Charlie Brennan, the host of a 2-hour a day radio show on KMOX and host of the weekly talk show, Donnybrook on KETC, recently wrote a piece for USA Today on 12 things to do in St. Louis. After reading the list, I could tell that Charlie grew up in Ohio and came to St. Louis from Boston.
#1 Charlie lists Lambert Field at the top of his list, saying the airport gives a first impression. He also notes that parts of two movies were filmed there. The AIRPORT! You have to be kidding. The reason movies were filmed there is because it is empty. It is dead! It is also one of the worst airports in the country, ahead of just perhaps the airport in Miami.
My number one spot in St. Louis would have to be Forest Park. A world class zoo and an above average Art Museum along with a local history museum is much more memorable than the airport.
#2 Charlie says seeing Chuck Berry play at his monthly gig at Blueberry Hill on Delmar as a reason to come to St. Louis. Chuck’s monthly $35 a person appearance at Blueberry Hill often lasts less than an hour. Chuck in 85 now and sometimes just isn’t feeling well enough for a full hour show. Here is what the Blueberry Hill’s website says about the performance: All shows are general admission. Very limited seating. Anticipate standing. Paying $70 for a couple to probably stand in the back and maybe get 30 minutes of show is a good way to get people mad about St. Louis. I’d leave Chuck for St. Lousians and not visitors.
I’d choose the Mississippi River as my #2 thing to see in St. Louis. I’d suggest the Riverfront and also do some river watching in West Alton, Portage de Sioux or in Elsah, IL. It’s free and you can sit.
#3 Brennan claims FREE BEER at The A-B Brewery and Grant’s Farm is number three. Since In-Bev has taken over and Budweiser is no longer the local beer, I hate to quibble, but In-Bev has cut the days and even the months that Grant’s Farm is open. I’d have this on my list but down a notch at #4.
My third top thing to do in St. Louis would be to go to a Cardinal’s game. I know that Major League baseball is played all over the country. There are a number of new “old style” stadiums that don’t make Busch Stadium III that unique. It is the fans that are different. The local baseball fans are so loyal, but they are nice while still being fanatics. An out-of-towner wearing a cap of the visiting team doesn’t have to worry about a beating when leaving the ballpark.
#4 Brennan claims the MUNY Opera is a reason to come to St. Louis. The Muny features play revivals during the summer. It is special for us growing up here, but not for those passing through. If you want to see a Broadway show, go to New York.
I put the free beer at the Brewery and Grant’s Farm at four on my list.
#5 The Old Courthouse is in the five-spot on Brennan’s list. If the visitor is coming from the East Coast or the South they have old courthouses all over the map.
I really think a special sight, even if you are not religious is the art work and mosaics in what we old St. Louis folks call the “New Cathedral” on Lindell and what the archdiocese calls the Cathedral Basilica.
#6 Brennan mentions The Hill as where Joe Garagiola and Yogi Berra grew up. I hate to point out that Joe has lived for 30 years in Phoenix and Yogi has lived for 60 years in New Jersey. Charlie does also mention St. Louis style pizza.
I agree if you are going to be here you need to try the local favorite food. However, I would not require you to go to the Hill to get a pizza covered with Provel cheese. I’d suggest any Imo’s or Farotto’s in Rock Hill or a Talayna’s Pizza which you can also get at the Frontenac Grill.
#7 Ted Drewes is Number 7 for Charlie. I agree, but frozen custard is not that unusual. Three things make Drewes special. The buildings are the original items dating back to 1930. The devoted following with people driving from all over the metro area for overpriced ice cream. Finally there is the secret ingredient. During World War II there was sugar rationing across the country and Drewes could not get enough sugar to make the frozen custard. So Ted’s father would send him out to the stores to buy honey, which was not rationed, to add to the custard. After V-J Day the honey remained in the recipe.
#8 Brennan somehow ties Tennessee Williams working in a shoe factory which is the same building where the City Museum is now located. That building and St. Louis in general caused Williams to become deeply depressed and write depressing plays.
To avoid kid’s snot and screams at the City Museum try the Science Museum. If you want more kids, try the Magic House in Kirkwood. If you are a guy or have boys in tow skip all of this and go directly to the Museum of Transportation on Barrett Station Road…if you are an adult couple, women to Shaw’s Gardens and men to the Museum of Transportation to see the trains, cars, trucks plus a couple of airplanes.
#9 Brennan’s ninth recommendation makes me think he is a repressed Catholic, who came here from Boston. Charlie suggests people head to the History Museum in Forest park for the Woman’s Underwear Exhibit.
My ninth place suggestion is to take a drive and see how the other half lives. Go visit the people with "old money." Go out to Ladue and Huntleigh and to the end of the road of every street that has a sign that says “No Outlet” or better yet "Private Street."
#10 Charlie recommends trying the Celebrity Restaurants of St. Louis and then mentions them as being J. Buck’s and Mike Shannon’s. If Joe Buck and Mike Shannon are your two biggest celebrity restaurant owners, perhaps you would be better off not mentioning this category at all. Brennan does mention Crown candy.
My favorite celebrity restaurant would have to be Jack Parker’s joint. It doesn’t even have the owner’s name. It’s O’Connell’s Pub at Kingshighway and Shaw. O’Connell’s was an early landmark in Gaslight Square, across the street from the Crystal Palace on Boyle Avenue. Parker would send bagpipe bands out into the streets late at night. O’Connell’s was the last place to leave Gaslight Square and its interior is remarkably similar to the original location and includes some of the same furniture.
#11 Brennan has rapper Nelly as the 11th attraction to St. Louis. Like Charlie knows his rap and hip-hop. What are the odds of anyone landing at Lambert Field and then catching up with Nelly to listen to some anti-social rap?
Me, I would suggest seeing some of the local musicians who sing songs that don’t have lyrics that rhyme with “sucker.” Anita Rosamond comes to mind. For the price of a drink or a cheap meal you can watch Anita and her “guest” performers do three straight hours of songs and fun.
#12 Charlie finishes his list telling folks to go to Clayton because it is the hometown of Vincent Price and Kevin Kline. Talk about skewing old! Vincent Price died in 1993. His biggest films were Laura in 1944, The Ten Commandments in 1956 and The Fly in 1958.
I’d suggest visitors go to Affton, an area that produced John Goodman and Jon Hamm.
Or better yet go to the Calvary Cemetery, where General William Tecumseh Sherman is buried. Sherman was not born in St. Louis, but did live here at the start of the Civil War and despite living in New York at the time of his death wanted to be buried here.
Charlie also did not mention all the top 10 categories where you can find St. Louis listed; Murder (usually Between #1 and #5 competing with New Orleans, Washington, DC, Camden, NJ and Philadelphia), Sexually Transmitted Diseases (#1), Best Tasting Tap Water (#1 2007), Worst Place for Asthma Suffers (#6), Most Dangerous Cities (#4), Most Toxic City (#8), Best Hospitals (#8), Worst Men’s Health (#1) and recently #1 in reported cases of flu.
An earlier version of this column incorrectly characterized shows at the Muny as "touring companies." A corrected version appears here.