Search This Blog (A.K.A. "I Dote On...")

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Testy Travelers Pan St. Louis

Every once in a while, I spy on Yahoo! Travel’s reviews of St. Louis (and now New Orleans, too) just to see what visitors to the city think. Typically, there are a series of four- and five-star reviews (the top of the heap) that laud the accommodations, attractions (read: Arch and Busch Stadium), and dinner on the Hill. Then you will have your occasional ranter, someone who is either a St. Louis resident with a bone to pick or a true traveler who simply has either an extremely small and closed mind or is just pissed that someone at their hotel treated them poorly. These are the one- and two-star reviewers; those that straight down the line report their experience as awful.

Still, I couldn’t help but cringe at some of the comments.

Hold on tight. I respond.

Oh wow - where do I commence? I had to come here for four days for business - I wish my employer would have selected the alternative of Indianapolis! I never once felt safe downtown, hospitality was at a minimum, and quite frankly there was an overall element of fear and hopelessness present. St. Louis is the type of city that should be razed, re-designed and re-structured for the contemporary era.

Dear Anonymous1:
Thank you for your Sim City-players’ perspective. Unfortunately, you didn’t likely step past your downtown hotel’s doorstep. Do you think you’re qualified to say that an entire city—or even neighborhood—should be razed?

Wow! It appears that people either love or hate STL, with vistors being overwhelmingly against and natives appearing to overwhelmingly for. Why don't I, as a rational, intelligent visitor, provide a fair and balanced review.
The locals aren't as bad as they are made out to be - they are not overly friendly or helpful, but they're not completely miserable people either. I asked for directions and received generally pleasant responses.
Now, what STL needs to do is really "clean up its act" per se, or have the city sanitation department work a bit smarter. Too much garbage, junk and other items lying around. The water quality could use a re-evaluation as well.
Given that, there are some decent sites here, traffic isn't terrible (just avoid rush hour - remember, I-64 is closed!). And yes, as a non-smoker, I do find the smoking appaling, but there are alternatives in Ballwin, a rather nice suburb 15 minutes to west and completely smoke-free. Or, you can zip across the river to Illinois, provided you avoid East St. Louis and vicinity.
Do your homework, be extremely patient and tolerant, and you should have no problem in STL.

Dear Anonymous2:
Thanks for your observations. I’m not sure where you stayed, but litter isn’t the greatest issue with the city. Did you happen to attend after a large festival or conference? And the water quality? Not sure if you’re aware, but St. Louis was recently selected as having the best-tasting drinking water in the country by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Yes, Ballwin is nice—and smoke-free(?). You do realize that Ballwin has nary a tavern that might even hold smoke, right? And thanks for the predictable East Side potshot as well. Next!

Are you people intoxicated? I grew up in the sewer of STL and left as soon as I could. How can you possibly give five stars to a city well-known for consistently having one of the highest violent crime rates in the U.S.? Miserable summer weather and crippling ice storms in the winter? Extremely small-minded and uneducated people? Roads with potholes that would engulf a 747? Extremely over-hyped restaurants with poor service? Yes, I am a "local/native" and I will tell you - it's not worth the time or effort to visit St. Louis. I left six years ago, moved to Orange County, CA and enjoy nice weather, clean smoke-free air and beautiful women, none of which are present in STL.

And for all of the local geniuses who state that the zoo is "free" - wrong again, it's paid for by the 1 percent city extortion tax on your salary, scholars. St. Louis has two things in common with Chicago - lousy hockey teams and extremely corrupt government!!!!!

Dear Anonymous3:
Where to begin? Let me ask you a couple questions. Can you tell me when the last crippling ice storm hit St. Louis? Name me one sizable pothole that New Orleans—a widely loved and appreciated city—couldn’t trump in at least one hundred different parts of the city? Where are these potholes? Could you provide an example of an over-hyped restaurant? And, the free-of-admission Zoo, etc. does not come from the “1 percent city extortion” tax, but rather the Zoo-Museum Tax District, which collects from property taxes.

I wonder if people like this guy realize that a place couldn’t possibly be so dystopic. All of the women are ugly? All of the roads in terrible shape? Smoky air? Doesn’t this guy live in Southern California. Yikes.

“Very Disappointed”:
We stopped on our way between Oklahoma City and Indianapolis. We won't go into details, as our experiences were very similar to a lot of visitors (substandard lodging - we stayed at the Holiday Inn at I-44/Lindbergh- , poor attitudes/customer service, etc.), be we cannot recommend visiting St. Louis at this time. Amazingly, we have always enjoyed visits to Kansas City, which is a much nicer city some 230 miles away from St. Louis. In conclusion, St. Louis is not the best of places to stop and yes, I'm sorry to say, the locals really don't care for tourists. And there is much more to life than baseball, smoking and eating fatty foods.

Dear VD:

Try staying within the city limits and then making a comment.

I could go on, but they get more and more depressing, many employing the term “ghetto” and poking at St. Louisans for “never having left the city” and being extremely stupid, mean, and fat (perhaps there is justice in this world--people rude enough to mock peoples' appearance and educational levels being treated rudely themselves?).

What St. Louis are these people traveling to?

I suppose the honest truth is that the city is not all that amenable to your traditional tourist. There aren’t many places to shop and the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission directs visitors to the suburban malls anyway; there’s not enough signage to guide tourists downtown or elsewhere; too many awesome and exciting neighborhoods are “off the beaten” path, and Metro doesn’t provide schedules or benches to encourage more transit usage; downtown, where most people formulate opinions about the city, is still a sub-par area for entertainment compared to other downtowns across the country. Now, as a local, I understand that St. Louis has come an extremely long way since its nadir. Tourists who come to the city aren’t looking for excuses; they’re looking for entertainment.

Still, it appears that these people (keeping in mind it could be the same bitter person posting several reviews) have a very negative perception of the city. It would behoove the CVC to view some of these comments. Apparently, many people are appalled at the smoke-friendliness of the city, the rudeness of people, and the lack of welcome to outsiders. If only, though, we had more information about where these people stayed, where they ate, and what other sites they visited, we could lob all of our own brand of vitriol right back on them. (I kid.)


Doug Duckworth said...

I don't know. I've been to London, Paris, Chicago, and smaller places like Nashville, etc. I like it here. We have problems, but St. Louis also has many qualities that the idiotic tourist wont see from the Adams Mark or the 44/Lindbergh Holiday Inn.

There's a lot of improvements needed, but there are also many reasons I haven't left. Some include afford ability, diversity, and potential for a better future.

Brian said...

Nice work - lots of idiots out there.

I will say that going smoke-free would be a huge improvement for STL though. KC, Columbia and Springfield are already ahead of the game.

Fashion STL Style!

Fashion STL Style!
St. Louis Gives You the Shirt Off of Its Own Back!

Next American City

Next American City
Your Go-To Source for Urban Affairs

Join the StreetsBlog Network!

Join the StreetsBlog Network!
Your Source for Livable Streets

Trust in Rust!

Trust in Rust!
News from the Rustbelt

Dotage St. Louis -- Blogging the St. Louis Built Environment Since 2008

Topics: Historic Preservation, Politics and Government, Development, Architecture, Urban Planning, Urban Design, Local Business, Crime and Safety, Neighborhoods, and Anything Else Relating to Making St. Louis a Better City!