Through the city by metro: Taking a day trip to Soulard
Many Washington University students visit the Soulard neighborhood only once per year—in the drunken haze of Mardi Gras. But Soulard has much more to offer than cheap beads, and it’s easily accessible for anyone with a U-Pass. As the oldest neighborhood in St. Louis, it’s a mix of historic red brick residences and thriving nightlife. On a sunny Saturday, I hopped on the metro to go there and get out of the Wash. U. bubble.
To start my journey, I took the blue line eastbound to the Civic Center station and then walked to the adjacent transit center to find the No. 30 MetroBus. The No. 30 MetroBus is a dedicated route between Civic Center and Soulard, but—because it was delayed when I got there—I decided to walk instead. The 25-minute walk was quite pleasant in the perfectly sunny, 70-degree weather.
My first destination was the famed Soulard Farmers’ Market, which was amazing. Yes, I might be biased as a farmers market lover, but this market sells everything from produce and poultry to mini donuts and margaritas, and it’s open Wednesday through Saturday. I was struck by the friendliness: vendors I met were happy to chat about their products, and many offered free samples. Later, when the market was winding down, one produce stand offered to sell me eight tomatoes, nine kiwis and a banana for $3, as he tried to clear out his stand. Of course, I took the deal.
If farmers markets aren’t your thing, simply head south to see what else Soulard has to offer. There are plenty of restaurants interspersed with houses in this neighborhood, which is surprisingly peaceful—during the day, anyway. When I was there, the line at Bogart’s Smokehouse stretched way out the door, but every block brought a new deli or cafe. If you’re looking for more familiar cuisine, Mission Taco Joint has a location on nearby Lafayette Avenue. (Hint: their veggie “Taco of the Month” for April is insanely good). And, if you end up in Soulard either early in the morning or late at night, the John’s Donuts storefront is right across the street from the farmers market.
Another notable feature of this area is the parks. Spread throughout the neighborhood, most of them are quite small, but they function well for physical exercise or even for getting some schoolwork done. I stopped in Pontiac Square Park for a while, and it was a fantastic place to meet a lot of dogs. If dog-petting (or dog-spotting) is your objective, I definitely recommend this spot.
Further south in Soulard reside the Anheuser-Busch brewery and the haunted Lemp Mansion, both local St. Louis landmarks. The brewery offers free tours (with product samples included), and the Lemp Mansion is a ghostly experience best undertaken at night. Speaking of night, I didn’t get to witness Soulard’s renowned nightlife scene when I visited at noon. However, I did see a sign on one of the red brick houses claiming, “What happens in Soulard stays in Soulard.”
Once it was time to return to campus, I whipped out my trusty Google Maps app and found that the No. 73 MetroBus was soon stopping nearby. I walked a few blocks to the bus stop, passing yet another park, boarded it and rode to the Union Station stop. From there, I took the westbound MetroLink blue line back to campus. With arms laden with bags of tomatoes, kiwis, tangerines, flowers and mini donuts, I’d say it was a successful day at Soulard.