St. Louis, often called the Gateway to the West, is home to some of the country’s most recognizable corporations, including Enterprise Holdings, the rental car company; Edward Jones Investments; Energizer battery company; and of course, the city’s most popular company, Anheuser-Busch. The city is also home to three professional sports teams — the St. Louis Cardinals, Blues and Rams — and is one of the LGBT capitals of the Midwest.
Visitors to St. Louis should consider using the MetroLink train system, an inexpensive way to travel throughout the city. It has two routes, the red line and the blue line, and it’s easy to navigate. MetroLink connects Lambert-St. Louis International Airport to downtown, as well as a host of other neighborhoods worth visiting, including my personal favorite, Forest Park.
One of the largest urban parks in the United States, Forest Park is about 1,300 acres, which is 500 acres or so larger than Central Park in New York City. Forest Park is home to the St. Louis Art Museum, the St Louis Science Center, the St. Louis Zoo, the Jewel Box greenhouse and the Missouri History Museum, as well as a 7.5-mile biking, jogging and skating path. Most of these attractions are free of charge.
The St. Louis Zoo, which has free admission, is home to 655 species of animals, many of them rare and endangered. Catch a glimpse of the cheetah, elephant, lion and penguin habitats while enjoying a leisurely day with friends and family. This summer, the zoo will open Sea Lion Sound, combining a spacious new sea lion habitat with the zoo’s popular sea lion show.
A brisk walk through Forest Park will lead you to another great attraction, the St. Louis Art Museum. It is among the nation’s leading comprehensive art museums, with collections that include more than 33,000 works. Most notable are the Chinese, pre-Columbian and 19th and 20th century masters galleries. The museum building itself is an architectural masterpiece and a highlight of the park. Admission is free.
St. Louis’ most recognizable landmark is, without a doubt, the Gateway Arch, the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in downtown St. Louis. The arch was completed in 1965, and at 630 feet, the stainless steel structure is the tallest manmade monument in the country. The view from the top should not be missed. Don’t forget to bring your camera!
After a day of history and culture, head to the Central West End neighborhood, which is adjacent to the park. It’s a gay-friendly destination with numerous sidewalk cafes, small boutiques, and antique stores. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, also in this neighborhood, houses the one of the world’s largest collections of mosaic art. Ground was broken for the cathedral in 1907, and it was designated in 1997 as a cathedral basilica.
Those looking to stay close to LGBT nightlife should check in at the Cheshire, a boutique hotel reminiscent of a traditional British inn. The hotel contains beautifully appointed rooms with luxury linens, deep soaking whirlpool tubs and complimentary tea service. The Cheshire truly transports visitors to the English countryside, and for a while, you forget you are in St. Louis. For a quick snack, stop by Fox & Hounds Tavern and sample traditional British fare.
Most of St. Louis LGBT culture is centered on the Grove, a growing business and entertainment district along Manchester Avenue, about a five-minute taxi ride from the hotel. The Grove is home to a variety of independently owned restaurants, nightlife options, and retail shops.
Stop by Atomic Cowboy for some Mexican cuisine, such as shredded pork tacos, fish tacos, or buffalo chicken sliders, or head to the Bad Dog Bar & Grill to mingle with the leather and bear crowd and enjoy happy hour cocktails and traditional American fare. Ladies should make an effort to go to Novak’s, regularly voted one of the top lesbian bars in St. Louis. The vibrant bar and grill features weekly karaoke nights and a regular lineup of live entertainment.
Gays looking to party St. Louis-style should head to Just John Nightclub, located in the heart of Manchester Avenue. Just John offers an upscale environment with high-tech lighting, premium sound, flat-screen TVs, private tables and the friendliest staff in town. The focal point of Just John is the Florida Room, an indoor/outdoor area that is climate-controlled and features a fireplace, tropical plants and lots of windows overlooking the patio area. While you are there, find Andy and ask him to pour you his signature Pineapple Upside-down Cake.
One of the coolest spots to visit in the Grove neighborhood is Erney’s 32 Degrees. The bar features a large, walk-in Vodka Box – a glass-enclosed freezer that people can gather in to sample dozens of vodkas from around the world. It gets quite cold inside the box, so dress appropriately.
St. Louis is also proud to host one of the largest pride festivals in the region, and it was held June 23-24 this year. The event in Tower Grove Park expected to attract over 60,000 visitors and featured headlining entertainment from Deborah Cox, Kristine W and Pandora Boxx. St. Louis Pride also included an Athletes Village and a nondenominational prayer service.
A highlight of St. Louis’ LGBT scene is the Gateway Men’s Chorus. The GMC was formed in 1988 with 22 singers and has since grown to about 80, making the chorus one of the most successful male choral arts organizations in the country. St. Louis is also home to numerous gay sports leagues, nonprofit organizations and cultural groups, making the city a must-see “out” destination.
OUT Destinations is part of OUTreach Public Relations, a Nashville-based company specializing in LGBT marketing. Founded by Joey Amato in 2012, OUTreach PR has quickly become one of the most sought after companies for firms looking to target the ever growing and affluent LGBT consumer. For more information, please visit www.outreachpublicrelations.com.