If I would make an exception, it would be for this place, which was around before North St. Louis became Fallujah.  If you go there during the day, there's more cops patrolling there than your typical infantry battalion, and as long as you go directly there and then directly leave, you'll be okay.  Why would I even mention this place, considering the location?

The BLT. Mother of God, if you like bacon, the BLT they serve is indescribable. Would I risk the chance of being mugged, stabbed, and/or shot to head to Crown Candy and get their BLT?  Yes. Yes I would. That said, I've been there several times, during the middle of the day, and I've never had a problem. It's still a tourist destination, and there's a heavy police presence there, constant patrolling and whatnot. Go, have a reliable GPS or take a cab, and don't think twice.

WHERE SHOULD I DRINK?

There are so many great bars and restaurants in St. Louis.  Besides the ones I've already talked about, there are two GREAT drinking establishments that I love.  One is called the International Tap House, or ITAP. It's in Soulard, and it's got like 40 beers on tap, with a regular rotation of new craft and import brands. It's less than a block from Bogart's BBQ, and if I could only hit two of these places I've talked about, I'd go get some ribs at Bogarts and then walk down to ITAP and drink myself silly. If I haven't already done that once or twice. Or more. Allegedly. Maybe.

Okay, I have. I'm not sorry.

The other one, which is on my side of the river, is called the Global Brew House. It's like ITAP, only they have 50 brands on tap. I go here more often, as it's closer to my house. Like, way closer. Like drink myself silly and then walk home closer. If you hit the one in O'Fallon, let me know. If I'm around I'll come have a beer with you, as it's less than half a mile from my house.

Ballpark Village: This is brand new, and just opened up right across from Busch Stadium before opening day this year.  It's got several bars/eating establishments, and a ton of seating and theater screen TV's. It's the current hotspot for watching a game, so come on down and check it out. There's a Budweiser Brew House, a PBR rodeo bar, and a huge area in the center of the building with tables and chairs, with table side service. It's pretty sweet.

WHAT CAN I DO IF I COME DOWN A COUPLE DAYS EARLY AND MAKE A WEEKEND OUT OF IT?

Budweiser Brewery Tour: If you like to see how beer is made, go see the tour. It's pretty cool, and if you're over 21 you get two free beers at the end of the tour. It lasts around 45 minutes, if my memory isn't failing me, and you get to see the world famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses. Oh, and the tour itself is also free.

The brewery is right on the edge of the historic Soulard District, which is my favorite section of St. Louis. From the oldest Farmer's Market west of the Mississippi in the US, to the bars and restaurants, this part of town has a great vibe.

The Arch: It's an iconic American landmark, and it's pretty cool to see.  If you're claustrophobic, you might not like the ride up in the little sardine can elevator car thingys. But once you're up at the top, it's pretty magnificent.  The whole Arch grounds is under a major renovation, so a lot of things that are normal open are closed, like the Museum of Westward Expansion. As far as I know, the Arch itself is still open and you can go to the top. Be warned--at the top, it sways back and forth a couple of feet. If that would freak you out, don't go.

The City Museum: This isn't a museum. It's, well...if you have kids, take them here.  It's this indoor/outdoor  jungle gym, built with scrap items and junk by a local guy, and he's turned it into this crazy-ass maze of climbing, crawling, and all around fun. The kids will have an absolute blast, and you'll have an aching back and sore knees.  Seriously, bring kneepads if you go. You'll thank me later.

Casinos: There's at least half a dozen casinos in the St. Louis area, with the Lumiere being right downtown.  If you like casinos but don't like secondhand smoke, hop on the Metro, get off right as you cross the river into Illinois, and go to the Casino Queen in East St. Louis. Yes, yes, I said don't go to East St. Louis, but this is an exception, as long as you take the Metro. It drops you off right there, there's patrolling security, it's fine. The one or two times a year I blow $40 at a casino, I do it at the Casino Queen. And whenever we head into downtown for a Cardinals game or a big event, we park our car there and hop the Metro into downtown.

Forest Park: Did you know Forest Park is bigger than Central Park in New York City? It's true. The World's Fair was held there in 1904, and it still has a few buildings left that have been converted into the the St. Louis Art MuseumMissouri History Museum, and the St Louis Zoo.  There's also the St. Louis Science Center at Forest Park, and check this out--they're all free to enter, even the zoo.  Which, by the way, was rated the #1 zoo in the country by Zagat.

So suck it, FBI

TED CAN WE COME TO YOUR HOUSE AND DRINK YOUR BEER AND WALK ON YOUR LAWN?

No. No you may not. But if you do have any questions, about these places or ones I haven't mentioned, shoot me an email at TGlover47d (at) Gmail (dot) com, and I'll do my best to answer it.

And enjoy your stay in the oldest city west of the Mississippi!