Arguably, this is the best section every year. The human element offers more surprises and more ways to dig into what makes St. Louis unlike any other city. There's something illuminating in taking stock of our heroes and villains, who all add something to the intrigue — even if it's just something to argue about. There are always standouts, but the second half of 2020 has been overstuffed with opportunities for people to step up, or reveal what assholes they really are. (Yes, the McCloskeys made the list. We'll let you guess where they land.)
Thankfully, it's still true that the worst times bring out more good than bad. One of the most inspiring parts of an otherwise disastrous seven-plus months of pandemic life has been watching St. Louis' talent and imagination swing into action.
We've also collected the best spots, tailored to a time when an uncomfortable number of our past favorites are off limits, the outdoors are at a premium and some of our greatest treasures have proven more valuable than ever. — Doyle Murphy
Bevo Mill is St. Louis’ meltiest melting pot. It’s a neighborhood whose diversity is spelled out in its mix of Bosnian/English signs, its selection of Mexican, Syrian and Afghan eateries just down the street from the neighborhood’s namesake windmill built by a real-life beer baron. Gravois Avenue runs through Bevo like a multicultural ribbon, carrying you from Bosnian restaurants to a pinball punk bar to an outdoor skatepark. And while Bevo’s streets may be lined with homes whose prices might pay for a bathroom in Ladue, what you get in return might be the closest thing St. Louis has to working-class suburbs. Tucked between Dutchtown, Holly Hills and Tower Grove South, Bevo is minutes from south city’s best restaurants, while Carondelet Park, perhaps the city’s most criminally underappreciated park, is on its southern border. Cozy, livable and lived-in, Bevo is a neighborhood that just keeps giving — and if you give yourself time to fall in love with it, you’ll melt right in. — Danny Wicentowski
With the coronavirus swiping right all over the place, things aren’t looking so hot for singles in your area. But if you’re missing that human connection, have you considered looking at the single in ... your very own area, the immediate living space around you, what one could call the homerogenous zone? Don’t laugh. Or do, actually, because who is going to judge you? Wouldn’t that be just peachy, a relationship without judgment and doubt?
Read Harry Potter fanfic and reenact the scenes on TikTok. Sing shower songs outside of the shower. Delight in your own creativity, practice compliments and remember those anniversaries — “Oh, honey bear, I can’t believe it’s already been an entire week,” you’ll say, glowing as you open an Amazon package of exotic Kit Kat flavors you forgot you ordered a week ago. Model your own best relationship habits: Let yourself know you’ve done good when you cooked a hell of a meal or just microwaved those pizza rolls exactly how you like them — just like another charming person might do, someday, hopefully, when this all ends. But until then, in this crazy world of presidential bleach treatments and QAnon, is it so crazy to think that a fulfilling relationship might be lurking behind that handsome face you glimpse in the mirror every morning?
C’mon, give yourself a wink one of these days, what would be the worst that happens? Look yourself in the eye, then quickly down, and up, and say, confidentially, “Dat ass.” Look, it’s not narcissism if you’re literally the only person you have access to; think of it as rom-com where you play both leads, with strong contributions from your favorite houseplant or, ideally, a friendly pet, because A) they can’t talk over you and B) none of them will ever try to convince you that masks are turning the vaccinated frogs gay. Next year, hopefully, there will be a world again. In the meantime — hey, did you just wink at yourself? Nice. — Danny Wicentowski
You could spend every day in Forest Park and never get bored. The massive 1,326-acre park in the middle of the city has tons of history (it was famously the site of the 1904 World’s Fair), but it’s more than just that. Forest Park is the living, beating heart of St. Louis. This one spot holds so many of our local attractions, including the Saint Louis Zoo, the Saint Louis Science Center, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Museum and the Jewel Box. But in addition to these and other community gathering spots like the Muny, the Boathouse and Steinberg Skating Rink, the park also offers miles of bike and walking paths, gorgeous trees, peaceful ponds, graceful hills and plenty of open space to have a picnic or just stretch out on the grass and enjoy the view. If you’re looking to get away from it all without leaving the city, Forest Park is the perfect little escape. — Jaime Lees
Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the bigness of life. Work, bills, family and other responsibilities often leave us scrambling from one obligation to the next. But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the best, most essential pleasures in life are also often the simplest. You never know how much you’ll miss human contact until you suddenly can’t kiss your family or hug your friends or snuggle up with your lover. Something as simple as holding hands during these times can make your heart soar. Even holding hands with gloves and masks can be lovely, especially if you’re doing it in a place like Laumeier Sculpture Park. This 105-acre open-air museum and sculpture park in Sunset Hills includes a 1.4-mile walking trail through beautiful woods and offers a new view around every corner, with more than 60 outdoor sculptures to enjoy as you stroll hand-in-hand and take it all in together. — Jaime Lees
When everything feels out of control, the quickest way to ground yourself is to find a nice slice of nature. In this area, we have no shortage of amazing natural vistas, too. We’re all just a short drive away from open fields, rolling hills, sharp cliffs and peaceful lakes. But if you want to tap into some local geography while getting a dose of nature, your best bet is to head to the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. As the place where two majestic rivers meet, this spot has drawn humans to it for centuries. Standing on the corner of land where the two rivers carve through the land and meet, you can feel the power of the waters as they rush past you. Watching their colors mix together as they blend and churn together on to the south is a moving experience. In fact, this confluence of rivers is so monumental that it is often easy to see in pictures of Earth taken from space. Sometimes it’s good to remember how small you are in the big universe. — Jaime Lees
2020 has been the year of staying the heck away from people. The Big Eli Ferris Wheel on the rooftop of the City Museum would provide a nice daytime view as well as the solace of being alone during a time when old white women named Karen are still refusing to wear a mask for “medical exemptions.” It’s the perfect spot to hibernate and not leave until the Trump administration politicizes a global pandemic with a vaccine right before the presidential election. Getting tired of the Ferris wheel would not be a problem, either. The rooftop also has a school bus that would be a nice, cozy spot for the occasional nap. — Matt Woods
It’s so easy to get into our own heads and worry constantly about problems both big and small. The pandemic has added a new layer onto human misery, with anxiety, fear and loneliness becoming not just common but standard. So sometimes it’s nice to remember that on a long enough timeline, all problems disappear. A trip to Bellefontaine Cemetery (or its equally gorgeous neighbor, Calvary Cemetery) will ground you in a way that is hard to find in other places. A nice, socially distanced walk in the open air is just what the doctor ordered if you’re too stuck in your own mind. Each of those tombstones represents a person who had many of the same fears and worries that we have, but none of it matters anymore. Life is fleeting and we must try to enjoy it while we still have it. Knowing that we will die might be an odd way to achieve a zen state of mind, but in these times you have to just go with whatever works. — Jaime Lees
Car horns: They’re not just for registering your rage at the Joy FM drivers endangering your life on St. Louis’ roadways anymore. In 2020, as more traditional ways to celebrate a child’s birthday are deemed unsafe due to the likelihood of catching or spreading COVID-19, a far louder tradition has taken hold: a long parade of honking cars passing by said child’s front lawn. Though born of necessity, in some ways this approach is probably even more memorable for the wee ones — family gathering together to force them into a strange fire-extinguishing ritual while Uncle Todd drinks too much is just so 2019. In 2020, they get private parades that are loud as fuck, rattling the windows of all the neighboring houses and making sure anyone within a half-mile radius knows that A Child Was Born. What could be more fun than that? — Daniel Hill
Have you heard about the newest, hottest club in the world? The place where everyone is getting together for celebrations, work meetings, family dinners — literally everything? It’s called Club Zoom, and believe it or not, you can find it right inside your own home, or anywhere with a computer or smartphone and a solid Wi-Fi connection. Sure, it has its detractors. Some would argue that talking to a digital image of a friend on a screen is no match for spending time with that person in the real world — and they’d have a point. But in 2020, spending time with a friend in person could literally kill one or both of you, apparently, and this would not make for a good birthday party memory. So let’s make some lemonade with all these lemons, shall we? Zoom party pros: 1. The viruses here only hurt your computer. 2. No need to find a ride home if you get too drunk; just pass out on camera. 3. Pants are optional. In short, it might not be ideal, but doing things the digital way has some serious upsides — especially if you’re hoping to live to see another birthday. — Daniel Hill