We asked, you answered. Here are your favorite regional places, races, and faces for 2019.
Running Store (road)
Big River Running Company (West County location)
West County was the original Big River location, opened in 2006, and became a true flagship for the company in 2017 when it moved down the street to a large, free-standing building. The store features a 10- by 5-foot pixel screen for watching films and other programs, a cutting-edge Fit Center with treadmills and automated gait analysis, and beautiful fitting rooms and sculpted shoe walls. Big River hosts free group runs, training teams, and clinics; collects and donates shoes for the less fortunate; and supports local charities through its Big River Gives Back program. “Engaging the running community in an authentic way has been at the core of Big River’s mission from the beginning,” said owner Matt Helbig.
Runners-up: Big River Running Company (South City location), Running Niche, Fleet Feet (South County location)
Running Store (off-road)
Big River Running Company (West County location)
In addition to serving St. Louis road runners (see above), Big River supports the off-road running community with trail-specific shoes and gear; a comprehensive online map of area trails; and its Trail Series, a collection of five fall/winter races ranging from 4 miles to 30 kilometers. For the next generation of off-roaders, Big River also organizes the Forest Park XC Festival, an event that draws thousands of middle and high school athletes from around the country to compete during a day of high-caliber cross-country races each fall.
Runners-up: REI St. Louis, Alpine Shop (Kirkwood location), Fleet Feet (South County location)
Bike Shop (road)
The Hub Bicycle Company
Every shop sells good bikes, right? The Hub wants to give you more: a gateway to the fun and social world of road cycling. Its famous Saturday morning “Hub Ride” attracts up to 150 riders, who are split into four different groups according to their comfortable pace. A series of beginner women’s road rides act as “rolling classrooms”, teaching the fundamentals of group riding. After the rides, enjoy free coffee and bagels and plan your next meetup with new friends. The shop also specializes in tandem cycling and organizes trips to regional tandem rallies. All this and a carefully blended batch of products and services, centrally located in historic downtown Webster Groves, Missouri.
Runners-up: Big Shark Bicycle Company (Richmond Heights location), Maplewood Bicycle, The Cyclery & Fitness Center (Edwardsville location)
Bike Shop (off-road)
Mountain Bike Shed
Seeking an alternative to shops filled with Lycra, aero helmets, and road bikes? Mountain Bike Shed in Eureka, Missouri, carries a selection of mountain, gravel, dirt, and e-bikes, as well as “all the protection, apparel, and accessories to keep you bombing down the trail longer and safer,” said owner Adam Scott. “The Shed” prides itself on being a laidback hangout. “There’s always a hot cup of coffee or a cold drink for you, if you want to come and watch mountain bike videos on our 65-inch HD TV, learn new skills, drool over the latest gear, or talk about that gnarly ride from the week before.”
Runners-up: Take A Hike Shop, Big Shark Bicycle Company (Chesterfield location), Ballwin Cycles
Alpine Shop (Kirkwood location)
Originally founded as a small climbing shop in 1973, Alpine Shop has grown into a leading independent resource for outdoorists of all types. Its popular Kirkwood location offers gear and apparel for men, women, and kids — plus a full-service bike shop and ski shop (including rentals) and a certified pedorthist with the ability to do custom footwear fitting and modification onsite. The store has a full calendar of educational programs and supports area organizations dedicated to the preservation of (and access to) our wild places. Alpine Shop recently won the Retailer of the Year award from the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, a high honor.
Runners-up: REI St. Louis, Take A Hike Shop, Bike Stop Outpost
Upper Limits (Chesterfield location)
With neighbors like Sky Zone and BounceU, Upper Limits decided to jump right into the family destination trend with its newest facility. Opened in 2016, the Chesterfield gym is the first in the USA Climbing Midwest region to feature Wacky Walls; in a separate area, climbers ascend unique-themed walls — a beanstalk, a brick-faced building, a spider web, and more. Highlights in the main gym include a 30-foot continuous climb from the bottom of a sunken bouldering pit to the peak of the large, top-out structure. The client services continue with a fully stocked pro-shop, birthday party room, lounge, climbing training room, and workout area.
Runners-up: Climb So iLL, Upper Limits (Maryland Heights location), Upper Limits (St. Louis location)
Big Muddy Adventures
Big Muddy Adventures has been committed to helping St. Louisans experience its big rivers since 2002 — back when most locals’ idea of canoeing was the ubiquitous “float trip” on a backcountry stream. More than merely guided paddles on the Missouri and Mississippi, Big Muddy goes above and beyond with themed overnight expeditions; day trips exploring different parts of the rivers; custom outings; and its monthly Full Moon Floats, which feature gourmet campfire food cooked by a roster of guest chefs. The company also offers youth programs during which kids develop skills and confidence while learning about ecology and environmental stewardship.
Runners-up: SUP St. Louis, Alpine Shop, Tri-State Trolling Motor
Hargrove Fly Fishing
From the potbelly stove in the middle of the room to the card table covered with fly-tying vices and spools of thread to the ever-present anglers trading stories, this is the kind of shop you might expect to find in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies, but it just happens to be in Brentwood, Missouri. Notwithstanding the mountain town ambiance, it’s the staff that customers point to as the main attraction: friendly, knowledgeable, trustworthy. The store offers casting and fly-tying classes and stocks an array of rods, flies, books, and accessories for the novice and expert fisherman alike.
Runners-up: Bass Pro Shops, Feather-Craft Fly Fishing, Cabela’s
Midwest-Based Gear Manufacturer
What began as a homemade bike carrier has evolved into a thriving company that creates high-end, innovative racks and accessories that have won awards and revolutionized the way we transport our outdoor gear. Headquartered in Springfield, Missouri, Küat started in 2008 with a single hitch-mounted bike rack model and now produces 15 hitch, roof, and trunk racks for bikes — along with a new kayak roof rack. Moreover, the company has become a leading outdoor lifestyle brand, pushing stylish aesthetics, supporting a competitive cycling team, and partnering with the National Forest Service to help restore woodlands around the US.
Runners-up: Qikcover, Outbound Lighting, Alps Mountaineering
St. Louis Mountain Bike Camps
Full disclosure: all three of my daughters have attended St. Louis Mountain Bike Camps — and they all loved it. What makes the program so entertaining and accessible is that, while mountain biking is a core component, the camp builds in outdoor skills and adventures that appeal to everyone and teach a healthy respect for nature. Options include a youth summer camp at Castlewood State Park, an after-school club at alternating locations, a development team for more ambitious riders, and an annual trip to Bentonville, Arkansas. New this year, fall programming extended the fun into the cooler temperatures.
Runners-up: Wheels Up, Camp Ondessonk, YMCA Camp Lakewood
Gateway to the Great Outdoors
Launched by Washington University graduate Nadav Sprague in 2015, Gateway to the Great Outdoors provides environmental education to underserved middle school students in St. Louis and across the US. Weekly in-class lessons teach and reinforce science curricula, while monthly outdoor adventures bring classroom learning to life. Students might be taught about the water cycle at school and then experience it with a canoe trip down the Mississippi River. Along the way, they enhance their knowledge of the outdoors and begin to care deeply about the environment.
Runners-up: Gateway Off-Road Cyclists, Trailnet, Ozark Trail Association
WILD CARD – Best Customer Beer Cooler
Come for the expert advice and great technical service, stay for the full-size, glass-front refrigerator stocked with icy cold beverages (choose from alcoholic, non-alcoholic, and even gluten-free options). Just be sure to drop a few dollars in the honor jar or pay them back by purchasing a quality bike part or accessory from the shop’s ample inventory. No one loves a freeloader.
It was really a race for runner-up, as there was little doubt St. Louis’ 1,300-acre midtown oasis — voted the top city park in the country by the readers of USA Today — wasn’t going to come out on top. Presenting an astounding, all-purpose landscape of forests, lakes, streams, trails, and green spaces, the park invites leisurely walks and intense workouts, quiet places to picnic and a variety of action-packed races and festivals. Forest Park is also home to five major cultural institutions as well as access to paddling on the 22.5-acre Post-Dispatch Lake via Boathouse Paddle Co.
Runners-up: Greensfelder County Park, Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park, Tower Grove Park
Castlewood State Park
In the early 1900s, it was a riverside resort getaway for St. Louis city dwellers. Today, Castlewood State Park in Ballwin, Missouri, still draws large crowds — though most are more interested in outdoor recreation than sneaking a drink at one of the old (and long gone) speakeasys. The park accommodates more than 26 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian use, some of which rise high above the Meramec River on bluffs that offer an expansive view of the surrounding valley. Bring a lunch basket: the park has picnic sites, reservable shelters, and a playground for the kids. And don’t leave the fishing gear at home.
Runners-up: Katy Trail State Park, Mark Twain State Park, Hawn State Park
Greenway/Hard Surface Trail
Gravois Greenway (Grant’s Trail)
People don’t seem to discover Gravois Greenway so much as inherit it. After all, anyone who has visited Grant’s Farm in St. Louis County has seen the 12-foot-wide asphalt span and the walkers, bikers, joggers, and rollerbladers using it. From there, it’s a short step — literally and figuratively — from seeing to doing. And why not? This mostly flat and non-technical trail is ideal for first-timers, family outings, and low-key workouts. Parking is available at several locations, and there are restrooms and water fountains available directly on the trail.
Runners-up: Katy Trail State Park, MCT Trails, Mississippi Greenway (Riverfront Trail)
The Ozarks, in a word, are splendid — and there’s no better way to see them at their most rugged and wildly beautiful than on the Ozark Trail. Bring your boots, bike, or horse and take a trip ranging from just a few miles to 400. The trail is divided into mostly linked sections, from which you can explore mountains (Taum Sauk), waterfalls (Mina Sauk Falls), crystal-clear waters (Current River), inspiring lookouts (Lover’s Leap), and more. Work is ongoing to link the entire backcountry path and establish a trailhead in Pacific, Missouri, which would eventually connect with greenways leading all the way to downtown St. Louis.
Runners-up: Lewis & Clark Trail, Green Rock Trail (Greensfelder County Park), Lime Kiln Trail (Rockwoods Reservation)
Trail Running Trail
Lewis & Clark Trail
Carving through the hills and hollows of 8,400-acre Weldon Spring Conservation Area in St. Charles County, this two-in-one moderately strenuous trail leads to soaring views of the Missouri River. The route begins with gently rolling singletrack before rising to the top of the bluffs and then splitting — the Clark Trail heads back north for a total distance of 4.7 miles while the Lewis Trail rambles on for 7.1. Trail runners say they enjoy the topographic diversity — rocks, roots, creeks, climbs, descents — as well as the ability to string together varied distances depending on how they navigate the loop.
Runners-up: Katy Trail State Park, Grotpeter Trail (Castlewood State Park), DeClue Trail (Greensfelder County Park)
Mountain Bike Trail
Bluff View Trail
In the works since 2009, this 12-mile round-trip route weaves among timbered hills and ravines on both sides of paved Rock Hollow Trail in Wildwood, Missouri. Its (many) highlights include a bluff overlooking the Meramec, several creek crossings, trickling waterfalls — one that you ride behind in a cave-like depression — and epic rock formations scattered along the undulating singletrack. A series of hand-built stone switchbacks, rock gardens with short drops, and a tabletop jump demonstrate why this trail has fast become the go-to for local thrill-seekers. You can thank Gateway Off-Road Cyclists for the hard work in building and maintaining Bluff View.
Runners-up: Beulah Trail (Greensfelder County Park), Grotpeter Trail (Castlewood State Park), Berryman Trail
A peaceful retreat nestled in the heart of Missouri’s wine country between Defiance and Augusta, Klondike Park pampers campers with six cozy cabins that sleep up to eight guests each. Looking for something more au natural? Forty-three well-groomed campsites can be reserved for individual and group activities — there’s even hammock camping at five sites. The park has clean restroom and shower facilities, a majestic lookout over the Missouri River, more than 5 miles of trail for hiking and biking, and unique white sand beaches bordering the old silica quarry onsite.
Runners-up: Council Bluff Recreation Area, Berryman Campground, Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park
Creve Coeur Lake
Beating out some of the most scenic rivers in Missouri — and the country — 320-acre Creve Coeur Lake features St. Louis County’s first water trail, a 4-mile journey that includes 10 points of interest, some not reachable from land. (You can download a map at stlouisco.com.) Get up close to historic icehouses, a waterfall, wild flora and fauna, and more during a leisurely paddle around the lake or lay in the sun along the northeast shore’s sand beach (no swimming allowed). Kayak rentals and three boat ramps provide access for those with and without their own watercraft.
Runners-up: Current River, Meramec River, St. Francis River
Tucked in the Shawnee National Forest near the town of Ozark, Jackson Falls offers the most rock climbing routes in Illinois, and arguably the best. There are roughly 60 climbing areas along the sandstone bluffs here, each with multiple named routes on them (over 500 in all). Many ascend to 50+ feet high and range in difficulty from 5.6 to 5.13. Sport routes predominate, though there are a number of traditional routes and a few areas suitable for setting up a top-rope. Excellent bouldering opportunities also exist, with the whole area sitting in a lovely glen with hike-in access and free camping.
Runners-up: Pere Marquette State Park, Elephant Rocks State Park, Robinson Bluff
Hidden Valley ZipTour
Opened last summer at Hidden Valley Resort in Wildwood, Missouri, the ZipTour features our area’s longest ziplines and is unique in that each one of its four spans has cables running side by side, so you can share the adventure with a friend. In addition, a patented cable trolley system lets you stop at any point in the middle of zipping to bask in the breathtaking views before starting again. The ziplines zigzag over the forested green hillsides of the resort, and on a clear day you might even spy the silhouette of downtown St. Louis in the distance.
Runners-up: Go Ape Treetop Adventure (Maryland Heights location), Caveman Zipline, Grafton Zipline at Aerie’s Resort
It might be easy to bypass the largest commercial cave in Missouri — except, that is, for the omnipresent billboards and painted barns lining Interstate 44 for miles in both directions. But missing this 4.6-mile cavern system near Stanton would be a mistake, because there’s truly no more dazzling structure of underground mineral formations in the state. From intricate veils of limestone to one of the world’s biggest stalagmites, you’ll see it all on a guided 80-minute tour. Afterward, check out the Caveman Zipline, hop on a canopy-topped riverboat for a relaxing ride down the Meramec River, and spend the night at the Meramec Caverns’ LaJolla Natural Park/Campground.
Runners-up: Onondaga Cave, Cliff Cave, Round Spring Cave
Kid-Friendly Outdoor Destination
Elephant Rocks State Park
What daring kid, or adult for that matter, can resist scaling the giant granite boulders at Elephant Rocks State Park? Perched atop a hill at the 131-acre recreational area in Belleview, Missouri, the pink-hued geologic formations are explorable via the Braille Trail, which guides visitors along a paved path among the pachyderms. Other trails lead to the ruins of an old train engine house and a gorgeous overview of the St. Francois Mountains. Camping is not allowed, but 30 picnic sites and a playground area provide families with the opportunity to spend a long, fun-filled day at the park.
Runners-up: Castlewood State Park, St. Louis Zoo, Forest Park
Bass’ River Resort
Whether your group numbers three or 30, Bass’ River Resort in Steelville, Missouri, makes a great “base camp” for an Ozark adventure. Accommodations include everything from rustic log cabins and A-frames to entire houses with full amenities, or primitive camping and RV sites. The resort’s specialty is hosting safe, fun, quality float trips on the Huzzah, Courtois, and Meramec rivers in canoes, rafts, kayaks, or tubes. Other activities include horseback riding, swimming (at the pool or sand beach), volleyball, horseshoe pits, fishing, and easy access to hiking and biking trails. Meramec State Park, Onondaga Cave, and charming Dillard Mill all lie within a short drive.
Runners-up: Pere Marquette Lodge, Big Cedar Lodge, The Betty Lea Lodge at Echo Bluff State Park
Midwest Outdoor Town
Hands-down the top mountain biking destination in the Midwest. The difference is trail access, diversity, and progression — a fast-growing compilation of singletrack with something for everyone to ride — and much of it linking to urban greenways that take you right to the town square. Here, you can sample the diverse culinary scene, tour historic buildings and homes, and visit world-class institutions like Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Nearby communities like Eureka Springs, Fayetteville, and Hot Springs offer even more miles of biking trails, as well as entry to the Upper Buffalo wilderness and Ozark National Forest. Truly, Bentonville is a gateway to entertainment and recreation.
Runners-up: Eureka, St. Charles, Eminence (tie), Wildwood (tie)
WILD CARD – Most Date-Worthy Outdoor Destination
Boathouse at Forest Park
What could be more romantic than a moonlight picnic on Forest Park’s Post-Dispatch Lake? Bring your sweetie and enjoy an appetizer, two entrees, and four drinks as you drift in bliss aboard a vessel from Boathouse Paddle Co. Afterward, hit the dock for a digestif and perhaps a World’s Fair éclair. If brunch is more your style, spend a weekend meal with mimosas, brioche French vanilla toast, and lingering stares. It’s a sure thing.
Road Cycling Event
St. Louis’ largest competitive cycling event takes place over four days — Friday through Monday, every Labor Day weekend — in four different neighborhoods: Lafayette Square, Francis Park, The Hill, and Benton Park. Regardless of the location, this style of criterium bike racing is extraordinarily friendly to spectators. There’s no admission fee. You can stay as long as you like, taking in continuous action at nine races each day. And because cyclists are riding laps around a defined course, generally a mile or so long, you get to see them multiple times and can watch the race unfold in front of you. Enjoy onsite food, drinks, vendors, and announcers doing play-by-play via loudspeaker.
Runners-up: Moonlight Ramble, Pedal the Cause, Ride the Rivers
Gravel Biking Event
Dirty Kanza 200
When two cycling enthusiasts founded this race in 2006, gravel grinding was just beginning to catch fire. Since then, the sport’s popularity has exploded — and so has the Dirty Kanza 200. The event has mushroomed from 34 participants that first year to over 3,400 in 2019. And while that growth has brought with it a few changes, one thing has remained constant: this is a grassroots event put on by folks who are passionate about cycling and providing life-enriching experiences for its participants. It also doesn’t hurt that Flint Hills in east-central Kansas has some of the best gravel found anywhere in the world.
Runners-up: Cuban Gravel Crisis, Tour of Hermann, Rail to Katy Ride
Mountain Biking Event
There’s a reason it sells out super-fast every year: the BT Epic is pretty epic. The course consists of 50+ miles on portions of the Berryman and Ozark trails, with rolling singletrack, gnarly creek crossings, gravel fire roads, and beautiful woods-and-rock scenery. But don’t downshift if you want to make the podium, because you’ll be riding against some of the best riders in the Midwest. After you conquer the beast, get ready for the best part of the weekend: the amped awards ceremony and after party! New for 2019, organizers added skills clinics on the Friday before the race. Even more of a good thing.
Runners-up: Battle of Berryman, Greensfelder Challenge, Leadbelt XC
Road Running Event (under 13.1 miles)
St. Patrick’s Day Parade Run
It’s known, unofficially, as the race to find the swiftest man and woman in St. Louis. With more than 8,000 participants, the competition is fierce — runners come from around the Midwest — and the 5-mile course is flat and fast, starting near Busch Stadium, looping onto Chouteau, Tucker, Olive, and Market, and ending with a 400-meter sprint to 8th Street. However, this is also a family friendly event, with a 3k option, affordable registration fee, runners’ village at the finish line, and easy access to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which is regularly noted as one of the best in the country.
Runners-up: GO! St. Louis All-American 5K & Fun Run, Ferguson Twilight Run, Turkey Trot STL – Eureka
Road Running Event (over 13.1 miles)
GO! St. Louis Marathon & Family Fitness Weekend
“Marathon” is in the name, so naturally a 26.2-mile race is in the offing, but so are a half marathon, marathon relay, 10k, 5k, and children’s fun runs. In all, the GO! St. Louis Marathon & Family Fitness Weekend attracts more than 25,000 participants to downtown St. Louis and invites runners to tackle routes that encompass some of the city’s most historic landmarks and neighborhoods. Marathoners finish along the riverfront under the Gateway Arch, where they can refuel with local favorites like Ted Drewes frozen custard and Pasta House toasted ravioli. Finishers take home a race shirt, custom medal, and (possibly) a Boston Marathon qualifier.
Runners-up: MO’ Cowbell Marathon, St. Louis Track Club Half Marathon, Alton Half (tie) Marathon, Equinox Nighttime Half Marathon (tie)
Trail Running Event
Quivering Quads Trail Race
Keeping a race fresh for 20 runnings can be hard. Quivering Quads has stayed on top of its game by sticking with what works — every edition has been held at Cuivre River State Park in Troy, Missouri — and reimagining the rest. That means periodically subtracting and adding distances, rerouting the course, and giving participants a choice of swag options rather than dictating one. What runners can always expect is a race with amazing vistas on a variety of wide fire roads, narrow singletrack, rolling hills, steep climbs, and challenging creek crossings. In other words, everything a trail runner could want.
Runners-up: Ozark Foothills, Alpine Shop Trail Run Series, The Skippo
So iLL Showdown
It’s not only competitors who travel from across the country to take part in the So iLL Showdown; guest route setters come to St. Louis to help prepare the gym’s iconic “eye wall” — itself a former competition wall that was used on a pro-level event. About 600 spectators pack the ground floor and mezzanine over the two days to watch the top-notch action and soak in the festival-like atmosphere. Athletes who make it out of the qualifying rounds and into the finals scale the wall amid music and lights that synch up with the climbing. “It’s a visually striking performance,” said Climb So iLL co-founder, David Chancellor. “The energy is just buzzing.”
Runners-up: Holy Boulders Bouldering Competition, 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell, Gateway Boulder Bash
Missouri River 340 (MR340)
Every year, people come from across the country to compete in the world’s longest nonstop paddle race. The Missouri River 340 traverses an entire state, starting in Kansas City and ending in St. Charles a little over three and a half days later. Racers can sign up solo or as part of a team, in a canoe or kayak. Some even choose a stand-up paddleboard. Hard-core contenders paddle day and night, but others approach the event with a more laidback attitude and simply hope to finish in the allotted time. More than 700 people in 500 boats signed up in 2019, one of the biggest fleets yet.
Runners-up: Big MO Ride & Row, Missouri Whitewater Championships, Race for the Rivers
New Town Triathlon
A flat course profile makes this event the perfect race to push for a new personal record or try the sport of triathlon for the first time. Set in tree-lined suburban New Town, Missouri, the race began many years ago as a duathlon but has transitioned into an “almost” Olympic triathlon. Swim 0.62 miles in New Town Lake before hopping on your bike and pedaling 20 miles on pastoral stretches of road, then cap off the race with a 4-mile run within New Town proper. (The sprint course covers a 0.3-mile swim, 15-mile bike, and a 2-mile run.) Great volunteers and a festive finish line vibe will keep you surging to the tape.
Runners-up: St. Louis Triathlon, Lake St. Louis Triathlon, XTERRA St. Louis
Mud Run/Adventure Race
Castlewood 8-Hour Adventure Race
This event represents the culmination of an entire year spent outdoors through Alpine Shop’s Off-Road Racing League. Mountain biking, canoeing, trail running, and orienteering converge in a multisport event that explores assorted forests, rivers, and roads around Ballwin, Missouri — not just those in its namesake park. (The mystery is part of the fun!) Two-person and four-person teams navigate their way to a series of checkpoints in order to reach the finish line. Plan on four to eight hours of adventure and a lifetime of fun memories.
Runners-up: Tough Mudder Classic Missouri, Devil’s Toll Race, Conquer Castlewood Adventure Race
Mississippi Valley Bike + Outdoor Expo
Not even 10 inches of snow could dampen the enthusiasm when this event landed at St. Louis Union Station Hotel in 2019. Over 110 vendors and 2,500 people rolled in for the region’s largest outdoor industry consumer trade show, which featured the latest gear and resources for cycling, hiking, camping, climbing, running, paddling, and other outdoor activities. During the day, the expo floor was abuzz with chatter and interactive displays such as a rock wall and mountain bike demo course; at night, VIP attendees were treated to a party celebrating the fifth anniversary of Terrain Magazine.
Runners-up: Life Outside, St. Louis Earth Day Festival, Alpine Shop Get Outside Expo
St. Charles Oktoberfest
More than one Oktoberfests made this list. What sets the St. Charles celebration of Bavarian culture apart is the historic surroundings in which it’s held — right in the heart of the state’s first capital nearby the banks of the Missouri River. From the opening ceremony to the bratwurst eating contest to the daily polka music, the weekend hits lots of traditional notes. But the schedule also includes a 5k/10k run, wiener dog derby, antique car show, and children’s area where the little ones can decorate their own Lebkuchenhertz (heart-shaped cookie). In other words, plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy while Mom and Dad drain beer steins.
Runners-up: Soulard Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest St. Louis, Hop in the City
Whitaker Music Festival
Held in the stunningly landscaped setting of Missouri Botanical Garden, this evening concert series has been inviting guests to free performances for 23 summers. “I think we’re unique because, in our opinion, we have the best concert venue in St. Louis in terms of being in the most beautiful spot,” said Adam Jaschek, senior events coordinator for the botanical garden. “Then, we bring in the most exciting local bands.” Some fans have been coming for years and have their own preferred spots, which they claim early and set up with camp tables, chairs, picnic baskets, blankets, and coolers. Performers run all across the spectrum: jazz, Americana, funk, pop, blues, and more.
Runners-up: Pointfest, Fair St. Louis, Big Muddy Blues Festival
WILD CARD – Weirdest Outdoor-Themed Event
World Naked Bike Ride
Part spectacle and part awareness campaign for cyclists’ rights and freedom of expression, St. Louis’ World Naked Bike Ride attracts thousands of riders (and many more watchers) who go “bare as they dare” while pedaling a 13-mile route through the downtown streets. The event starts and ends in The Grove neighborhood, where the main stage hosts to a costume contest with categories like “most creative” and “most hairy.”
Jay Thomas (Roots MTB)
This guy is an instructor’s instructor, for real. As the only Bike Instructor Certification Program (BICP) Certified Level 3 Instructor in Missouri, Jay Thomas is qualified to teach other mountain biking instructors how to conduct advanced-level training. His true love, however, is helping up-and-coming adult mountain bikers to safely develop their skills. He does this through hosting clinics, camps, and retreats at Roots MTB, the St. Louis-based company he founded in 2014. Thomas provides group and private instruction for beginning and intermediate riders not only in St. Louis but in other cities around the state, spring through fall.
Runners-up: Perry Whitaker (Alpine Shop/St. Louis Adventure Group), Jon Richard (Vertical Voyages), Cody Jones (Wheels Up)
Chris Mileski (CMC Coaching)
It’s not often you have the chance to work with someone who has assisted collegiate athletes, Olympians, and professional football players in attaining the highest levels of performance. Chris Mileski has done all of the above — and more — and now provides custom coaching and training plans to aspiring all-stars, weekend warriors, and everyone in between through CMC Coaching. Dedicated to developing Midwest endurance athletes since 2004, Mileski most recently founded the Missouri Interscholastic Cycling League, a National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) emergent league, where he looks to empower the athletes of tomorrow and get more kids on bikes.
Runners-up: Jay Thomas (Roots MTB), Sally Drake (Sally Drake Endurance Coaching), Bob Dyer (Running Niche)
Just 21 years old, Austin Hindman has traveled the world while competing in triathlon and is currently training for a berth in the Olympic Games. The Wildwood, Missouri, native graduated from Lafayette High School before heading to Missouri University last year, but when Podium Project, a men’s elite development program, came calling, Hindman says he couldn’t pass up a chance to train full time. The goal: to produce Olympic triathlon medal contenders for the 2024 [Paris] and 2028 [Los Angeles] games. “It’s been the dream since I was a little kid,” Hindman told West magazine last summer. “It’s a reality now for me. It’s still kind of a little bit surreal.”
Runners-up: Raylyn Nuss, Colleen Quigley, Justin Bowen
Joey Russell (Take A Hike Shop)
The tag “bike mechanic” doesn’t quite do Joey Russell justice. Sure, the guy can turn a wrench — and he does so, regularly, at Take A Hike Shop in St. Charles, Missouri. But more than that, Russell builds one-of-a-kind whips by adding upgraded components, uncommon accessories, distinctive touches, and flashes of color. His designs have become so popular that a bike club, Huevos Rancheros BC, has formed among his followers. What do you have to do to become a member? Simply let Russell go wild on your ride and get the frame sticker to prove it. Welcome to the family.
Runners-up: Tony Caruso (Bike Stop Café), Mark Laytham (Ballwin Cycles), Mike Flanigan (Trailhead Bicycles)
Glenn Meyer (Gateway Off-Road Cyclists)
If you’ve been to a Gateway Off-Road Cyclists trail build, you’ve met Glenn Meyer. Not only is he right next to you on the chain gang, hauling buckets of dirt, but he’s in charge of checking people in, managing and transporting the tools, and mentoring new volunteers. It’s an eight-hour day — 20 or more weekends a year, for the past 17 years. He’s also the go-to sawyer for the club, cutting and removing downed trees from trails around St. Louis and St. Charles counties. In his “free time”, Meyer volunteers at Forest ReLeaf, putting in 10+ hours a week, and he helps out with the St. Louis Audubon Society, where his wife, Karen, is a board member. “Good thing I’m retired,” joked Meyer. “People ask why I do it. It’s seeing Mom and Dad riding down the trail on a bike with their kids, smiling, with that enjoyment on their faces. That’s the benefit.”
Runners-up: Jean Ponzi (Missouri Botanical Garden), Emma Klues (Great Rivers Greenway), Greg Poleski (Greenway Network)
Sports Doctor/Physical Therapist
Erin Frazier (Athletico Physical Therapy)
After 17 years as a sports physical therapist, Erin Frazier knows a thing or two about keeping bodies in motion — and she’s serious about sharing that knowledge with her patients. She specializes in Astym treatment of soft tissues (muscles, tendons, etc.), but her focus is to “really try to explain, right down to the tissue level, the mechanics of how our bodies work, why [the problem] has happened, and how we can make it better,” said Frazier. Because it’s not just about giving patients exercises. “They need the tools to help the healing process at home, and the understanding of how to prevent the injury from reoccurring,” she said.
Runners-up: Elena Friedman (Athletico Physical Therapy), Dr. Randall Craig, Dr. Brian Laiderman (Optimal Performance Center)
Regional Outdoor Photographer
Marcus Janzow (Janzow Photography)
What started as a hobby has turned into a nice side business for Cape Girardeau, Missouri, resident Marcus Janzow. He started out taking snapshots of his family on trips out west about 15 years ago, then in 2011 photographed a friend while crewing for him at an Ironman race. That’s when things started to snowball. Other racing acquaintances requested photos, and that grew into event photography. Now, he shoots 10 to 15 races a year. He still prefers capturing “big, vast landscapes” but appreciates the challenge of race imagery — the angles and the action. “The hardest part sometimes is putting down the camera and just enjoying the moment,” he said. “I’m working on it.”
Runners-up: Dan Singer (Dan Singer Photography), Russell Ward (Fourth City Photography), Rick Mayo (Mile 90 Photography)
Best Social Media Follow
A thoughtful young man with a slim build, beaming smile, and an infectious stoke for mountain biking, 13-year-old Justin Rausch is on his way. As the one-man-talent behind OneMTB, Rausch, who lives in St. Louis County, has amassed a loyal band of social media followers with his homemade videos that are part practical tips, part travelogue, and addicting to watch. Moving beyond the how of mountain biking, Rausch touches on the why of the sport and inspires a sense of wonder and fun that riders of all ages can appreciate (watch his video “You’re (NOT) Too Small” for a great example). Rausch credits mountain biking for changing his direction in life, and we can’t wait to see where it takes him.
Runners-up: Terrain Magazine (Facebook/Instagram), STL Mountain Bikers (Facebook), stlouisgram (Instagram)
WILD CARD – Regional Outdoor Living Legend
“Big Muddy” Mike Clark
Mike Clark is one of the most accomplished canoeists and guides in America, logging close to 20,000 miles of big river paddling experience. In 2001, he completed his first of many long paddling expeditions, a source-to-sea descent of the Mississippi River. He founded experiential learning company Big Muddy Adventures the next year and has since introduced thousands to the joy of paddling our big rivers, including a record-breaking number of 900 students in 2019 alone.
FOOD & BEVERAGE
Bike Stop Café (St. Charles location)
There’s no better end to a day on the Katy Trail than a sandwich and beer at this charming eatery in historic downtown St. Charles. Founded by cycling advocates Tony Caruso and Jodi Devonshire, Bike Stop Café was sustainable and inclusive long before it was trendy, recycling and composting most of their waste and serving a variety of vegetarian and vegan options. Sit inside or outside on the patio and watch the Missouri River traffic drift by. More than just a bistro, Bike Stop Café has an onsite bike shop offering retail sales, rentals, and repairs, as well as shuttle service on the Katy.
Runners-up: Melvin Brewery, The Wolf Café, The Gramophone
4 Hands Brewing Co.
For the second year in a row, 4 Hands Brewing Co. has arm wrestled the competition into submission in our Readers’ Choice Awards. From its Full Life Lager and Cast Iron Oatmeal Brown to its Ripple White Ale and Incarnation IPA, this suds-maker supports all kinds of palates — and with is popular City Wide beers, it supports our home state by giving back to regional nonprofits. 4 Hands crafts another dozen seasonal and special release beers, which you can quaff at its Taproom alongside food from local favorites Peacemaker and Sidney Street and free skee ball and arcade games.
Runners-up: Urban Chestnut Brewing Company, Melvin Brewing, Civil Life Brewing Company
This pioneering winery was already 10 years old when Augusta, Missouri, became the first federally recognized American Viticultural Area in 1980. The vineyard prides itself on producing fresh, fragrant, focused, and well-balanced wines that express the uniqueness of the region, showcased in selections such as Dry Vignoles, Norton Reserve, and Chambourcin. It’s location on a wooded hillside above the Missouri River valley provides a magnificent view and accoutrements in the form of an onsite distillery; cafe offering gourmet wraps, salads, sandwiches, and pizzas; and space for special events and entertainment. Bonus: it’s only a short, 3-mile ride from the Katy Trail.
Runners-up: Chaumette Vineyards & Winery, Cedar Lake Cellars, Adam Puchta Winery
Bike Stop Café
Did we forget to mention coffee when we wrote about Bike Stop Café earlier? The quaint eatery has a full menu of espresso drinks and coffee — along with all-day breakfast — to get you going morning, noon, or night. Its signature Mud Slap includes four shots of espresso and steamed organic half-and-half in a 10-ounce cup. Yowza! Or try the White Rabbit (white mocha cappuccino), Café Americano, or Chai Latte. There are vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options, plus smoothies if you prefer fruit. And don’t forget to grab one of Jodi’s Famous Peanut Butter Balls. You’re welcome.
Runners-up: Kaldi’s Coffee, Picasso’s Coffee House, Sump Coffee
Soulard Farmers Market
Started in 1779, Soulard Farmers Market is the oldest, largest, and most iconic public market in St. Louis. It’s also one of the few farmers markets in the area that is open year-round, every Wednesday through Saturday. Stalk the 147 stalls in the grand Italian Renaissance building for your pick of fresh produce, meat, seafood, cheese, snacks, baked goods, spices, flowers, and other merchandise. Grab a quick bite to eat while shopping and enjoy the experience of getting low-cost, quality goods while helping local growers and artisans.
Runners-up: Tower Grove Farmers Market, Kirkwood Farmers Market, Wildwood
WILD CARD – Favorite Post-Activity Food
A few years ago, there wasn’t much of a buzz about tacos. They were tasty, sure, but also sort of dull and cheap. Today, though, they’re not just tacos — they’re T-A-C-O-S! Trendy, beloved, almost mythical. And why not? The south-of-the-border treats are simple to make and infinitely customizable, from traditional hard-shelled tacos, to double-shelled tacos, street tacos, curried tacos, taco salads, fish tacos, even choco tacos! Just grab one after your run or ride (no plate necessary) and jam it in your face hole. Mmm mmm good.
Author: Brad Kovach is the editor/publisher of Terrain Magazine.