Moving to St. Louis? A Native’s Guide to STL, MO

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Citygarden, St. Louis’s free urban park and sculpture garden

If you’re moving to St. Louis, Missouri, make sure you read this article first!  Whether you’ve already decided you’re moving to St. Louis or are looking for information to help you make that decision, there are lots of great reasons to pack things up and relocate to this underrated midwestern city.

As a St. Louis native, it’s probably already obvious to you that I think moving to St. Louis is a great idea (maybe the best one you’ve had lately?), but I’ll do my best to quell my pride for this great city and stick to the facts. While you’re here at Explore STL Living, be sure to check out the affordability of St. Louis Homes For Sale. You’ll quickly see that compared to housing prices in most other major cities, you’ll get a lot of bang-for-the-buck when moving to St. Louis.

Moving to St. Louis? Unless you’ve spent a lot of time here or know someone who has, you may be struggling to figure out what living in St. Louis is all about. One of the most exciting things about this city is its patchwork of urban neighborhoods, and the 90 different municipalities in the county. So many choices! Are you a city or a county person and what does that even mean? St. Louis can be a bit of a challenge to get to know if you’re not already “in the know.”  The best parts of what St. Louis has to offer are tucked away in hip urban neighborhoods, or hiding right in plain sight. It takes time to get to know this great city and you’d be remiss not to have a local show you around if you’re moving to St. Louis (erm…call me maybe?).

But why consider St. Louis?

While it’s true that St. Louis is known for some off-the-wall things like Toasted Ravioli and Gooey Butter Cake, and is the birthplace of celebrities like Jon Hamm and John Goodman, there are some world-class amenities here like Forest Park which is bigger than Central Park in NYC, and the Saint Louis Zoo which is known as one of the best in the country. While we’re on the topic of what St. Louis does well, you should also know that it’s a town that loves to imbibe…we are the birthplace of Anheuser Busch Brewery, after all!  You’ll have fun figuring out which neighborhood bar or award wining restoldfashionedcocktailaurant will be your new watering hole. Whether you like a $12 mixology cocktail at an upscale tavern or a $4 canned beer at a corner-bar attached to a hotdog restaurant, we’ve got you covered. If you need a recommendation, I’m your guy.

Ok, am I gushing too much? I love living in St. Louis and if you still need some convincing, here are 15 reasons why you’ll love moving to St. Louis.

Facts about St. Louis:

  • Population (St. Louis City): 315,685
  • Population (Greater St. Louis): 2,916,447
  • Unemployment rate in St. Louis: 4.7%
  • Median Home Price: $159,000 (Q3 2016)
  • Median Household Income: $67,100
  • Average Commute Time: 23 minutes
  • Nicknames: “The Gateway to The West,” “St. Louie,” and “The Lou”

1. Living in St. Louis is Very Affordable 

If you’re thinking of moving to St. Louis, I have great news for you! When Forbes published its annual list of affordable cities in 2015, St. Louis ranked No. 7, between Dayton, Ohio and Memphis Tennessee. The cost for groceries, utilities, and transportation all ranked below the national average. Given the median family income of $67,100 (2015) and the median residential sale price of $150,000 (Oct. 2016), homes for sale in St. Louis are some of the most affordable in the nation. Whether you’re searching for a walkable and urban lifestyle in the Central West End, a loft in Downtown St. Louis, or looking for excellent schools in neighborhoods like Clayton, Kirkwood, or Ladue…you’ll find that starter homes are still affordable by most comparisons and access to entertainment and recreation is relatively easy no matter which part of St. Louis you call home.

Let’s take a look at what it costs to live in St. Louis compared to Chicago, IL. According to Numbeo, the cost of living in St. Louis is 32.85% lower than in Chicago, and you’d need around $3,914 in St. Louis to maintain the same lifestyle that you can have with $5,200 in Chicago.

Couple the low cost of living with easy access to the arts, beautiful parks, short commute times and exceptional restaurants, you’ll be living large and in-charge when moving to St. Louis!

2. Access to Arts is a Right, Not a Privilege

If you enjoy the arts, moving to St. Louis could be an excellent fit for you because you’ll have easy access to FREE plays and musicals, and enjoy awesome perks like FREE admission to the St. Louis Art Museum and The Zoo.

According to Wikipedia, “The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the principal U.S. art museums, with paintings, sculptures, cultural objects, and ancient masterpieces from all corners of the world. Its three-story building stands in Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri, where it is visited by up to a half million people every year. Admission is free through a subsidy from the cultural tax district for St. Louis City and County.” Admission to the museum is free every day and you can enjoy free admission to featured exhibitions on Fridays. Check out the St. Louis Art Museum’s event calendar here.

The recently completed East Building, houses about 230 works of art, 25% of which have not been on public view in over 20 years.

And what if theater is your thing? Fear not, St. Louis has plenty for you, too. The Muny is America’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theater. The Muny is focused on producing exceptional musical theater and making it accessible to all. In fact, during the summer season The Muny offers over 1,450 free seats on a first come basis. If you love musicals like Newsies, The Wizard of Oz, Fiddler on the Roof, and Young Frankenstein…The Muny might be one of the best reasons for moving to St. Louis!

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The Muny, St. Louis’s Outdoor Theater with 1,400+ Free Seats

The Muny is nestled inside of Forest Park, the 75th largest park in the country. For theater lovers, another great thing about moving to St. Louis is the very popular annual three-week Shakespeare Festival during which you can catch free productions of Shakespeare plays in the park. Bring a comfortable chair, a snack, and a bottle of wine and you’ve got a totally free evening of enriching entertainment. I bet moving to St. Louis is looking better and better!

One my favorite summer time activities is the Whittaker Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden. The garden is truly an oasis within the city of St. Louis and is the oldest botanical garden in continuous operation in the United States. It sits on 79-acres and includes 14-acre Japanese strolling garden. It’s inextricably tied to the history of St. Louis and the legacy of Henry Shaw. Founded in1859, the Missouri Botanical Garden is one of the oldest botanical institutions in the United States. The Whittaker Festival is an open-air festival with live musical entertainment on Wednesday nights, all summer long. And admission costs…you guessed it…NOTHING! Are you moving to St. Louis yet?

The Missouri Botanical Garden is transformed into a veritable winter wonderland during the holiday season. The display of glowing lights is spectacular and should be at the top of your list of holiday festivities.

St. Louisan’s also enjoy free access to The Zoo, The Contemporary Art Museum, and the Missouri History Museum.

3. Free Admission to One of The Country’s Best Zoos

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While you’re probably not moving to St. Louis because of its zoo, you will certainly enjoy it once you’re here. The St. Louis Zoo is located in Forest Park and admired by locals and visitors alike. According to Wikipedia, “The 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair is credited for the birth of the Saint Louis Zoo. The fair brought the world’s attention to St. Louis and Forest Park. The Smithsonian Institution constructed a walk-through bird cage for the World’s Fair. Ten days after the World’s Fair closed, the citizens of St. Louis chose to buy the 1904 World’s Fair Flight Cage for $3,500, rather than have it dismantled and returned to Washington, D.C. This was the first piece of what would become the Saint Louis Zoo.”

Check out these historical photos of the zoo and see their calendar of events here.

 

4. St. Louis has an Impressive Dining Scene

Yeah, no kidding…the dining scene in St. Louis is seriously on top of its game. As far as I’m concerned, the quality and variety of dining options available is one of the top reasons for moving to St. Louis. If you find yourself struggling to have a good meal in STL, well you’re just not trying hard enough! One of my go-to sources for new and notable restaurants and chefs is Sauce Magazine. If you like to eat and you know what’s good for you, start following them on Facebook now, and don’t miss their 2016 Readers’ Choice roundup.

As with all matters of opinion, naming the “top” or “best” restaurants in any city will be met with screams of disappointment from people who think their favorite spot should be included, or that a legendary haunt has been erroneously excluded. While you won’t find me putting together such a list, I will gladly share with you a few places that give me that “get-in-my-belly” happy vibe. Come on, let’s get you moving to St. Louis and setting up some dinner reservations!

Vietnamese: Banh Mi So – Order the Vietnamese Crepe appetizer, plus an order of egg rolls. Chop, mix, add the nuoc cham suace that comes with it…heaven.

Italian: Pastaria – The Garganelli with its orange juice and olives is the real deal pasta fix.

Burger: Retreat Gastropub – This is the burger to which all others should be compared. #foodcoma

Chinese: House of Wong – The Wong’s Hot Chicken, every time.

Bakery: Pint Size Bakery – The salted caramel croissants are life changing but only available on a certain day; call ahead.

Lunch: Union Loafers Cafe – The Smoked Trout Sandwich is incredible. If fish isn’t your thing, try the Pizza Rosa – a simple but exquisite snack.

Wine & Nosh: Olio – Seriously, everything is good but the Bruschetta dish, and Egg Salad are not to be missed.

Fried Chicken: Southern – You can choose how spicy you want your friend chicken to be and if you like heat, you’ll get it here!

Pizza: Pi Pizzeria – If you’re not already, the deep dish cornmeal crust will make you religious! President Obama loves it.

This is just a small preview of the many amazing restaurant options this great city has to offer. You must be starving now, are you moving to St. Louis yet?

6. Amazing Variety of Historic Residential Architecture

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The housing stock in St. Louis, combined with the affordability of the homes here presents a truly astounding value proposition for those who are specifically interested in historic architectural styles including: Victorian, Tudor Revival, Second Empire, Neo-Renaissance and many others. For you history buffs, get the whole scoop from Wikipedia. If you want an historic home and a great price, moving to St. Louis is definitely the right choice for you!

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Check out darthdoe’s instagram account for some prime examples of the incredible architectural styles you can find in and around St. Louis.

7. Loads of Kid Friendly Things to Do

St. Louis has some incredible amenities for keeping your little ones entertained. In addition to all the free options I mentioned in #2 & #3 above, the stlouismagichousefollowing paid entertainment will have you packing your kids’ bags and moving to St. Louis, stat! If I think of the fun memories created with my sister and cousins when we were growing up, the Magic House Children’s Museum is at the top of the list. Nearly every St. Louis child has a picture of the first time they visited and touched the Van de Graaff static electricity ball at the Magic House.

But the fun doesn’t end there. You can spend a whole day at the Magic House without getting bored. This children’s museum is focused on engaging all children in hands-on learning experiences that encourage experimentation, creativity and the development of problem-solving skills within a place of “beauty, wonder, joy and magic.” In other words, they’re going to need a nap afterwards!

Check out Cooper’s visit to the Magic House in the video below.

The City Museum is a really spectacular experience for kids and adults alike and there’s even a rooftop ferris wheel. This is serious fun for the whole family. There’s no doing it justice with words, so here’s a video.

Moving to St. Louis with little ones brings you the opportunity to spend time outdoors and see wildlife up close.  Take a look at Grant’s Farm, a 281-acre ancestral home of the Anheuser Busch family. It’s home to history, wildlife and adventure for the whole family with rides, shows, and more. Check out the attractions here and don’t miss the train ride around the property.

Grant's Farm

Grant’s Farm

Before you put a fork in it, check out the Butterfly House at the Missouri Botanical Gardens, as well as the Science Center. Moving to St. Louis brings you lots of entertainment options for the kiddos!

8. Like Beer? St. Louis Has Great Breweries 

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St. Louis Microfest

Admittedly, the odds are good that you’re not moving to St. Louis for beer, but shouldn’t it at least be a consideration?! St. Louis has fully embraced the movement toward craft beer produced by small local breweries and as a result, we have an extensive selection of really excellent brews and breweries. Urban legend has it that Anheuser Busch originally located in St. Louis because of it’s high quality water supply, but this has been dispelled. I’m no history expert but what I do know for sure, is that moving to St. Louis for great beer definitely falls into my top 10 reasons to live here! Don’t miss the annual St. Louis Microfest held in Forest Park; it’s kind of a big deal. Check out this page to see the brewers that participated in 2016.

Here are a few local breweries/brewpubs to check out:

 

9. Forest Park is 50% bigger than NYC’s Central Park

Forest Park is hands-down the crown jewel of the St. Louis area and certainly one of the most compelling reasons for moving to St. Louis. From world-class cultural institutions like the St. Louis Art Museum to beautiful recreational areas, Forest Park has something special in store for you, your friends and your family. It’s one of the most beautiful urban parks in the world and certainly one of the greatest civic treasures of St. Louis.

At 1,300-acres, Forest Park is 50% bigger than NYC’s Central Park and offers something for everyone. From the Dual Path system that invites both intense workouts and leisurely walks, to many tranquil places to picnic or read, and an impressive variety of popular events. For a comprehensive list of all museums, restaurants, landmarks, and natural highlights of the park visit Forest Park Forever online.

Some of the most in-demand housing is in neighborhoods surrounding the park such as Clayton, University City, and the Central West End.

10. St. Louis has Two Downtowns

You read that right, there are two downtown areas to coax you into moving to St. Louis! The original downtown area is the famed location of the St. Louis Arch and has seen an influx of residents who want to live in gorgeous lofts with sweeping views. Our other downtown area is known as Clayton and there you’ll find high-end restaurants and art galleries, the Ritz Carlton and impressive condominiums.

11. Baseball is a Big Deal in STL and the Cardinals Play in One of the Best Ballparks in the Country

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If you enjoy America’s favorite pastime as much as the average St. Louisan does, moving to St. Louis will suit you just fine! We take baseball seriously here and have a fancy new stadium to prove it. In fact, Thrillist ranked all 30 MLB Baseball Stadiums and St. Louis’s Busch Stadium came in at #6!

12. Easy to Navigate with Very Little Traffic

Like any city, St. Louis has peak traffic times and certain freeways can be tough to deal with during the morning and evening commutes. If having a short commute time is important to you, you’ll want to think carefully about where your house in relation to your workplace, and whether you’re traveling with or against traffic at the peak congestion hours.

That said, St. Louis is an incredibly easy place to get around in. We have well-maintained highways and an interbelt that connects the major arteries to one another. In Wallethub’s 2016 Best & Worst Cities for Driving report, St. Louis ranks #68 out of the 100 cities they included, while Los Angeles comes in at #90. Apparently, we also have the most car washes per capita! So when moving to St. Louis, keep your car clean if you want to fit in! Joking…mostly.

13. St. Louis is Home to World Class Institutions

St. Louis is home not only to a growing number of corporate citizens, but several world-class institutions that draw people from all around the globe to work and study in our fine city. Washington University is a private school founded in 1853 and ranked #19 in the 2017 edition of Best Colleges & National Universities. It’s also a devastatingly beautiful campus to take a walk through.

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Washington University is affiliated with Barnes Jewish Hospital which we’re truly blessed to have in St. Louis. Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University in Saint Louis, MO is ranked nationally in 12 adult specialties. It was also high-performing in 2 adult specialties. It scored high in patient safety, demonstrating commitment to reducing accidents and medical mistakes.

If you’re moving to St. Louis and will be working for one of these institutions, you may qualify for a housing grant if you live in specific neighborhoods. Check out the Employer Assisted Housing Program and contact me for more information about the neighborhoods that qualify for the program.

14. College Grads are Finding Jobs in St. Louis

According to CareerBliss, St. Louis is the “best city for job-seeking college grads right now, in terms of overall career happiness in conjunction with the average cost-of-living-adjusted salary.” Not only are we seeing college grads moving to St. Louis for better job opportunities, St. Louis is doing a better job of retaining the people who are already here. This is in no small way connected to some the recent developments in St. Louis like The Cortex which attracted iPad payment processor Square, and the very recent completion of a new IKEA in the Central West End neighborhood.

15. Your Own Personal St. Louis is Waiting for YOU

Getting to know St. Louis is like being in a romantic relationship. You might feel a bit out of place until you figure where you fit best in the patchwork of neighborhoods with their many different personalities. But, if you work at seeing all the city has to offer, you will find a bespoke version of St. Louis just waiting for you to discover it.tselliot

If you don’t know yet whether moving to St. Louis is the right choice for you, take a queue T. S. Elliot who said, “It is self-evident that St. Louis affected me more deeply than any other environment has ever done. I feel that there is something in having passed one’s childhood beside the big river, which is incommunicable to those people who have not. I consider myself fortunate to have been born here, rather than in Boston, or New York, or London.”

Final Thoughts on Moving to St. Louis

If you’re moving to St. Louis or are considering it, you now know what an exceptional place to live, work, and play it truly is. If you’re seriously thinking about moving to St. Louis, or just have a few more questions before deciding, please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions about the St. Louis area.

Still have questions about a potentially moving to St. Louis? You can get in touch with me via e-mail at [email protected], call me or shoot me a text at 314-366-0454. I have lived here 30 years and can provide you with the information you’re looking for, or at the very least, point you in the direction.

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