Castlewood State Park.
1401 Kiefer Creek Road, Ballwin; 636-227-4433
Runner-Up: Elephant Rocks
7406 Highway 21, Belleview; 573-546-3454
Homegrown comedian Kathleen Madigan once described St. Louis as a “beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking, meat-eating town. We are so unhealthy that my youngest sister moved to Seattle and when she got there she saw everyone on bicycles, and she just assumed they’d all gotten DUIs.” OK, we aren’t known for being the healthiest city in the country, but we are avid about our outdoor activities. How else do you explain all the parks, the miles of bike trails and the outstate recreation areas that people flock to every summer? Plus, we are a town that loves our sports. The Cardinals and the Blues are part of the city’s beating heart, and we’re sure to add the returning Battlehawks (or whatever our XFL team name ends up being) and St. Louis City SC to the mix. And while some of us are more outdoorsy than others, you can still get your recreation indoors, with options from bowling to pinball to darts. So for those of you who ride bikes even when you don’t have a DUI, this list is for you. —Rosalind Early
Scott Rovak/Getty Images/Courtesy St. Louis Blues
Hockey is often a blur of blue and white on the ice in the Enterprise Center, but if you see a flash of skates as the puck sinks into the net, chances are they belong to Robert Thomas. A breakout star this past year, Thomas scored a rousing 20 goals throughout his time on the ice, securing his spot as the best hope for the Blues’ future. Now freshly signed to an eight-year deal, the Canadian-born forward boasts a wicked shot-on-goal and an eye on the puck, proving an essential part of both defense and offense. General manager Doug Armstrong compared signing him to a long-term deal to the previous commitments he secured from Alex Pietrangelo and Vladimir Tarasenko. Here’s hoping Thomas, too, will lead the team to the Stanley Cup. —Jenna Jones
This one was tough to choose. I mean, where can we find a new stadium in St. Louis? Like, a new stadium that could possibly transform St. Louis, revitalize an overlooked part of downtown and host a world-class sports team? We had to dig, but, in the end, we chose the $457.8 million, 22,500-seat stadium being built in Downtown West and already reshaping the neighborhood. You know, the one that will host St. Louis’ newest professional sports team — the St. Louis City SC. Set to open in 2023, Centene Stadium (2100 Market Street) will host Major League Soccer’s 28th franchise and St. Louis’ first in America’s top soccer league. It’s also going to be a badass stadium, with no fan more than 120 feet from the field. Local artist Muhammad “Mvstermind” Austin is in charge of the match-day music and is sourcing a fan-curated playlist. All of these things suggest one of the most intimate, raucous and fun-filled soccer-watching experiences in the country. Centene Stadium is going to be loud, it’s going to be all ours — and we can’t wait. —Benjamin Simon
Christopher Mikals Photography/STLSurge Marketing
St. Louis Surge.
St. Louisans craving the sweet swish of net or the heart-quickening tap of the fast dribble should turn off the NBA and orient themselves toward the St. Louis Surge — St. Louis’ only professional basketball team. Founded in 2011, the very-winning Surge has captured two national and six regional championships in just over a decade. The team recently moved to the Global Women’s Basketball Association after dominating the Women’s Blue-Chip Basketball League for seven seasons. The Surge is owned by Khalia Collier, who also happens to be the vice president of community relations for the St. Louis City SC. As with the SC, Collier aims to bring more sports to the city and also to increase interest in women’s ball. —Jessica Rogen
Courtesy Ben Munson/St. Louis Cardinals
It’s not a secret that this baseball season will be the last time three great Cardinals players take the field. Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright have been the Holy Trinity of Cardinals baseball for years. Despite Pujols leaving to play for the Los Angeles Angels and the Dodgers, the three have become synonymous with St. Louis baseball. (Some fans have never even seen a Cardinals team without Molina or Wainwright.) Now that’s coming to an end, with all three set to retire at the end of the season. It’s been a bittersweet goodbye to be sure, but this year offered plenty of highlights, from seeing Molina and Pujols pitch for the first time to watching Pujols continuously lap the bases and even double-high-five Nelly. It’s St. Louis magic at its finest, happening under the shadow of the Arch at Busch Stadium. —Jenna Jones
Courtesy Washington University
Coach Roger Follmer.
Washington University men’s tennis coach Roger Follmer is probably the most successful Division III college coach you’ve never heard of. Let’s run through the list — a 361-125 career record, 51 All-American players, a two-time National Coach of the Year and the 2008 NCAA DIII National Champions. He has reached the NCAA Tournament 20 times in 21 seasons. The one year he missed? COVID-19 canceled that season. It’s fair to say Follmer has built a tennis dynasty at Washington University. This year, his team, ranked seventh in the nation, reached the University Athletic Association championship and won two games in the NCAA Tournament. For many coaches, that would be the most shining accomplishment on their résumé. For Follmer, it was just a normal season. —Benjamin Simon
Health Cajandig Via Flickr
Ha Ha Tonka State Park
An abandoned castle, sparkling blue waters, acres of trees — these are things you have to travel thousands of miles to see, right? Nope. Instead, take a simple day trip to Ha Ha Tonka State Park (1491 Missouri D, Camdenton; 573-346-2986). A mere three-hour drive and you’ll be among the park’s trees, ruins, sinkholes, caves and sheer bluffs. Kayak, swim, fish or boat on the lake, cross the huge natural bridge, hike the trails and look out over the Lake of the Ozarks from any high perch in the park. Yes, there are castle ruins here too, the remains of the lavish retreat that wealthy Kansas businessman Robert M. Snyder started building in 1905. Snyder died in a car accident, but his son finished the property in 1922 and it eventually became a hotel. It caught fire in 1942 and now only ruins remain. Proceed with caution: In 2016, some of the ruins were deemed unsafe, closing them to the public. —Jenna Jones
Actor and all-around St. Louis civic booster Jon Hamm makes no secret of his love of St. Louis Blues hockey. And the Blues seem to love him right back. This spring, the team was down 2-0 against the Anaheim Ducks at the end of the first period. Then Hamm, who has done color commentary for Bally Sports Midwest before, joined announcers John Kelly and Darren Pang — and the Blues scored. “Am I good luck or what?” the Mad Men star asked with a laugh. Last time he stepped in the booth, Ivan Barbashev scored a goal, so Hamm thought he’d struck gold twice. But the Blues were just getting started. Within a space of about five minutes, the team scored two more goals. Barbashev scored as Hamm complimented him. “You cannot write this,” Hamm said. “If you wrote it, people would be like, ‘No this doesn’t make sense.’” The Hollywood heartthrob’s time in the booth closed out with yet another goal by Justin Faulk and a 6-3 win. Blues fans have demanded Hamm call more games, but we’d urge caution: Jon Hamm is magic, and we need to use this secret weapon wisely and with care. —Rosalind Early
Courtesy Billy Hurst/St. Louis Cardinals
These days baseball is all about home runs. But Nolan Gorman doesn’t just hit home runs — he mashes them. Obliterates them. Sends baseballs screaming into the stands. When Gorman hits the ball, it flies off his bat, skying through the air, without any doubt where it’s going. At just 22 years old, Gorman is still learning. He’s struggling to make consistent contact and could use some fine-tuning in the field. But there’s a thrill every time he enters the batter’s box. Our eyes are glued, knowing that with just one pitch, he could very well blast the ball over the left-field wall and send the entire crowd to its feet. The Cardinals can’t seem to shake mediocrity, but Gorman, baseball’s 58th-best prospect, offers hope for the future and a jolt of energy in the meantime. He’s young, he’s talented and he’s the prototypical version of the new home-run-centric MLB — the kind of guy who can wake up the entire stadium with the boom of his bat. —Benjamin Simon
Depending on whom you ask, Jayson Tatum may have been the best basketball player in the world this past NBA season. He made first-team all-NBA, averaged nearly 27 points per game and led the Boston Celtics to the finals. Despite the success, Tatum never let people forget where he came from. No, he’s not from Boston. He’s from St. Louis, Missouri. He loves Imo’s and reps the Cardinals. He has a tattoo that reads “St. Louis ’til the world blows.” At his childhood rec center, Sherman Park’s Wohl Recreation Center, he paid for a new hardwood basketball floor and a computer lab and handed out free bookbags. St. Louis hasn’t had an NBA team for nearly 60 years, but this year’s NBA playoffs felt a little different with Jayson Tatum competing on the biggest basketball stage in the world, carrying this city with him. —Benjamin Simon