This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 14, 2008 - It may seem daunting when your visitor is too young to enjoy the local brews but too old to be awed by the Science Center. Grant's Farm and the Magic House are no longer the easy solutions for filling an afternoon. But you may be surprised that coming up with an itinerary is actually pretty simple.
KEEP IT LOCAL
When showing off St. Louis, keep it local. A college student loves to discover local eateries, boutiques, small music venues and bookstores. Areas near universities usually have the most options so South Grand, the Delmar Loop and the Central West End are major destinations.
After the Arch -- yes, it is a must -- stroll down Washington Avenue downtown. The art history major will love the various galleries, such as Ellen Curlee and Third Floor. Stop at boutiques along the way. Grab sushi at Wasabi or run down to Olive Street and catch the lunch buffet at Pino's Pizza.
Even if your guest is too big to crawl through the mazes of the City Museum, the attraction is a must. With a new store on the fourth floor and countless spots to focus the eyes, it is worth the $12 admission fee.
For the average college student, there is never a bad time to stop by a coffee house -- and I don't mean Starbucks. Almost every neighborhood has its own local shop. Stick with places that serve certified fair trade and organic blends.
The South Sider can choose from Hartford Coffee on Hartford, Cairdeas on Tamm, and Black Bear Bakery on Cherokee. Kayak's Coffee on Skinker and Meshuggah Cafe on Delmar are great for the U-City crowd, while the Central West End has numerous options, including the Grind on Lindell, 6 North on Sarah, and Coffee Cartel on Euclid. And one can never go wrong with Kaldi's, with locations in Chesterfield, Kirkwood and Clayton.
If your college guest has yet to master the bitter beauty that is coffee, try the fruitier concoctions at Bubble Tea with locations on Delmar and Olive. Often with Wi-Fi capabilities, postings for local events, and great alternative literature, the best coffeehouses radiate a campus-like aura, perfect for keeping the college student feeling as intellectual as ever.
If shopping is a must, avoid the mall. The Galleria is not what gives St. Louis its character.
For the best selections, try the Delmar Loop where shops range from up-to-date boutiques to classic vintage stops. Tantrum and Pitaya are great places for an outfit for a night out, while Alice's and tag are great if vintage is more your style. For thrifty yet trendy, Rag-o-Rama is guaranteed to please. Or, if one is feeling adventurous, hit the local thrift stores -- Goodwill, St. Vincent De Paul or Value Village. Hard work and searching are required, but they usually pay off. I got a woven, brown leather satchel and printed silk scarf for a whopping $3. A college student can't beat that.
The same philosophy goes for books and music: Avoid the chains. For bookstores, take the kid -- excuse me, young adult-- to Left Banks Books or Subterranean. For the used-book buff, try Hammond's on Cherokee, the Book House on Manchester, or Dunaway Books on Grand. Music lovers can spend hours at Vintage Vinyl or Euclid Records, walking away with classic jazz records or the latest indie album.
Do not overlook the obvious. Despite their stodgy reputation, museums are usually favorite destinations, and St. Louis has plenty of them. If you want to provide your guest with a true Midwestern experience, try picking fruit at Eckert's outside of Belleville or exploring the past at the Daniel Boone home in Defiance. If you have the time -- and gas -- head out to Belleville to the Sky-View Drive-in Theatre where the film buff can enjoy a flick under the stars.
Stick to live music and films. The rock lover will fall for Creepy Crawl on Washington Ave, while the reggae enthusiast can chill out at the Red Sea in the Loop. To show off local acts head down to Lucas Park Schoolhouse in Soulard or for national headliners check out what the Pageant has to offer. Every night, countless bands play all over the city at local pubs, festivals or nightclubs. Just keep your ears open.
Webster University has a year-long film series offering everything from independent documentaries to classic cinema. The Tivoli on Delmar is also geared toward the college crowd with great art cinema and midnight movies. If the latest blockbuster is more your style, head to the Moolah and eat popcorn on a comfy leather couch.
Hookah bars are another popular stop for the college crowd. Pick the flavor of your choice -- peach and double apple are favorites -- and enjoy a relaxing evening with friends. Hookah bars on Delmar and South Grand offer outdoor seating, great people watching and delicious baklava. If a classic American dessert is more appetizing, end your night at Ted Drewes for frozen custard or Crown Candy for an old-fashioned milk shake.
The right food and good art are all you need to entertain a college student, and St. Louis has more than enough of that.
Rachel Heidenry is a rising sophomore at Bard College, an intern and daughter of Beacon features and commentary editor Donna Korando.