2011 Hot List: Explore
100+ things in St. Louis we can’t live without.
If you haven’t played STL tourist in a while, there’s plenty to discover–and rediscover. Whether your tastes run to the athletic, the contemplative or somewhere in between, there’s an adventure waiting just outside your door. We’re game, are you?
Arts & Culture
One look at this list of top picks for STL arts and culture, and you’ll fall in love with the city all over again. How could you not? The plethora of arts, music and entertainment options available right at your fingertips (many sans ticket price) rival the country’s best, and they’re right here in your own backyard.
Best Museum: The Contemporary Art Museum
No art institution pulls off provocative intrigue quite like CAM. Its “always temporary, always contemporary” mantra has served the organization well, keeping patrons, art-lovers and first-timers coming back for more of the innovative works by local, national and international artists. And with a consistent lineup of fabulous opening nights and annual soirees (like Arts Desire and Dada Ball), CAM’s social calendar—and thereby yours— promises to always be full. Grand Center, 314.535.4660.
Best Gallery: Philip Slein Gallery
Who says New York City’s the only place that can do edgy art? In St. Louis, you can find hip, street-smart collections in the gallery of Philip Slein. Whether you’re looking for local artists, underground comic book art, sculptures, abstract paintings or anything with a nod to the avant garde, you can find endless inspiration at this cutting-edge space. Downtown, 314.621.4634.
Best Live Theater Venue: The Gaslight Theater
Who needs “dinner and a movie” when live entertainment in a one-of-a-kind venue—the type frequented by Miles Davis, Barbara Streisand and Woody Allen back in the glory days of Gaslight Square—exists? Introducing the Gaslight Theater, home to the St. Louis Actors’ Studio and the hottest spot in town to see live theater, music, comedy and burlesque (catch “Just Desserts” by Neil LaBute through June 19). Plus, with the West End Grill and Pub attached, you won’t have to leave out the “dinner” part. Gaslight Square, 314.458.2978.
Best Performing Arts Organization: Dance St. Louis
You could say Dance St. Louis has been doing a sort of “Around the World” number for the past 45 years, bringing the best in artistic dance from across the globe to local venues like the Fox Theatre and Touhill Performing Arts Center. One of the most respected dance presenters in the US, known for bringing appreciation to the full spectrum of dance, the nonprofit organization has raised the curtain for such renowned acts as the Joffrey Ballet, STOMP, Tango X 2 and more. Grand Center, 314.534.5000.
Best Theater Company: The Repertory Theatre
There’s a reason The Rep has grown to be St. Louis’ leading professional live theatre company over the last four decades. By combining local and national actors (as well as Webster University performing arts students), the theatre presents an eclectic range of high-quality live performances from various theatrical styles and periods. And even though the next time you’ll be able to partake isn’t until early September (get your tickets for “Red” now), we promise it’s worth it. Webster Groves, 314.968.4925.
Best Art Fair: Saint Louis Art Fair
Consistently ranked as one of the top fine arts fairs in the nation, the Saint Louis Art Fair features an incredible showcase of the most talented artists in the country. The best part? Joining the more than 150,000 art enthusiasts for a peek at millions of dollars worth of art doesn’t cost a penny. Clayton, 314.863.0278.
Best Cultural Festival: Festival of Nations
As it turns out, getting cultured doesn’t always require a passport; at least, not if you join the more than 140,000 visitors of the region’s largest cultural festival. Two days of non-stop ethnic music, dance and food tastings galore will have your senses crossing borders unknown. Sample foods from Ukraine, Tibet, Egypt and others, and don’t miss must-sees like the folk art demonstrations and eclectic international market. Tower Grove. 314.773.9090.
Best Place for a Scenic Stroll: Missouri Botanical Garden
Truly a feast for the eyes, the Botanical Garden is the spot to enjoy the bounty of nature while staying inside the city limits. The garden sprawls over 79 acres and includes the Climatron (home to 1,400 species of plants), Children’s Garden, Japanese Garden, Ottoman Garden and Linnean House (the oldest continuously operating greenhouse in the country), providing a stroll to fit not one, but many a garden fancy. Shaw, 314.577.5100.
Best Music Event: LouFest
Watch out, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and South by Southwest: LouFest is not only putting St. Louis on the map, it’s out to stake its claim on the national music scene. The second annual indie music fest, Aug. 27-28, calls music fans of all ages to rock out to the sounds of The Roots, Cat Power and 16 other national and local indie bands while taking full advantage of the great food, cool retail and countless other indie-centric happenings sure to take place on and offstage. Forest Park, loufest.com.
Best Performing Arts Lineup: Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center
Whether you want to get swept up in the emotion of an opera or get your toes tappin’ to jazzy riffs, the Touhill delivers an incredible show every time. Its lineup is practically endless, with everything from classical to jazz to international. But no matter what the style, the center is consistently bringing St. Louis unmatched live entertainment you won’t find anywhere else. Bellerive, 314.516.4100.
Best Arts Innovator: St. Louis Symphony
Truly living up to this season’s motto, “Tradition + Innovation = Success,” the Symphony’s world-renowned director David Robertson continues to lead blockbuster performances with vitality and impeccable musicianship. And, by playing host to the St. Louis Speakers Series, presented by Maryville University, the Symphony’s Powell Hall home brings an added layer of cultural entertainment with seven evenings of profound insights and fascinating discussions led by Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Peace Prize winners, authors and other celebrated personalities to enlightened local audiences. Downtown, 314.534.1700.
Best Arts Organization: COCA (Center of Creative Arts)
COCA isn’t just a gallery, or an exhibit space, or an education center—it’s an inspiring refuge for creativity all under one roof. Housed in a 60,000 square foot building with a 400 seat theater, COCA offers performing and visual arts education, camps and workshops for creatives all ages. If you’re looking for a true art “home,” this organization will be your sanctuary. Clayton, 314.725.6555.
Best Place to get Active: Forest Park
With a golf course, tennis courts, ball fields and miles of tracks and trails for walking, running, biking and blading, there’s no excuse to be idle in Forest Park, no matter how many visits you’ve made. If you want to slow down and see some sights, the park is, of course, home of the Saint Louis Zoo, The Muny Opera, Art Museum, History Museum and the Science Center, all of which deserve a visit or two, or three…you get the picture. Forest Park Visitor and Education Center, 314.367.7275.
Best Place for a Visual Adventure: OMNIMAX Theater at St. Louis Science Center
With a four-story screen, a wraparound dome theater, a 15,000 watt sound system and film that’s 10 times the size of regular 35 mm, there’s no better way to watch the latest documentaries and Hollywood blockbusters. The expression, “larger than life” seems to pale in comparison to this indescribable journey, which oftentimes takes you further than even being there would. Imaginations welcome. Oakland, 314.289.4400.
Best Picnic Spot: Citygarden
This artful oasis in the middle of downtown offers a temporary escape for anyone who wants to ditch the urban bustle for a bit. Free and open to the public year round, Citygarden boasts plenty of calming green space that’s sure to take the edge off a tough morning at the office. Brown bag it, or take advantage of the fare at The Terrace View Cafe while feasting your eyes on the 24 pieces of international sculpture—and de-stressing to the sounds of soothing water elements— before braving the afternoon rush. Downtown, citygardenstl.org.
Best Day Trip: The Gardens at Malmaison
If Lewis and Clark felt the historic area surrounding The Gardens at Malmaison was worthy of a stop, then so do we. Just a short drive west of St. Louis, this picturesque backyard getaway offers scenery reminiscent of the French countryside with a combination of continental cuisines and country classics. Enjoy a leisurely meal in one of the two indoor dining rooms, or dine outdoors in the gardens or patio before strolling the incredible grounds. Need more than a day? Book a room at The Studio Inn B&B. St. Albans, 636.458.0131.
Best Twilight Activity: Missouri History Museum “Twilight Tuesdays”
There’s no better way to watch a summer sunset than on the sprawling front lawn of the History Museum. Grab your blankets and lawn chairs, pack your picnic basket and tickle your senses with the sounds of Darryl Gerdine, Mystic Voyage and Steve Davis. With all this and special activities for the kids—free of charge—get there early to claim your spot. Forest Park, 314.746.4599.
Printmaking: The Firecracker Press
The printing press certainly has enjoyed its heyday, but few centuries later, traditional printmaking has made a comeback. The increasingly popular trend has turned etching, woodcuts and screen-prints into coveted art forms, and The Firecracker Press–with its combination of antique printing technology and new thinking–brings the trend right here to St. Louis. Benton Park, 314.776.7271.
The top groups in town to motivate, inspire and make a difference in our community.
Best Singles Group: It’s Just Lunch
Because everybody needs an exit strategy, this no-nonsense singles group was created and operates on the premise of providing a graceful exit if, after a quick lunch or happy hour, you decide Mr. Right is Mr. Terribly Wrong. Plus, they handle everything for busy St. Louis singles, from matchmaking to date details. Multiple locations, 314.863.7300.
Best Way to Get Involved: Connect With
Whether you’re in a St. Louis transplant or born and raised in town, this collaborative of 45 diverse social and young professional groups from across the metro area makes it easy to get involved. From cultural groups to civic organizations, discover what Connect With has to offer through quarterly events or at the big networking bash each fall. Connectwithstlouis.com.
Best Way to Discover a New Hobby: Craft Alliance
In our crazy, tech-driven world, it’s no wonder hobbies in arts and crafts are seeing such a resurgence. Craft Alliance is the go-to place to get elbows deep in art that doesn’t require a keyboard and plug. The center offers classes in several mediums (glass, metal, fiber) led by nationally recognized faculty at its original studio in the Delmar Loop, the newest spot in Grand Center. 314.725.1177.
Best Organizations for Active Personalities: Trailnet
Whether you can’t stand to be on the couch, or you’re looking for motivation to get off one, Trailnet’s hikers, bikers and advocates can help. Take advantage of the calendar full of group bike rides and outdoor activities, made possible by this nonprofit devoted to developing bike and pedestrian trails, saving greenspaces and advocating alternative transportation. If that’s not worth pedaling for, we don’t know what is. Downtown, 314.436.1324.
Best Group to Expand Your Network: River City Professionals
At 6,000 members strong, River City Professionals is one of the largest, most popular professional networking groups in the city. The organization brings together 500 young professionals each month to network, exchange ideas and raise money for charity. Membership is free, as are the networking happy hours, held the third Tuesday of every month. Bottoms up… professionally, of course. RiverCityProfessionals.org.
Best Way to Share New Ideas: PechaKucha
A whirlwind evening of ideas, inspiration and creativity, PechaKucha seeks to “refocus the public dialogue on what makes this city great.” How? Through events with a simple 20-by-20 format: presenters share 20 images, each for 20 seconds, on any subject, in rapid Pecha style. Events can pop up virtually anywhere in STL. So stay tuned; the Tokyo-bred experience is not to be missed. Pecha-kucha.org/night/st-louis.
2011 Hot List: Explore
Best Place for a Scenic Stroll: Missouri Botantical Garden
Photo credit: By Attilio D’Agostino