Couchsurfing in St. Louis

Due in Columbia at the University of Missouri for an invite-only journalism roundtable starting Sunday evening, I took the opportunity to fly into St. Louis a day early to explore the Gateway to the West.

I’m sure glad I did.

I arrived Saturday afternoon and was met by my couchsurfing host Alan (read about couchsurfing and my first experience with it a few years ago here). That started a night and a Sunday morning exploring what was the country’s fourth largest city a century ago. Facebook photos here.

Let me share a quick itinerary of the cool things I got to do and see:

SATURDAY, APRIL 16

  • Visit St. Louis
  • Tour the Anheuser-Busch primary brewery and headquarters
  • Get overview of St. Louis neighborhoods from local
  • Eat local catfish at local bar while drinking local Schlafly beer and listening to local live music, at the Broadway Oyster Bar
  • Visit Soulard district

  • Drive through North St. Louis and talk about urban decay and joblessness
  • Visit Old North St. Louis, a portion of the struggling depths of the city that features a lot of community activism and features Crown Plaza, a fascinating one-block strip that has been completely renovated but lacks the businesses to go in. When we visited, three of 30 storefronts were occupied. That said, it’s still a celebrated part of revitalization.
  • Have a milkshake at the Crown Candy Kitchen, which opened in 1913 and maintains mid-20th century booths
  • Visit the City Museum, an “eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel.”
  • OK, just so I’m clear here, EVERY AMERICAN NEEDS TO VISIT THE CITY MUSEUM IN ST. LOUIS. It is amazing, bizarre and there is no reason that legally it is going to be able to remain open because it is insane and wonderful and could never exist in a place like Philadelphia. It came strongly recommended and advised.
  • Walk Washington Ave. entertainment district
  • Uh, take in the dueling pianos at a local hot spot
  • Drive through Forest Park, home of the 1904 World’s Fair and one of the 100 largest urban parks in the country.
  • Drive through the St. Louis University campus
  • Marvel at my couchsurfing host’s beautiful home, featuring extensive architectural salvage, restored grandfather clocks, reclaimed wood and the like

SUNDAY, APRIL 17

TUESDAY, APRIL 18

  • Eat toasted ravioli at Milo’s in the Hill Italian district
  • Just missed being injured by a tornado at the airport.
  • Had a slight weather airplane delay, but made it back home to Fishtown, Philadelphia to the home I love.

What I didn’t do:

  • Go to a Cardinals game in beautiful downtown Busch Stadium (they were away playing the Dodgers)
  • More formally drive a portion of Route 66
  • Eat frozen custard at Ted Drews
  • Eat local donuts or Imo’s pizza
  • Visit nearby ancient native Cahokia Mounds
  • See the inside of the Basilica of St. Louis
  • Listen to straight St. Louis Blues

How much I spent: $135 ($20 at Broadway Oyster Bar, $22 for two admissions into the City Museum, $17 at Sundeckers, $20 in beers, $40 in gas $8 and $6 for quick meals at the airports before leaving and coming home respectively.)


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