I’ve been offered a job in St. Louis. What do I need to know about the city?
I grew up here, and I live here now. In between, I spent 20 years living a bunch of other places (including NYC, DC, Sydney), so I have a pretty reasonable perspective on STL. Here are the basics:
The Cost of Living is below the national average. Depending on what else you are considering, you will probably find housing, food, entertainment and the like to be quite reasonable
Traffic and commuting are less of a hassle than in bigger cities. We have rush hour, but only in a relative sense. The highway infrastructure is generally adequate
Weather We’re almost as bad as Houston in the summer, with long stretches of hot and humid. We also get real winters. Plenty of snow and our local favorite, freezing rain
Economy It’s not awful, but it’s been on a long, very slow decline for decades. STL still has more than its share of Fortune 500 companies, but we lose another every few years. ‘Moribund’ would be an overstatement, but there’s no boomtown feeling
Crime You might see some alarming statistics regarding crime rates in STL. Don’t worry about them. There are some very bad areas around here, but they’re isolated. You want to love west or south of downtown. Northwest and north of downtown can range from dodge to downright dangerous, and East St Louis (actually a separate city, and part of Illinois) is basically the forbidden zone
Politics and Culture This is a conservative town with a moderate anti-progressive stance. We have more than our fair share of suburban rednecks. It’s racially segregated, and you won’t find many mixed neighborhoods. We’ve covered enough about the STL County Police in the Michael Brown thread, but suffice to say that recent events in Cleveland and NY could just as easily have happened here
Schools Public schools range from top-notch to awful, depending on where you live. It’s mostly a function of the median income of that area, but you’ll want to research this if you have kids, or plans for same
Stuff to Do STL has some great restaurants, bars and places to walk around. Depending on your age and hipness, Clayton, University City or the Washington Avenue areas offer pretty good clusters of fine dining, live music and nightclubs. As for natural wonders, you’re an awfully long way from anything resembling a ski slope or beach. There are some nice hiking areas within driving distance
Sports This town is fairly nuts about sports, particularly the baseball team. The Cardinals are almost always good. The hockey team is pretty good too. The football team… well, if you’re any kind of football fan, you already know
Travel I don’t know if your job will require much travel, but it’s an issue for some. STL’s airport is moderately awful in terms of the facility itself. The number of direct flights out has been cut way back as well, compared to when TWA and, later AA had hubs here. About 2/3 of the flights are on SW now, which has made this a hub. Your feelings about travel here will track how you feel about SW’s business model and routing
People The cliche exchange when two St Louisans meet (anywhere) is, “Where’d you go to high school?” It’s something of an in-joke, but there’s truth to it. There aren’t nearly as many transplants here as the more cosmopolitan cities, and many people still hang out with folks they’ve known since 5th grade. That doesn’t mean people are unfriendly or unwelcoming to strangers – but if you spend 30 years here, you’ll still be “that fella from New Hampshire” (or wherever)
In terms of mid-size cities, it’s a pretty good place to live. Nobody will confuse it with NY, SF, Seattle, Denver or the like. It’s about as glamorous as Cleveland. But it’s a nicer place than its national reputation indicates (even before the Ferguson explosion). Of course, your experience will be a function of where you live and work. There’s a fair degree of variety.
I still love my home town a great deal. Oghier’s got you covered, pretty much.
I’d say that the traffic’s a little bit worse at rush hour than he’s painting it, but it depends on where you live in relationship to where you work. I’d definitely recommend living on the Missouri side of the river.
It depends on how old you are and what kind of things you value in a city as far as recommendations on where to live. The public school districts in most of West County are top-notch–that’s the massive Parkway districts and Pattonville mostly. Those communities are Chesterfield, Maryland Heights, Olivette, and any nearby environs.
There are more diverse and interesting neighborhoods closer to the City. The South City/South Grand neighborhood is awesome, close to SLU (Saint Louis University) and very vibrant.
University City (U-City to the locals) is my favorite suburban STL neighborhood. The Delmar Loop remains amazing, there’s decent living all around it (thanks to the presence of one of the finest schools in the country in Washington University, from whence the city gets its name), and the U-City school district is very good. It’s also the most racially diverse area in the the county, pretty much.
North County has taken a beating in the papers, but Hazelwood and Florissant are both very good, tending to blue-collar areas. The Hazelwood and McCluer school districts are both decent.
If you, um, are getting a really good job, there’s always Brentwood, Ladue, Clayton, Frontenac and Town & Country. Believe those neighborhoods still rank among the highest income per capita neighborhoods in America. Gated communities. Anheuser Busch, Ralston Purina, and Monsanto execs along former St. Louis Cardinals and their extended families.
I’ve lived here all my life and I enjoy St. Louis. It’s pretty laid back. It’s safe as long as you stay away from a few concentrated pockets of unrest. Housing is a good buy here as I understand it.
I think Oghier overstates the amount of snow we get. No snow on the ground at present. We probably get 3-4 snowfalls of significance most winters, but the thing about St. Louis is the temperature in winter averages in the 30’s so the snow usually melts after a few days or a week.
Lots of free stuff to do in St. Louis. The Zoo, which is a great zoo, is free. So is the Art Museum and the History Museum, as is the Science Center. The Muny has a summer run of shows and there are free seats available for those too. Forest Park is one of the largest municipal parks in the U.S., bigger than NY’s Central Park. We’ve got a great Symphony too, but that isn’t free. Oh, and if you’re into opera we’ve got an opera series that is nationally renowned. I finally went a couple of years ago and was not entranced, but I gave it a shot.
I can’t believe all you St Louis guys aren’t mentioning the food. I lived in “The Hill” (44 & Hampton) and there is a huge density of Italian food that is awesome. I liked that area a lot. It was pretty close in to the city with turn of the century housing - think 1920’s that is really nice. Not huge houses, but well built and a lot of variety. The house prices were very reasonable.
I enjoyed St Louis except for the summers. It gets hot & sticky because of the humidity.
Tman is totally right. St. Louis is a tremendously underrated food town, especially if you like Italian. The Hill is AMAZING. You could gain 10 pounds just driving down Gravois or Hampton in that area.
And yeah, there’s no getting around it as far as summers in St. Louis go. You’ve got a city that sits snugly between two of the world’s largest rivers. That means humidity at saturation levels some days of the summer, and routinely above 80% most of the time. As in, walk outside and you feel moisture, even though it isn’t raining. There are days in July and August that feel like someone’s thrown a wet towel on your face.
The silver lining is that is that most post-1970s housing in St. Louis has central air conditioning as a life necessity requirement already installed. So do most schools, buildings, businesses, etc. It’s fairly manageable once you get the hang of treating the worst summer days the same way you’d treat being in a heavy rain–you go from building to car to building as fast as you can and don’t hang out outside unless you have to.
Plus, you can giggle at folks from other parts of the country who say they’ve experienced humidity.
My experience was driving through on our cross country road trip a couple years ago. In July! So it was a great reminder of my years growing up in 100 degree humid weather in Arlington, TX. My California born wife loved that haha. We stopped at the Arch with our 8-month-old and then I believe we drove through one of those forbidden zones to get some custard that she had read about. It was a pretty brutal overall experience but I’m sure it’s a great place to live. Also not terribly far from Kansas City which is another great food spot, especially barbecue.
Heh - took me a while to see my own typo.
That’s totally a Honolulu thing too (although nobody says “fella”). Is it true of most decent-sized cities without a ton of transplants (or where they’re mostly concentrated to a few areas)?
In Los Angeles it’s more like shock that I’m a third generation Angeleno rather than talk about people being from somewhere else (my son was supposed to be born in Los Angeles, but the medical facility in Anaheim was better).
As to St Louis, not the least bit interested in going to a town where their football team was run outta town on a rail here. ;-)
Hey thank you all so much. I’m sure I’ll be referring to this thread because I accepted the position. I’ll be working in Frontenac. Does anyone want to have a St. Louis Q23 meet and greet or game night sometime in the next month or two?
Wow, good for you. Refer up-thread to the standard of living in Frontenac. Hopefully they’re paying you well enough to live nearby!
I mean, if they are, that’s great, but take a look at places like Chesterfield, too. You’ll have a commute, but you’ll get a whole lot more house/property there than in Frontenac/Brentwood/Ladue.
OH! One other area to mention, because it’s an awesome place to live, it’s close to Frontenac, and it’s a little different: Richmond Heights. Lots of older houses, some going back to the 19th century. Nice neighborhood. Sits cheek-by-jowl next to Clayton, but not nearly as pricey. U-City and Central West End (CWE) are close by as well. My brother and his wife lived there 15 years ago or so and loved it.
I’d be happy to meet up and say hello, and I’d be happy to drive you around for an hour or two and show you some neighborhoods if you’re interested some weekend.
The pizza has real weird cheese. Has anyone talked about the pizza cheese yet? Like 3 of the restaurants I ordered pizza from when I’d stay there had this odd cheese on it, not a fan. :(
It’s provel cheese, but plenty of places have mozzarella.
St. Louis style pizza–and the ability to truly appreciate processed cheese food on a paper-thin pastry crust–is a gift God gives to St. Louisans as compensation for being in such a humid city.
Don’t go dissin’ the provel.
Also, Imo’s is the famous purveyor, but if you head to the Hill or other environs, you’ll find better iterations of St. Louis style pies. My personal pick as the best of all of them? Pio’s Pizza in St. Charles, my hometown. The Pio family has been running that place since the 1950s, and it is fantastic. As you eat, you can contemplate on not having been around to appreciate the amazing pies made by the Covilli-Sasso restaurant on West Clay, but Pio’s is damned close.
Man, I sure wouldn’t want to try to get cool in a 19th century house running window coolers or even retrofit for central air. St. Louis can be murder in the summer. (IMO, room-by-room heating solutions work pretty okay, but room-by-room cooling solutions BLOW)
There, I changed that a bit to better reflect reality. (St. Louis style pizza isn’t inedible, but it’s not a gift. Chicago style, on the other hand… and luckily St. Louis isn’t that far away from Chicago!)
If you want to look for a culinary gift from St. Louis, I’d stick with ribs. Or if you’ve been there too long, maybe toasted ravioli.
A number of the houses there have been retrofitted with central air and ductwork, which is fairly remarkable given the expense of doing so…but St. Louis summers require it.