In Grand Center, you’ll also find the Contemporary Art Museum (3750 Washington Blvd. Tel: 314-535-4660. www.camstl.org), with a spectacular set of revolving exhibitions, and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation (3716 Washington Blvd. Tel: 314-754-1850. www.pulitzerarts.org), both are devoted to contemporary exhibits, and the Harold and Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz (3536 Washington Ave. Tel: 314-571-6000. www.jazzstl.org) that hosts the latest upcomers and seasoned musical veterans (Wynton Marsalis, Al Jarreau, and Diana Krall have all performed here). While most of these spots have been around for a while, the emergence of the area as a “district” has solidified its spot in the city as the go-to destination for the arts.
While many of the museums and cultural institutions can be found in the aforementioned two neighborhoods, they’re by no means limited to here. Five cultural institutions make their home in Forest Park (Visitors’ Center: 5595 Grand Dr. Tel: 314-
367-7275. www.forestparkforever.org). If there’s a more precious jewel in the St. Louis crown than Forest Park, I don’t know what it is. It actually borders a wide array of neighborhoods, straddling city and county with a bounty of nature and culture. Let’s start with the culture. St. Louis Art Museum (One Fine Arts Dr. Tel: 314-621-0072. www.slam.org), perhaps the prime destination for culture in the city, offers such master modern artists as Picasso, Monet, and Van Gogh, great collections from African and Asian to Native American, and a sculpture garden that opened in 2013. I remember as a teen marveling at the inscription over the door, “Dedicated to art, and free to all,” and that remains the case. In fact, all the
culture spots within the park are free, which is a pretty amazing thing. So check out the Missouri History Museum (4700 Lindell Blvd. 746-4599. www.mohistory.org/museum), where upcoming exhibits include The Mighty Mississippi and Flores Mexicanas, as well as a continuing exhibit on the 1904 World’s Fair (which occurred in Forest park).
Also, don’t Miss the St. Louis Zoo (1 Government Dr. Tel: 314-781-0900. www.stlzoo.org), one of the best zoos in the
country, and the St. Louis Science Center (5050 Oakland Ave. Tel: 314-289-4400. www.slsc.org), with its adjacent Planetarium. At the Municipal Opera, or The Muny (1 Theatre Dr. Tel: 314-361-1900. www.muny.org), almost 1,500 seats are offered free each night for the outdoor musicals (if I say I saw Pearl Bailey here, am I dating myself?).
Then there’s the park itself. Some of its pleasures are long-familiar, like the Grand Basin, a gorgeous fountain with a stunning view up “Art Hill” to the Art Museum. With its 30 miles of trails, however, it’s a constant discovery process. I love the John F. Kennedy Memorial Forest, with its six-mile looping trail, and the Healing Garden, full of black-eyed Susans and the monarch butterflies that love them. I stroll for hours past lakes (some plied by canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats), past
streams surrounded by wildflowers, with the distant car sounds overwhelmed by the chirping of birds (there are 200 native species in the park). Set foot in Forest Park, and you’re likely to spend the entire day (or several days) exploring all the indoor and outdoor riches, perhaps listening to a summer concert on Art Hill, taking a (free) wildflower walk or skating in
Steinberg Rink in winter. It’s easy to lose track of time in this urban oasis that at 1,300 acres is bigger than New York’s Central Park.
One of the neighborhoods bordering the park is The Grove, the main LGBTQ neighborhood of the city, on the edge of the suburb of Maplewood. In perhaps the biggest change since I lived here, St. Louis has become super LGBTQ-friendly, and even the tourism website (www.explorestlouis.com) has an LGBT section—unthinkable back in the day! In The Grove, rainbow flags fly prominently, and most of the LGBTQ nightlife is centered here. Predominant among the night spots is Just John Nightclub (4112 Manchester Ave. Tel: 314-371-1333. www.justjohnclub.com), and whether you head here for karaoke, Sunday show tunes, dancing to local bands, or just chilling out with one of their many nightly drink specials, it’s definitely one you should catch.
So, too, is Rehab (4054 Choteau Ave. Tel: 314-652-3700. www.rehabstl.com), where dance parties, a great happy hour,
and events like Divas of the Grove make it a popular spot for a diverse crowd. Your evening at the speakeasy-styled The
Monocle and Emerald Room (4510 Manchester Ave. Tel: 314-932-7003. www.themonoclestl.com) begins in The Monocle,
an “all-inclusive, classy dive bar.” Have a hand-crafted cocktail or two at the bar, then hit The Emerald Room for a show that could be drag, comedy, cabaret, or even “burlyeoke” (“You Sing, We Strip”). Open about four years, it’s a welcome addition
among all the perennially popular spots. Speaking of dive bars (and entertainment), you might want to pay a visit to Attitudes (4100 Manchester Ave. Tel: 314-534-0444. www.facebook.com/attitudesnightclubstl), where drag shows, a dance floor, and a fun, mixed crowd have kept this place going since 1988.