Yesterday, the St. Louis Cardinals won their first baseball game in their last nine. This is a thing that, no matter how bad you think the Cardinals are going to get, is going to happen from time to time. I am asking, not out of a sense of negativity but out of a sense of obligation for your emotional well-being, that you not read too much into it. The Cardinals are going to have to do a lot more (winning the first game of a series would be a nice start) before you should jump back into full-throated belief in them.

There are adult St. Louis Cardinals fans who do not remember the last time the St. Louis Cardinals were not legitimate playoff contenders. This consistent level of success is the kind of thing that drives most non-Cardinals fans crazy when they hear Cardinals fans bemoan the team’s poor performance–the Cardinals do have a fan base that has regarded 83-win seasons as catastrophes befitting a congressional investigation, as though there is something about the 24th largest media market in the United States that should make it inherently successful every single season.

But while the Cardinals have been broadly very successful, they have not been overwhelmingly successful, in the sense that they have not typically won the National League Central by enormous margins. They have spent most seasons in tight races where every single game felt like it could be significant. This means that some fans just aren’t used to having this much potential free time during the summer, with the exception of in 2020, when such free time felt like something of a curse.

In the summer of 2023, however, I am going to suggest that fans take advantage of the other wonderful things that St. Louis has to offer. Some advocate for boycotts of the Cardinals, and I am not–I am simply suggesting that you do not need to feel obligated to spend your precious free time following along with a team that is not providing you the level of joy that you deserve. If the Cardinals are 50-100, I might watch an errant inning or two of the final twelve games of the season, and I’m sure I’ll watch whatever ceremony the Cardinals have for Adam Wainwright, but I won’t pretend they will be nightly appointment viewing. And that is because St. Louis has a ton to offer!

  1. Watch a St. Louis City SC game: Admittedly, this one doesn’t fall too far from the Cardinals tree. But in contrast to the St. Louis Cardinals, who have been truly awful, the new Major League Soccer team in town has been shockingly strong in its inaugural season. I am by no means a hardcore soccer aficionado, but I have always said to anybody who cares to listen that my favorite event I have ever attended at Busch Stadium was not a baseball game but rather a United States Men’s National Team World Cup qualifier. City plays at the gorgeous new CityPark in Downtown West, and while the relative lack of parking has been considered an issue, consider this an opportunity to save the frustration of driving and instead ride MetroLink, St. Louis’s extraordinarily underrated light rail mass transit system, to a match and explore the area on foot–daily MetroLink passes are cheaper than stadium parking, anyway.
  2. Go to the Saint Louis Zoo: I am going to freely admit something–I’m not a big zoo guy. But even I will concede that no American zoo does it better than St. Louis–admission is free, so even if you don’t enjoy it it won’t feel like too much of a loss, but it is widely acclaimed and generally ranks as one of the best, if not the best, free zoos in the country. If you have children, the Zoo is a cost-effective no-brainer.
  3. Visit a microbrewery: St. Louis is famous as the home of Anheuser-Busch, and while I am certainly not above drinking a Bud Light, Bud Select, or even a Busch, the true gems of the area are the microbreweries. The largest one is The Saint Louis Brewery, better known by its trade name of Schlafly, which has three locations–one not too far from the aforementioned CityPark, one in downtown St. Charles, and a third in Maplewood that will always earn your boy’s endorsement since it’s where I had my first date with my now-wife. Other famous ones include Urban Chestnut and 4 Hands, though I would also give shoutouts to smaller spots like Dogtown’s Heavy Riff, Lafayette Square’s Square One (which also serves as a microdistillery), or Patch’s Perennial Artisan Ales. And if you are under 21 or do not drink, an increasing number of spots are offering tasty non-alcoholic options, and Fitz’s Root Beer offers fantastic craft root beer and other sodas at their restaurants, which also has food that is far better than it has any need to be.
  4. Eat some Ted Drewes: For all of the divisiveness of St. Louis-style pizza or toasted ravioli or bread-sliced bagels (psst–we don’t actually eat our bagels that way with any regularity), Ted Drewes Frozen Custard seems to be the least divisive of St. Louis’s culinary institutions, and despite its outsized reputation, you can get frozen treats at comparable prices to what you would pay at a Dairy Queen or Cold Stone Creamery-type chain. Its two locations, particularly its flagship spot on Chippewa, is synonymous with post-Cardinals game visits, but I would suggest planning your trip to avoid this rush. If you haven’t been, note that the parking lot is quite small, but on a lovely summer night, the short walk from the nearby St. Louis Hills neighborhoods will make you not consider the delicious but caloric ramifications of what you are about to be consuming.
  5. Head to Six Flags St. Louis: Although it is located about a half-hour drive from the center of St. Louis, Eureka’s Six Flags St. Louis theme park is a delight for all ages. Whether your taste is the ten roller coasters, the Hurricane Harbor water park, or the Bugs Bunny National Park area designed for small children, just about anyone can have a good time at the theme park. I’m personally a big fan of Mr. Freeze, an intense roller coaster that has allowed the unpopular Arnold Schwarzenegger character from Batman & Robin to live on far more vividly in St. Louis than in most places.
  6. Have dinner on The Hill: There are a ton of great places to eat in St. Louis. The large Bosnian population of the area has had a major impact on local cuisine in recent years, the city’s Chinese restaurants offer the unique St. Paul sandwich, and the stretch of Mexican restaurants on Cherokee Street are hard to deny. But if I had to pick one definitive food spot in town, it’s hard to deny the staying power of The Hill, the historically Italian neighborhood in St. Louis which was the home of such baseball luminaries as Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola. There are a number of bakeries, the beloved sandwich spot Gioia’s Deli, the two restaurants that claim to have invented toasted ravioli (Mama’s On The Hill and Charlie Gitto’s), or for a more casual vibe altogether, there is Milo’s Bocce Garden, a bar/restaurant with bocce courts.
  7. Take a stroll through Forest Park: The primary home of two of the most significant global events in St. Louis history, the 1904 World’s Fair as well as that year’s Summer Olympics, Forest Park remains a significant cultural hallmark of the area. Forest Park certainly qualifies as a great place for a simple walk, but locations within the park include the Missouri History Museum, the Science Center, the St. Louis Art Museum, and the frequent summer concerts at Art Hill.
  8. Check out the World Chess Hall of Fame: For as much as baseball factors into the fabric of St. Louis, one could make the case that the most truly ubiquitous sport for the city is actually chess, and the presence of the World Chess Hall of Fame in the Central West End neighborhood is a testament to that. You can see the world’s largest chess piece, a number of artifacts from such chess luminaries as Garry Kasparov and Bobby Fischer, and a wide collection of designer chess boards and piece sets. And if you aren’t sure if you care enough about chess to justify the cost, it’s worth noting that the World Chess Hall of Fame is free of charge and is located in a vibrant neighborhood with a ton of bars and restaurants and is located within walking distance of both Left Bank Books, the most acclaimed independent book store in the area, and Up-Down STL, a vintage arcade with a wonderful selection of classic video games.
  9. Head to the Muny: I ignored this in my write-up of Forest Park, because frankly it deserves its own entry–the St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre is an 11,000 seat outdoor venue which plays host to popular touring musicals throughout the summer. Because of its size and because the Muny is run by a nonprofit, ticket prices tend to be fairly reasonable, but for true bargain-hunters, they also have 1,500 free seats at the back that are distributed on a first-come first-serve basis. Unlike the Cardinals, which have a decent probability of disappointing you, a musical at the Muny will be a far safer option throughout the summer.
  10. Visit the City Museum: Look, I don’t know why St. Louis has a place called City Museum that is, for all intents and purposes, a really big and really weird looking playground. It is a building that looks like it was a designed by a hyperactive child smashing together their toys. And that’s what’s charming about it. That is what defines St. Louis–not the presence of a successful baseball team, but whatever weird culture that we are able to craft. You should not let the limitations of your stupid baseball team inhibit how much you enjoy your summer.

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