As probably mentioned in previous posts, though I’ve lived in the STL area my entire life, save for the 3.5ish years I was at college, I rarely came into the city. But now I live here all on my lonesome (except for my cat, but he’s not exactly the most stimulating company, bless his little heart) and I will just die of boredom if I can’t find some way to amuse myself. I got spoiled in NY, what with dozens upon dozens of places to pick and choose from every weekend. So, in an effort to retain my sanity, I decided to hang around Forest Park more often, just like I used to hang out at Central and/or Prospect Park. But therein lies the problem….. I was constantly comparing Forest Park to those two (especially to Central Park) and was therefore constantly disappointed.
One of the “selling points” of Forest Park is that it’s “500 acres bigger than New York’s Central Park.” But bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better… See, one of the things I love about Central Park is that even though you’re in the middle of this huge bustling metropolis, you can forget that for a while. Especially when you’re deep in the ramble. It looks like nature, sounds like nature, feels like nature. Not so in Forest Park. While Central Park has a few roads that run through it, cars are only allowed during certain rush hour times. Forest Park has many more roads crisscrossing it, with no such travel restrictions. I’ve gone exploring there a few times now in different areas and have yet to find a place where I can’t hear engines humming along.
Also, the place is just too….maintained to feel natural. Let me explain: Forest Park consists of several things mish-mashed together. There’s:
1. The amazing (and free) St. Louis Zoo, which is something like the 3rd largest in the county and has trumped every other that I’ve seen.
2. The St Louis Art Museum. Cute, but small. I went there today and was through all the galleries in an hour or so, even though I went slower than I normally do.
3. Two or three golf courses.
4. The outdoor Muny Opera House
5. The Missouri History Museum
6. Some other random buildings spread out on the remaining acres.
Obviously the areas around the museums and zoo are going to be painstakingly landscaped, but I expect a bit of a more “wild” feel to the places in between. Maybe I just haven’t been walking in the right areas, but I’ve yet to find any area that truly looks “untouched,” save for a footpath. No matter where you are, there’s the buzz of a riding lawnmower within earshot, which just reminds you even more that you’re in a city.
If I had never been to Central Park and had never known anything different, I’m sure I’d be enchanted by Forest Park. The buildings, fountains, and bridges are beautiful, but I go to parks to seek a kind of “refuge” from civilization. A time to get away, just for a while. I can’t do that there. And that kind of ruins the beauty of it.