Best Of 2020

Best of St. Louis 2020 Sports & Recreation

Best of St. Louis Sports & Recreation.

Oh, the viciousness of 2020 to St. Louis sports fans — reduced to cardboard cutouts of themselves in Busch Stadium or peering in from outside of the NHL bubble to catch a few Blues games.

The idea of a football or baseball game as the uniting salve for disaster has always been a cliche of overwrought sportswriting. The myth that George W. Bush throwing out the first pitch at a Yankees game following 9/11 redeems the lies about weapons of mass destruction or the blundering that screwed thousands after Hurricane Katrina is just one example of the dumbness of the sports-as-healer theme. But it's also true that drinking a couple of beers in the crowd of a Cards game sounds pretty good. And watching the thoroughly enjoyable progression of the BattleHawks from message-board legends to a real-life exciting football team only to have it all dissolve in the early coronavirus fallout was pretty crappy.

There are plenty of reasons to mourn the sports seasons, but there has never been a better time for the head-clearing run. We've dug forgotten bikes out of storage and tuned them up with the help of a constellation of great local shops, and St. Louis' world-class parks have become our savior. We're looking forward to finding a spot in the bleachers again, but an afternoon in Forest Park is more than a consolation prize. — Doyle Murphy

The Trestle at Great Rivers Greenway.

Since it’s never a bad time to get out of the house and get some exercise, the Great Rivers Greenway is always available to offer the impressive array of parks and trails that snake around the metro area. And since keeping healthy and escaping the house has become a priority during the pandemic, it’s nice that this network of (mostly) paved paths connects not just neighborhoods but entirely different landscapes, from city to river to plains to creeks to parks and back again. Great Rivers Greenway spans 128 miles of path on which to stretch your legs and roll with the breeze on your face. But you won’t just be out there in the wild all on your own. They’ve also set up benches, bike racks and water fountains along the way so you can rest, repair and enjoy. — Jaime Lees

Katy Trail.

With international and even regional travel suddenly stopped, many people have been keeping themselves busy by exploring closer to home. The Katy Trail is one of the best places in Missouri to explore, and a trip down the trail can show you much of the state. As the longest recreational rail trail in the country, the Katy Trail runs for 240 miles across the state, from the St. Louis area all the way past Jefferson City to Clinton. With a hard, flat surface made of crushed limestone, the path is enjoyed by both runners and cyclists as they curve through the countryside and enjoy the sights. Beginning at mile marker 27 on the Missouri River, most of the trail runs alongside the water which provides gorgeous views and lots of opportunities to glimpse some of our state’s wildlife. — Jaime Lees

The Bridge to Picnic Island.

This spot in the center of Forest Park is the perfect place to lay down a blanket and have a Sunday afternoon picnic, as the name suggests. There are two bridges that connect the island to the rest of the park, separating it from other spots like Art Hill, which is just to the south. The suspension bridge makes a great spot for a post-picnic photoshoot for all you Instagrammers out there. There are no picnic tables, so a blanket might be a good idea. And just like everything else in 2020, don’t forget to socially distance from other visitors while you chow down on a ham and cheese sandwich. — Matt Woods

Rendering of St. Louis City SC's stadium.

We love St. Louis CITY SC. We think. We haven’t really met them yet, and their 22,500-capacity soccer stadium is at the moment a very large pit in the ground in the Downtown West neighborhood. But we’re still pretty sure we’re going to hit off. The Cards and Blues are great, and we missed going to games this season. (No, we didn’t buy one of the cardboard cutout proxies to sit in Busch Stadium.) But St. Louis is a big soccer town, and now that the owners of our new MLS team have reworked the original plan to stick us with a huge chunk of the stadium costs, we’re ready for the honeymoon to begin. Here’s to opening day 2023. — Doyle Murphy

BattleHawks fans were cheated.

Truly, the cruelest thing about the XFL going belly-up at the start of the COVID-19 crisis is the fact that St. Louis fans never got to see their beloved BattleHawks go up against their most hated rivals, the detestable Tampa Bay Vipers. Much ado had been made about the Vipers and their contemptible fans, particularly when it comes to their bathroom habits (as any real BattleHawks fan will tell you, Vipers fans famously poop standing up and wipe side-to-side). The very first matchup between the storied enemies was slated for March 14 (314 Day, even — we frankly were a lock to win), but the coronavirus pandemic upended those plans and led to the suspension of the season just two days before the big day. A month later the XFL shut down operations entirely, putting the future of all the teams on the roster in serious doubt. There’s recent reason for hope, though: In August, a group of investors including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson bought the league for $15 million, and just this month the group announced the league would resume play in 2022. It’s not exactly a phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes story just yet — the specific teams that will survive the transition have not been announced — but assuming the BattleHawks do re-emerge from the wreckage, you can safely bet the team whose logo is a sword with wings will be all the stronger having been forged in the fire. — Daniel Hill

Mike Schildt models the best in Cardinals fashion.

There’s nothing quite like seeing the birds on the bat as the Cardinals take the field at Busch Stadium. The shining white base, the two redbirds and the yellow bat make for a combination that is tough to beat across the MLB. It’s fitting that such great uniforms are worn in front of some of the best baseball fans in America. If you are going to invest in one Cards jersey for the rest of your life, look no further than the classic home white. It’s simplistic like the road grey jerseys but much more vibrant. It sticks out like the alternate powder blue jerseys, but it’s not too much color. The Cardinals have gone through many variations of the birds-on-the-bat logo since 1926, but this one hits just right. — Matt Woods

Best Sports  Broadcaster

This guy makes watching Cardinals games from the couch ten times better. He makes a Cards home run feel like finding a $20 bill on the sidewalk. St. Louisans should feel lucky to have one of the best baseball broadcasters in the business. Danny Mac has been the voice of Cardinals baseball for two decades now. It’s safe to say he has earned a spot among the organization’s long list of great broadcasters. And it’s fitting that the play-by-play is called by a St. Louis native who loves the city and its sports. — Matt Woods

Penguin and Puffin Coast.

One place you can never skip at the Saint Louis Zoo is the Penguin and Puffin Coast. The chilly, arctic feel on the inside is well worth seeing penguins from just a few inches away — and it’s still open for visitors. There aren’t many exhibits at the zoo where you can see animals close-up and personal like this one. Whether the penguins are hanging out on the rocks with their friends or swimming around right before your eyes, it always proves to be an entertaining sight. The zoo houses seven different types of penguins and puffers. You won’t want to miss seeing the southern rockhopper penguin, which looks like Guy Fieri if he turned into a penguin and moved to the Southern Hemisphere. — Matt Woods

Forest Park.

It feels almost too obvious to pick Forest Park as the city’s best park. You want to root for the underdog, and that is in no way difficult with St. Louis’ vast collection of amazing parks. You could easily make the case for Carondelet Park with its ornate boathouse and dueling lakes or O’Fallon which has a matching boathouse as the backdrop for fishermen. Tower Grove Park isn’t a city-owned park, but that technicality doesn’t keep it from being an undeniable gem. We could go on, but Forest Park is the one we come back to again and again. At 1,300 acres, it dwarfs New York City’s Central Park and somehow doesn’t waste an inch. Do you want to churn across Post-Dispatch Lake on a paddleboat? Bike along a spider web of trails and roads? Spy on migrating birds in the forests? Hike the wooded paths? Visit the world-class Saint Louis Zoo? Stroll through the Art Museum? Explore relics of the 1904 World’s Fair? Picnic in the grass? Run Art Hill? Ice skate in the winter? Golf in the summer? Forest Park offers endless ways to spend the days. It’s not just the best park in St. Louis; it’s one of the best parks in the country. — Doyle Murphy