Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Didja hear about the 'Lou?

St. Louis is my home.  My hometown, and the place that keeps pulling me back no matter how far I roam.  There are a few things you might know about St Louis, even if you've never been here before: 

The Cardinals - 11 World Series wins!
The 1904 Worlds Fair, setting
For Meet Me in St Louis
Anheuser-Busch brewery
The Arch - Gateway to the West/
symbol of the Louisiana Purchase

If you're a foodie, or know a St. Louisan at all (we all brag these little fun-facts eventually), you may also know that we claim credit for the following:
-Hot dog buns, ice cream cones, iced tea, hamburger eaten as a sandwich, and cotton candy are all traceable to the 1904 World's Fair.
-Toasted Ravioli  (invented in St Louis's Italian-American neighborhood known as The Hill).
-Peanut Butter (or so I've heard).
-Whistle and 7-up sodas.
And you can all thank St Louis favorite son Ted Drewes for the invention of the Concrete.  Some of you poor souls out there have only ever experienced the DQ Blizzard or the McDonalds McFlurry, but long before those behemoths started their poor copies, the original (made with real frozen custard, not soft serve) was invented right here.

If you're more of a newshound, you may know St Louis for less tasty reasons.  Like the fact that St. Louis is frequently listed as one of the most dangerous cities in the country, and holds the dubious honor of being named the third most dangerous city in the world for 2011.  I could explain how the data used to give us such a frightening distinction is misleading and in several ways inaccurate, but it's true that there is  a significant amount of violent crime, and, as in any urban area, you should exercise caution.

But what you still don't know based on all the blathering I've done so far, is what on earth any of this has to do with thrifting, vintage, or anything else you might have come to this blog to read about.  So allow me to (finally) inform you!  Aside from being a haven for lovers of artery-cloggingly delicious foods and a center of criminal activity, St. Louis recently earned the top spot in business and finance magazine Kiplinger's online review of the 10 Best Cities for Cheapskates!

According to the article, Kipplinger figured in obvious things like average income and cost-of-living, as well as (click the link and see for yourself - I swear I'm not making this up) the number of Dollar General stores within a 30 mile radius.  I would of course have preferred they count thrift stores per capita instead - then the list would double as a guide to road-trip destinations for yours cheaply!  From the article:

Like most people, cheapskates enjoy getting out.  They just don't want to pay a lot for the privilege.  All the picks on our list boast large numbers of public libraries and museums per capita, ensuring affordable access to culture.
So the number of public libraries and museums per capita was the other major metric for determining the cheapskate honorees.  What the article specifically tells you about St Louis' ranking in this category is pretty darn cool:

St. Louis isn't a huge city, but if we're counting per capita, it boasts more museums and libraries than any city on our list (and it beats New York and Washington, D.C., by a factor of 25).
Now that's something even I didn't know.  I assumed D.C., home of the Smithsonian in all its permutations, would have pretty much everyone beat in terms of museums per capita.  What I knew they couldn't beat us at was affordability.

Did you know that you have to pay money to get into most museums and zoos and musical theater venues?  I didn't.  Until I went off to college and was asked to pay a ridiculous sum of money to visit a puny little zoo, I had no idea how lucky I was to have grown up in this cheapskates' paradise.  Here in St. Louis, the world class zoo (listed as 3rd best zoo in the country for kids by Parents Magazine) boasts fantastic exhibits of all the usual suspects in gorgeous and historical setting.  In fact, if you go, you can visit the Flight Cage my great grandfather helped build for the 1904 World's Fair, and then visit Penguin and Puffin Coast, and soon the new Sharks and Stingrays exhibit.  There's a reptile house, there's Big Cat Country, there's The River's Edge, and there's my favorite thing in the entire zoo:  the prairie dogs.  Or as I like to call them, the 'Praise Jesus Prairie Dogs'.  Stop by some time, hang out and watch them for awhile, and see if you can tell why I call them that.  You can spend the whole day at the St Louis Zoo and never spend a dime.  That's right, folks, the Zoo?  It's free.  Granted, there are plenty of things you could pay for - parking in one of the designated lots, riding the awesome zooline railroad or the carousel, snacks at one of the concession stands or the restaurant, souvenirs at the shop or admission to the frankly awesome Children's Zoo, but none of that is required.  Even parking.  There is ample free parking within easy walking distance of the zoo entrance, throughout Forest Park, and hey, you're right there in Forest Park, who needs a concession stand when you can pack a picnic?  And if you don't mind getting up a little early, you can even skip the $4.00 a pop for the Children's Zoo if you get there before 10:00 AM.  Here, for your viewing pleasure are a few of the cutie pies of the St Louis Zoo from

And now, having waxed on for Way Too Long, I realize I've only even told you about the Zoo.  There are literally dozens more great things to do in St. Louis for super, duper cheap (if not free), so I'm thinking this may become a semi-regular feature.  What do you think:  Cheapskate's Paradise?  More to come!

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