Best Of 2023

T-Rav Baby.
COURTESY CHRIS BUERKE
T-Rav Baby.

Inspired by one of the better costumes at Citypark Stadium this spring, the one worn by the local hero now known as T-Rav Man, Chris Buerke and his wife created a little toasted raviolo costume for their seven-month-old baby, and an internet sensation was born. As City SC's Matt Sebek tweeted, "Not the hero we deserved, but the hero we needed." Adorably pink-cheeked, with bright blue eyes and pink noise-canceling headphones, T-Rav Baby looked like she was nestled in a pillow of pasta and pleased as punch. As Buerke told the RFT, the couple ripped up a $5 IKEA slipcover and then "Mod Podged around it and sprinkled some dehydrated potato flakes to make the Parmesan cheese look." Clearly, T-Rav Baby's parents are craftier than we'll ever be — and they have the sensation to prove it. —Sarah Fenske

Best of St. Louis 2023: Sports & Recreation

Best of St. Louis 2023: Sports & Recreation
Chubb Trail.
FLICKR/SCOTT SPAETH
Chubb Trail.

Chubb Trail

Lone Elk County Park, Eureka; stlouiscountymo.gov

Though the Chubb Trail is technically multi-use, let's be honest: It's for runners. Take, for example, the length of 6.5 or 7 miles, depending when you start your GPS watch, which is the perfect distance for a one-way chill run, or it could be traversed out and back for a serious half-marathon-distance workout. That distance would take a hiker more than five hours, and who has that kind of time? Then there is the terrain, which is diet-gnarly with the tree roots, mud and rocks common to Missouri trails. But there are also smooth, flat and fast sections of pine-covered trail or through prairie-like fields that just beg for some pickups. If that isn't enough to convince you, check out the St. Louis Ultra Group's Double Chubb 50k that sees runners doing two out-and-backs. This one is definitely for runners. —Jessica Rogen

Little Grand Canyon.
FLICKR/KEVIN
Little Grand Canyon.

Pomona, Illinois; shawneeforest.com

We're lucky in St. Louis. With several great parks in the area — Rockwoods Reservation, Castlewood State Park and more — we don't have to go too far for some decent scenery. But those places can feel too familiar after a while, and sometimes you need a daycation at a spot that's just far enough from St. Louis that it feels like an adventure but won't take too long to get to. Look no further than the Little Grand Canyon in southern Illinois. A scenic two-hour drive from St. Louis, this three-mile trail in the Shawnee National Forest features gorgeous rock formations you'd normally have to travel far west to see. The trail winds through a bottomland forest at the base of 300-foot bluffs and a creek bed. You can opt for a shorter route, but either path will lead you to scenic overlooks through a rocky (mini) canyon. —Monica Obradovic

BICI.
BRADEN MCMAKIN
BICI.

Rick Merry, a retired florist, knew he wanted to join BICI after a friend described hanging out with a group of weirdos under a bridge. The self-proclaimed "casual cycling club for social deviants" meets almost every Friday night to ride bikes and frolic about the city. BICI rides explore St. Louis in all of its glory, whether that's through climbing skywalks, lounging around bonfires or going on a donut-eating spree. The group came together during COVID-19 and has since become a family to some members — a big, weird biking family. Want to join in? Grab a bike and show up to BICI's always exciting, sometimes boozy adventures. Find the latest meet-up details on Instagram at @bici_stl. —Nina Giraldo

South City YMCA.
MONICA OBRADOVIC
South City YMCA.

3150 Sublette Avenue, gwrymca.org/locations/south-city-family-ymca

The South City Family YMCA isn't a regular gym that is mostly devoted to physical fitness. Yes, you can develop washboard abs or up your V02 max in the weight room or fitness area (newly renovated), at spin class (so popular that you need to reserve it), running laps around the indoor track or swimming them in the pool, or even shooting hoops. But there's a lot more here than all that. It starts with the games in the community area in front of the changing room entrances, or the childcare for members or the coffee machine at the front, where people like to stay and chat, even if you do sometimes have to ask for a cup from the front-desk staff, who have hidden them so the kids don't get caffeine wild. The south city location is also the perfect size: It has everything you'd want to work out, and there generally aren't long lines for equipment, but it's not so large that you aren't constantly running into your neighbor or your college friend whom you haven't talked to in years. Plus, all those classes and care are built into the price, which is on a sliding scale so that absolutely everyone can afford to take part. —Jessica Rogen

A&M Cyclery.
SARAH FENSKE
A&M Cyclery.

4284 Arsenal Street, amcyclery.com

A modest brick building on the corner of Morgan Ford and Arsenal in Tower Grove South holds one of the best bike shops in the region, and certainly the OG of them all. For more than 90 years, A&M Cyclery has helped St. Louis get equipped to ride fast on two wheels. Whether you have a bike that needs maintenance or want to purchase or rent one, A&M is the shop to hit up. Founded by Fred and Luella Herman in 1929, it has changed hands several times throughout the years, with Jeff and Erin Gerhardt of Cursed Bikes and Coffee acquiring it in 2019 from longtime owner Joe Becker. All those ownership changes speak to how essential the shop is to St. Louis: No one could bear to see it go. —Jessica Rogen

Elevate Well STL.
BRADEN MCMAKIN
Elevate Well STL.

3206 South Grand Boulevard, elevatestlouis.com

There is truly no space more welcoming than Elevate Well STL. The self-described "anti-studio" is the opposite of what you experience at a traditional yoga studio. It's laidback, doesn't follow a script and, oh, everyone's high. Elevate prides itself on being a stoner-friendly space where people can medicate/recreate as they please without feeling judgment. Most sessions begin with a blaze and social time. You leave feeling calm, ready to take on the world, and maybe with a new friend or two — regardless of whether you toked. —Monica Obradovic

St. Louis City SC.
COURTESY CITY SC
St. Louis City SC.

St. Louis City SC kicked off its inaugural MLS season with one of the cheapest rosters in the league, and MLS experts believed City's team would be nowhere near good enough to compete. Nine out of thirteen predicted City to finish dead last in the Western Conference. The other four believed City would finish second to last. Yet City at one point occupied the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference and, throughout the season, has been a serious contender. The team's 43 goals in 23 MLS games are proof the high-risk, high-reward playing style is working exactly as advertised by Head Coach Bradley Carnell and Sporting Director Lutz Pfannenstiel. With the Blues and Cardinals disappointing in 2023, City is fully embracing the underdog mentality and bringing sporting pride to St. Louis. —Julian Trejo

Roman Bürki.
COURTESY ST. LOUIS CITY SC
Roman Bürki.

Look, St. Louis City SC would not be nearly as successful as it's been in its inaugural season without captain Roman Bürki. City lost two of the three matches it played without Bürki and conceded five goals. The 32-year-old Swiss goalkeeper came to City from Borussia Dortmund, one of Europe's elite soccer clubs. There, he made 33 appearances in the UEFA Champions League, the most prestigious club soccer competition in the world. Bürki is City's highest paid player, and he has been worth every penny, completing 85 saves through 23 MLS matches, the third most in the league. His league-best 27 clearances are indicative of his comfort with playing outside of the penalty area, a skill most MLS goalkeepers lack. Bürki is a star in St. Louis, and we can't wait to see how far he can lead City in the MLS Cup playoffs. —Julian Trejo

Lars Nootbaar.
FLICKR/JEFFREY HYDE
Lars Nootbaar.

He came out of nowhere in 2021 with a name that sounded like that of a guitarist for a Scandinavian death metal band and a distinctive pepper-grinder celebration for reaching base — which was surprisingly often. But he returned to St. Louis this year as an international superstar, his face plastered on T-shirts in Japan after helping that country's national team triumph at the World Baseball Classic. While he hasn't exactly been Shohei Ohtani, Nootbaar has been a pleasant source of consistency in an otherwise erratic lineup, allowing even the most cynical Cards fans to momentarily tweak their boos to shouts of NOOOOOOT! —Tony Rehagen