“I bet St. Louis isn’t on the list.” The words stuck with me after my co-worker turned and left my office. He’d seen the September 2014 issue of Outside magazine on my desk and was reacting to the “Best Towns Ever” cover line.

What makes a Best Town? And why do so many St. Louisans have a persistent sense of inadequacy about our home? Don’t act like you don’t know what I mean.

Granted, the last seven months have been extremely challenging, but we’re not talking about race relations here. We’re talking about a make-believe competition based on something called the “O-Score.” Why shouldn’t St. Louis be on the list?

So, back to my original question: What makes a Best Town? In the words of the Outside editors, it’s part “access to adventure” and part “thriving food scene.” “But then there are things like bike lanes, green spaces, and places to relax (craft breweries) and get in shape (climbing gyms).”

Anyone else keeping score?

At last count St. Louis County had over 40 parks in its system. It’s also home to three state parks (Babler, Castlewood and Route 66) and part of the Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge. Several local municipalities maintain their own park systems. We have remarkable city and county trails systems (our state has been repeatedly recognized for such). And we haven’t even touched on the waterways and river trails. Access to adventure? Check.

As for a thriving food scene, just sample an issue of Sauce or Feast — or USA Today, which just named St. Louis a “hidden culinary gem.” Better yet, savor it for yourself on The Hill or The Loop, in Dogtown or Soulard. Every neighborhood is a new gastronomic experience.

What about bike lanes? Yep, we’ve got them, with even more on the way. Green spaces? Just Google Great Rivers Greenway. Craft breweries? Come on! Climbing gyms? Upper Limits and Climb So iLL offer four locations between them.

Sure sounds to me like St. Louis meets the criteria.

Of course, Outside went with the usual suspects. The overall winner was Duluth, with Burlington, Asheville, Portland, and Boulder tapped as well. All deserving, but predictable, choices.

St. Louis may never end up of an Outside “Best Towns Ever” list, but if you can’t see why we could be there, then there can be only one explanation: You have assumed room temperature. Put down this magazine, get outdoors, and see what you’re missing. Because seeing is believing.

Author: Brad Kovach is the editor of Terrain magazine
Image: Courtesy of Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon