Sport: A Charlotte FC Fan's Guide to St. Louis
Y'all Weekly's resident St. Louis native says if you’re making your way to STL for their home opener against Charlotte FC, you should absolutely make a trip out of it.
Full disclosure: I love St. Louis.
I was born there, half my family is from there, and I grew up on Cardinals games and toasted ravioli. I try to make it back at least once every year.
In many ways the Lou is the antithesis of my current and longest home, Charlotte. It reached its peak population of more than 850,000 seventy years ago, and has been perceived as a city on the decline. Charlotte recently passed the 850,000 mark for the first time and is on its way to a population of 1 million.
Another way of looking at it: St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) was a TWA and later American Airlines hub with passenger traffic peaking around 30 million per year in 2000; Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT) is now the sixth largest Airport in the country as STL has lost all of its major hubs and 20 million yearly passengers. In 2021, Charlotte had over 40 million passengers; STL had 10 million.
On the other hand, St. Louis has riches Charlotte can only aspire to: a central urban park, multiple transit rail lines, an elite university with both law and medical schools, and food it can claim as St. Louis originals. St. Louis not only has major league teams but major league championships, something that has eluded the Panthers and the Hornets. As we’ll get to, they also have a purpose-built soccer stadium.
While I am ever the Charlotte booster, there is nothing in the Queen City that comes close to Forest Park (including its free zoo and art museum), the City Museum, or the Arch.
All this to say that if you’re making your way to St. Louis for their home opener against Charlotte FC on March 4, 2023, you should absolutely make a trip out of it.
Where to Stay
Given its age, St. Louis has some hotel gems downtown. What might surprise you is they’re often less than $100 per night. A personal favorite is The Magnolia ($173/night during match weekend as of 1.14.23), which is rich with history. Back when it was The Mayfair, Cary Grant often stayed there, and the hotel claims to have invented hotel housekeeping’s chocolate-on-pillow touch. The hotel celebrates its 100th anniversary next year, and while some parts of the building show its age, it’s a solid downtown option near transit and major attractions.
Magnolia Hotel St. Louis, 421 North 8th Street, St. Louis, Missouri 63101
Accessible from the Convention Center and 8th & Pine MetroLink stations
Where to Play
Forest Park is the heart of St. Louis. The 1,326 acre urban park hosted both the World’s Fair and the Olympics in 1904, and today it continues that legacy as the home to many significant cultural institutions. It’s easily accessible by the Metrolink.
Families will enjoy the Saint Louis Zoo and the Saint Louis Science Center on the southern side of the park. The Saint Louis Art Museum is located in a beautiful historic building on the western side of the park, and contains ancient artifacts and works of art by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, and other masters. All three attractions are free, with charges for special attractions and exhibits. Pro tip: Visit the Art Museum on Friday and the special exhibits are free as well.
Forest Park, Various Addresses, St. Louis, MO 63110
Accessible from the Forest Park-DeBaliviere and Central West End Metrolink stations
Saint Louis Zoo, South Parking lot, Wells Dr, St. Louis, MO 63110
Saint Louis Science Center, 5050 Oakland Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63110
Saint Louis Art Museum, One Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri 63110
Closer to downtown are the City Museum and St. Louis Union Station.
Located in a former shoe factory, the City Museum is less a museum and more a maze and playground. It’s almost impossible to describe without pictures, so check out this Zillow Gone Wild listing in the same building to get an idea. Tickets are $20 for children and adults age 3 and up, which is a bargain when you consider big kids and little kids alike can easily spend an entire day here. Pro tip: wear pants and closed toe shoes for the many slides on the property.
Finally, since St. Louis City SC and Charlotte FC will kick off in March, the museum’s rooftop will be open - weather permitting.
Union Station, like many repurposed downtown districts, is a former bustling urban space updated with amenities for the 21st Century. While the trains have moved down the street, Union Station features restaurants, attractions, the St. Louis Aquarium, and the closest hotel to the soccer stadium. These days, the main attraction is the St. Louis Wheel. The ferris wheel costs $15 per adult and $10 per child. It stays open until 10 PM and the lines are typically shorter than those at the Gateway Arch.
City Museum, 750 N 16th St, St. Louis, MO 63103
Accessible from the 41, 74, and 97 bus lines.
8 blocks from the Convention Center MetroLink station.
St. Louis Union Station, 1820 Market St, St. Louis, MO 63103
Accessible from the Union Station MetroLink station.
What to See
If you’ve never been before, you may not know you can go to the top of the 630 foot tall Gateway Arch, the centerpiece of Gateway Arch National Park. Tickets start at $15 for adults and $11 for children for the tram ride to the top and the full experience.
Word to the wise: some people (and spouses) do get freaked out on the way up and at the top of the Arch.
Gateway Arch National Park, 11 North 4th Street, St. Louis, MO 63102
Accessible from multiple MetroLink stations.
What to Eat
St. Louis is known for many local foods: gooey butter cake, toasted ravioli, St. Louis-style pizza, frozen custard, and ribs.
You can find toasted ravioli at almost any bar, and at any of the legendary Italian restaurants in The Hill neighborhood, but my favorite dish of T-Rav in the city can be found at Trattoria Marcella. Come for the ravioli (full disclosure: it’s actually fried, not toasted), stay for an amazing off-the-menu lobster risotto.
Visiting Trattoria Marcella also puts you less than a mile away from what may be St. Louis’ most legendary spot: Ted Drewes Frozen Custard on historic Route 66. Order one of the many unique concretes with the knowledge that you’re eating the original inspiration for Dairy Queen’s Blizzard.
Trattoria Marcella, 3600 Watson Rd, St. Louis, MO 63109
Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, 6726 Chippewa St, St. Louis, MO 63109
Another St. Louis signature is Gus’ Pretzels. While the pretzels are always fresh out of the oven, the “sandwiches” - sausages like salsiccia packed inside a pretzel wrapping - are out-of-this-world. The shop is a local institution and celebrated its 100th anniversary during the pandemic. It’s also across the street from the massive Anheuser Busch brewery if you’re interested in a brewery tour or a couple pints at the biergarten.
Local entrepreneurs often purchase Gus’ pretzels in bulk and sell them outside sporting events, so if you’re enjoying a pretzel before your ticket is scanned, it likely came from Gus.
Finally, for a pre-match brunch (or a day-after brunch), consider Rooster in their brand-new space downtown.
Gus’ Pretzels, 1820 Arsenal St, St. Louis, MO 63118
Rooster, multiple locations
I haven’t had a chance to try the food or drink at St. Louis’ new stadium, but hopefully this guide serves as a good starting point for anyone traveling for soccer in March. If there’s something I missed, please add it in the comments below!
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