Through the city by Metro: Taking a trip to the Central West End
The Central West End is familiar territory for many Washington University students or at least its few blocks of upscale dining options are familiar. Student favorites like Drunken Fish and El Burro Loco are great spots for a night out on the town, but this versatile neighborhood has plenty to offer in the daytime hours, too. Just a hop, skip and a Metro ride across Forest Park—paradoxically for Danforth Campus-dwellers, the Central West End (CWE) is actually east of Wash. U.—the area is a pleasant destination for a weekend day full of fun. It’s even close enough to justify a post-class, late-afternoon trip to IKEA—more on that later.
The first step to exploring the Central West End is to get there. Luckily, that’s a feat easily accomplished by simply taking the eastbound blue line MetroLink from either the Big Bend or Skinker stations to the aptly named Central West End station, just two stops down the line. Make sure you have your UPass and student ID on hand—the MetroLink mostly operates on the honor system, so it’s unlikely that you’ll be asked to show it, but it’s a good idea to play it safe.
The MetroLink stop puts you right on the edge of Wash. U.’s medical school campus and Barnes Jewish Hospital, which is really handy if it’s that kind of visit. Otherwise, it’s a 30-second walk to the transit center, which houses a hub of buses continually weaving through the CWE. To be honest, this bustling station can be a bit intimidating if you’re not used to taking buses, but just keep a level head and find the bus number you need—you’ll be on your way in no time.
On your way to where, you may ask? To a variety of incredible destinations, all within a two-mile radius! Your first stop might be at the Cortex Innovation Community on the corner of Forest Park Avenue and Sarah Street. Cortex is a burgeoning technology district in a most unexpected location in the middle of St. Louis, and just stepping through the doors will make you feel smarter by association. In addition to housing innovative companies, Cortex is home to buzzy new restaurant Vicia, which has already received rave reviews from Student Life staffers. Stop by for lunch or dinner and soak in the inventive atmosphere, both culinary and otherwise. Cortex is most easily accessed via the No. 10 MetroBus, as the Broadway Taylor TC bus stop is right across the street. The No. 42 bus also gets the job done, but it’s a bit of a longer walk.
Also across the street from the Broadway Taylor TC stop is the universally beloved Swedish institution known as IKEA. If you’ve never been to IKEA, please make it a priority to do so over Thanksgiving break or sometime soon. Chic, minimalist discount furniture and adorable decor abounds. Plus, IKEA’s cafeteria offers one of the cheapest and most delicious lunches around, in my humble opinion. (Two words: Veggie. Balls.) If you have been to IKEA before (which I’m assuming you have), it never hurts to make another visit—there’s no such thing as too many trips to IKEA.
From one holy place to another, finish off your day trip with a stop by the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. You don’t have to be Catholic, or religious at all, to appreciate the raw beauty of this building. A couple of bus stops surround the area (closest is Lindell and Newstead)—so, it’s easy to access by wheels and also a fairly short walk from the CWE MetroLink station. The Cathedral Basilica houses the world’s largest collection of mosaics in the world, and the millions of colored tiles create gorgeous images. The huge domed ceilings and stately columns inside will make you feel insignificant in comparison, perfect for having a mild existential crisis on a Tuesday afternoon while surrounded by church paraphernalia. I don’t know how good of a job I’m doing at selling you this experience, but seriously, visit the Cathedral Basilica at least once while you’re in St. Louis.
With your close-to-home adventure complete, hop back on the MetroLink— the westbound one this time—and revel in your precious new experiences. You don’t have to travel far or spend a long time to get out of the Wash. U. bubble, and the payoff is almost always worth it. Just don’t forget your UPass.