Forest Park is among the country’s largest city parks, and was designed by the esteemed architect, George Kessler. It’s over 140 years old, the home of the 1904 World’s Fair and Summer Olympics, and it’s loaded with gorgeous greenery and fun places to go. On top of all that, it conveniently sits in the medical center’s backyard. As a WashU undergrad, I fell in love its epic fountains and romantic pedestrian bridges before freshman year had even begun. If you like to run, bike or go for long strolls, check out the park ASAP. You won’t want to leave. Also, St. Louis takes excellent care of this magical place and keeps it busy with events all year long, such as cultural festivals, many awesome free St. Louis Summer Concerts and St. Louis’s annual outdoor music festival, LouFest. Rain or shine, there are incredible (and FREE) places throughout the park, such as the Saint Louis Zoo, Saint Louis Art Museum and Saint Louis History Museum. In the winter, you can bundle up and go ice skating or sledding down Art Hill. Basically, it’s my favorite place to be in St. Louis, and after your first golden sunset over the Grand Basin, I’m sure you’ll be hooked, too.
— Tori W., M1
If you think moving to Missouri is going to prevent you from progressing from 5.10 to 5.11 or even prevent you from learning how to climb (and what those numbers mean), then you are echoing my own fears upon arrival. However, I quickly discovered that our class and St. Louis has an unexpectedly robust climbing community. In truth, the crags are not the most convenient compared to what I’m used to, but Jackson Falls, Ill., is a short two- hour drive away and has ample sport climbing routes with plenty of diversity. One class member climbed his first route there and another learned to lead. Camping is free and there are hiking trails in the Shawnee National Forest. Some other crags include: Holy Boulders (two hours, bouldering), Lake Kinkaid (two hours, deep water soloing), Horseshoe Canyon (five hours, sport climbing), and Red River Gorge (six hours, sport). All in all, you’re coming here for the awesome education, but at least you don’t have to give up on your climbing aspirations!
— Julia K., M1
Hiking and Biking
Although St. Louis is not historically known as bike-central, it is steadily becoming a bike-friendly city with advocacy groups helping create better infrastructure, awareness and safety for cyclists. Fortunately, the neighborhoods surrounding WashU medical campus are bike-friendly, and many of your fellow classmates will be commuting this way to campus each morning. There is even a biker bar down the street, Handlebar, which is a favorite among med students. The medical campus provides multiple ID badge-secured bike cages and numerous other bike parking racks outside of the major buildings to keep bicycles secure. Furthermore, bikes can be carried on the MetroLink and city buses if you have a longer-than-bikeable commute. As for hiking, there are 87 state parks, over 2,300 square miles of National Forest and hundreds of miles of National Scenic Riverway to explore within Missouri as well as state parks and National Forests in Illinois close by. All told, there are thousands of campsites and hundreds of cabins within an easy drive of St. Louis and plenty of outdoorsy classmates to explore with, providing ample opportunity to escape from the city and enjoy Missouri’s prairies and deciduous forests in all four beautiful, distinct seasons.
— Victor K., M1
Traveling to/from St. Louis
Getting in and out of St. Louis is really convenient, and whether you’re from the city or not, chances are you’ll be doing a fair amount of travel throughout your time at WUSM. For starters, Lambert International Airport is a quick, reliable, 20-minute MetroLink ride, and the station is right next to the FLTC. Lambert Airport is also the sweet spot for efficiency. There are plenty of flights all over the country daily, but security lines and wait times are super short, a convenience that really hits you when you need to make flights or get back to school on time with a tight med student schedule! If the bus or train is more your style (for say, a weekend trip to Chicago with some newfound first-year friends), Union Station is just a few MetroLink stops away as well. Long story short, you have great access to any travel needs via the Central West End metro and bus stations. So forget traffic, long transit times and the stress of commuting entirely. Just don’t forget to carry your free student Metro pass!
— Kash D., M1
While St. Louis is a fun, spirited city with plenty to do, Chicago is a whole different animal. From some of the tallest buildings in the world to spectacular shopping and restaurants to beautiful Lake Michigan, I don’t believe that any amount of time would be enough to get bored in Chicago. If you’re not from the Midwest, then you should definitely explore our region’s biggest city while you’re less than a five-hour drive away! You’ll probably have classmates from the area so you can carpool, but there are also trains, buses and even some relatively cheap flights between St. Louis and Chicago. No matter what time of year you find time — go there, you’ll fall in love with the Second City.
— Abby R., M1
Don’t have a car? Not a problem because Kansas City is an easy Amtrak ride away. The Country Club Plaza region of Kansas City is chock full of amazing bars, shopping and restaurants, including my personal favorite burger joint, Blanc Burger (get the truffle fries, they are amazing). You can catch a Royals baseball game, walk through the City of Fountains and maybe even meet some fellow medical students on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus. Kansas City barbecue is nothing short of famous, particularly after being praised by Guy Fieri himself. While you are in this city, stop by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, home of the giant shuttlecock sculpture that has become a Kansas City icon. If you are a history buff, you can’t miss visiting this city’s World War I museum. Kansas City is a great place for a weekend trip with friends or family. On your way back to St. Louis, don’t forget to stop for gas at the Filling Station, and grab yourself some delicious breakfast while you’re at it. (I like the chocolate muffins.)
— Shamaita M., M1
St. Louis is nearly geographically centered between the true Midwest and the true South, sharing some aspects of both region’s culture and weather. However, if you’re looking for a more authentic southern (think warmer) experience, look no further than Memphis. Hit I-55 southbound for a drive through rural Missouri and Arkansas for four hours. Highlights along this route include the first rest stop in Arkansas, which boasts an impressive wood burning fireplace and a lovely greeter who will make you fresh coffee should you request it (love that Southern hospitality). Once in Memphis, check out Beale Street (home to several historic music venues, restaurants and nightlife), eat world-famous BBQ and check out the National Civil
— Josh A., M1
As a person who was raised in Columbia, Missouri, I can attest to the many things it has to offer, namely: alcohol, football and debauchery. One thing fun about Columbia is the near comical drink specials that the various bars around downtown have. For example, Monday is $1 pints and $1 shots at Campus Bar and Grill. Tuesday night is flip night at Tap House, where if you call a coin flip correctly your drink is free. Wednesday is penny pitchers at Field House. My personal favorite is Thursday nights at Roxy’s where $5 at the door gets you bottomless well drinks and PBR (with live music to accompany). Before a night of drinking, be sure to attend a Mizzou Tigers basketball or football game; they’ve been having some good seasons as of late so it’s sure to be an exciting game. If that wasn’t enough, Mizzou has a student population of over 35,000, which means all the single ladies and gents are bound to find plenty of eligible bachelors/bachelorettes. If you aren’t already sold, it’s also only about a two-hour drive from campus to the heart of downtown Columbia, which makes a day or weekend trip totally doable.
— Alec W., M1
You’re probably wondering, why is D.C. on this list? Well, thank you Frontier Airlines. Weekend direct flights to D.C. are usually in the range of $80-$120 (round trip) from STL at flyfrontier.com. Okay, it’s into Dulles and in the 21st century, they still don’t have a Metro line connection, but $100! D.C. is so fantastic that it deserves way more than 200 words. If it’s your first time, there are the obvious suggestions: the National Mall/Smithsonian, the White House, etc. Otherwise: enjoy a shopping trip in Georgetown, a plethora of excellent restaurants or just a stroll around the tidal basin. In many ways, D.C. is the least expensive and most convenient trip from St. Louis and makes for an excellent vacation year round.
— Josh A., M1
How to Make Travel Work During Your First Year
Some people say that I have a bit of wanderlust. It’s true, I like to get out and see new places. If you’re efficient with your study time, you will have plenty of time on the weekends to explore during first year. If you like to travel like I do, St. Louis is perfect. Consider the advantages: a central geographic location, it’s a Southwest airport hub and there’s a MetroLink line straight from the medical school to the airport. Personally, I like to drive. My road trips from St. Louis since the beginning of first year include: Chicago, Iowa, Kansas City, Memphis, Louisville, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and DC. Yes, I drove 14 hours to those last ones, but there’s a plethora of exciting locations within four hours. My recommendation: Start with Chicago and Indiana Dunes while it’s still warm. Bon Voyage!
— Josh A., M1