Best Of 2023

Allison Cundiff

allisoncundiff.net

Best of St. Louis 2023: Readers' Choice

Best of St. Louis 2023: Readers' Choice

Alamo Drafthouse

3765 Foundry Way, Suite 275, drafthouse.com/st-louis

The St. Louis outpost of the Austin, Texas-based boutique theater chain Alamo Drafthouse sets itself apart from its basic competitors by creating a complete entertainment experience for cinephiles and food lovers alike. While it seems like every theater brand has upped its food and beverage game from the stale popcorn and overpriced sodas that were once standard moviegoing fare, Alamo Drafthouse offers truly exceptional in-theater dining and drink options that you’d seek out even outside the theater setting. But what makes this jewel of City Foundry so special is that it has not forgotten why it was founded in the first place; Alamo Drafthouse will always be, first and foremost, a place where movie lovers can come together around a shared love of film. Whether it’s an indie flick or a mega-blockbuster offered with a themed menu, this vital part of the St. Louis entertainment scene will, unquestionably, remind you of the joy of the big screen.

Stages

210 East Monroe Avenue, Kirkwood; stagesstlouis.org

For 37 seasons, Stages has brought St. Louis Broadway-quality productions — a commitment that has allowed the company to grow from a few part-time employees to a nationally recognized operation that is the region’s top employer of union actors. Located inside the gorgeous Kirkwood Performing Arts Center, Stages is essential theater-going, whether it’s staging something as timeless as Aida, culturally significant as In the Heights or whimsical as Karate Kid: The Musical. And while the company is known for what it does on the stage, its commitment to musical theater goes far beyond what happens at showtime. The company is the area’s premiere educator of aspiring talent through its Performing Arts Academy, which dedicates itself year-round to ensuring that a joy for musical theater continues to get passed down to the next generation. Stages is much more than a place to enjoy a great show; it’s a civic institution.

Best All-Ages Venue

The Muny

1 Theater Drive, muny.org

In 1916 crowds gathered on a grassy part of Forest Park to enjoy a production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, knowing that they were witnessing something special but never imagining that they were sitting on the grounds that would one day grow into a world-class theater venue. In its 100 seasons, that venue, the Muny, has become much more than a place to take in Broadway performances under the stars; it’s a bona fide civic and cultural good that exists for the people. As the largest outdoor musical theater in North America, this means existing for all of its people; most shows are family-friendly, and theater lovers of all ages are encouraged to experience this timeless art form and walk away inspired to act, sing, write and explore their own creativity. What’s so special about the Muny is that it offers this experience to anyone who’s interested, even if they can’t afford a ticket. One of the venue’s most beloved traditions are its free seats: Nine rows — more than 1,400 seats — set aside for every performance take financial status out of the equation of deciding whether to attend a show. This accessibility makes the Muny one of the region’s most inclusive entertainment experiences.

The Factory

17105 North Outer 40 Road, Chesterfield; thefactorystl.com

More than a few eyebrows were raised when it was announced that an abandoned outlet mall on the western edge of Chesterfield would become home to a music venue — one that would draw both national acts and (equally hard to believe) St. Louis music lovers who live east of I-270. Two years later, the Factory has proven that adage about how if you build it, they will come beyond anyone’s imagination, providing a truly outstanding concert-going experience. Part of this is the design; at 52,000 square feet, the venue is big enough to draw top talent but not so big as to lose an intimate feel. Because it was built from the ground up, it was able to take performers and audience members into consideration throughout the design process, offering state-of-the-art sound, lighting and amenities. That you can get Rock Star Tacos while listening to everyone from the Smile to Buddy Guy is the cherry on top.

Rehab St. Louis

4054 Chouteau Avenue, rehabstl.com

Once upon a time there was a neighborhood in St. Louis that served as a welcoming gathering place for the area’s LGBTQIA+ community. While over the years, the Grove’s identity as St. Louis’ essential gayborhood has been replaced with its reputation as a more generic party spot, Rehab St. Louis serves as an important reminder of the area’s foundation of inclusivity. Founded in 2012, this come-as-you-are spot is in the business of making everyone feel welcome thanks to its friendly bartenders who make everyone who walks through the door feel like a regular. The vibe is laidback at this self-described Cheers, though Rehab is serious about its philanthropic efforts and often supports local charities with special events and fundraisers. It’s the place to be, be seen and, most importantly, be yourself.

Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival

cinemastlouis.org/festival-home

COCA

6880 Washington Avenue, University City; cocastl.org

Sophie's Artist Lounge

3333 Washington Avenue, kranzbergartsfoundation.org/sophies-artist-lounge

Soulard Art Gallery

2028 South 12th Street, soulardartgallery.com