Maybe its that I am older, or maybe living in a big city like Cleveland for a decade has changed my perspective. Or, maybe it was the fact that any city bigger than Evansville Indiana seemed huge to me back then.
This time around, however, the place seemed just right.
We drove in to town early on a Friday and St. Louis appeared just right to me. You see the Arch from a ways off. You are pulled to it. We looked around feeling the need to park, and go right to it.
We resisted that initial urge, and went to our hotel. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that our hotel was situated right between the Arch and the Busch Stadium. We parked at our hotel, and walked to the points we wanted to see.
The Arch is just amazing. We were able to spend some quality time here while in town. We took the egg shaped pod to the top and looked out the windows. There was a bit of a line, and you are in a closed in space, but this is with out a doubt a "must do" at some point in a lifetime.
We walked down to the park and had a meal at Joe Buck's (look for a review elsewhere on this blog). We had a nice time there, and continued to walk around town before the start of our game.
St. Louis has a very unique vibe going on before games. We passed a number of bars and nice restaurants that felt very open. For blocks, you could see casual fans hanging out and enjoying themselves.
As a side note, we heard more than one bar band that was in tune. Bar bands in other areas, please take note! Singing, and playing in tune is important!
You can really have a very complete game day experience here near the stadium. There is a very nice fan experience going on all around.
There was a coffee shop inside of the Hilton near the park and we stopped for coffee. Inside of the hotel, a piano player played "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and outside a very competent bar band played. Street vendors sold peanuts and red bird hats.
St. Louis knows something that many other baseball areas have not figured out. MANY cities with major league teams need to take note. Having your ballpark in an easy to access downtown area with plenty of appropriate businesses is good for everyone.
The crowd was festive but pleasant. I did not notice any panhandling, or graffiti. Fans greeted and laughed with each other. You could feel safe walking with your children in this area before game time.
Busch Stadium is all that too. The staff was friendly and helpful not not intrusive.
The Cardinals had a very nice, well stocked and well managed gift shop. I noticed that the cashier made a point to address me as Mr. AND she pronounced my uncommon last name correctly. Retail people remember that. That earns an A+.
I love skylines at parks. Like the Pirates, the Cardinals have a great one, at least from where we were setting.
Another cool thing about the Cardinals. They will do a "happy birthday" type message on their side scoreboards for FREE. They loop them too during an inning, so, if you miss it the first time, get your camera ready. You'll probably have a couple more opportunities to get a picture of the message.