Life with a Car
As with almost any city, life is simply easier with a car. I still prefer to walk to and from class during the day and to stroll through the Central West End to grab a bite to eat, but being able to drive saves me from having to waste time or worry about running errands. Since relatively few students have cars on campus, it can also make you the go-to friend for weekend trips and activities. It is relatively easy to find free or inexpensive parking around St. Louis destinations, and parking is free throughout the city on Sundays. Driving to and from school is more difficult. There is limited street parking around the school for a dollar per hour (free after 7 p.m. and on Sundays), but to make sure you get a spot, you’ll have to buy a parking garage pass for $71 per month.
— Leah J., M1
Life Without a Car
For the first time since high school, I am car-less. Not by choice, but by force: Two days into moving to St. Louis, my car was totaled by an unlucky out-of-towner. Despite this setback, I have found St. Louis and the Central West End to be fully manageable without a car. The majority of students live within 10 minutes walking distance from the medical campus/Barnes-Jewish Hospital, and many of St. Louis’s best restaurants and bars are in the Central West End. The St. Louis MetroLink lightrail is free to all WUSM students and stops at places such as Busch Stadium, the Danforth Campus and Lambert St. Louis International Airport. If you do need a car, you will undoubtedly find someone among your 124 new friends who would be willing to drive you. It does become more complicated during the clinical years as some elective rotations are offered at off-campus sites, but there are more than enough opportunities available at the Danforth Campus to not necessitate a car for all four years.
— Brian H., M2
Parking on Campus
For general short-term parking, you can use the parking meters with street parking near Olin Residence Hall (everywhere but the food truck parking area!) or near Olin Circle/Room 100. You have to pay to park 8 a.m.-7 p.m., but parking is free after 7 p.m. Safety tip: If you are worried about walking home late from the library/carrels, go home to get your car and drive back to campus around 7 when free parking starts. If you live far from school and plan to drive each day, the Clayton Garage is your best bet. Daily parking passes and swipe passes with up to 25 entries and exits are available for purchase, but if you enter and leave with your ID before a certain time you will not be charged. Final advice: ALWAYS keep your meter receipts! I once parked on the street across from Panera and got a ticket even though my meter hadn’t timed out. Luckily, I had my receipt with the time and sent it into the city and got the charge repealed. Even though you don’t have to put it on your dashboard, hang on to the annoying tiny piece of paper until you return to your car.
— Hannah B., M1
If you’ve spent hours of your life waiting in security lines at ORD, LAX, or LGA, you will find that there is much to like about St. Louis Lambert International Airport. The airport has two terminals: one terminal serves as a hub for Southwest Airlines, and the other hosts your big three carriers (American, United and Delta). There are a surprising number of destinations served by Southwest, so you may get lucky and find a non-stop flight. You can expect short or non-existent lines at ticketing and security, although things can get a bit more crowded in the Southwest terminal during holidays. The longest lines are for the made- to-order burgers at Grounded St. Louis in Terminal 1. Dining options are a bit sparse, but thankfully there are several Starbucks locations, so your caffeine needs are covered. The airport is a convenient 20-minute drive or 30-minute MetroLink lightrail ride from the Central West End. The parking situation at Lambert could be improved. Four long-term shuttle lots are currently available for parking; the lots are mostly indistinguishable, so naturally the cheapest lot ($7/day) is often full, although it may be worth checking for a parking spot anyway if you have time. Taxis to and from the airport aren’t cheap ($40ish), and anything under Uber Black is not allowed to pick up passengers from the airport, so consider asking a friend to give you a lift or taking the MetroLink.
— Alexa P., M1
Biking and Walking
I would highly recommend having a bike in the Central West End (CWE). I ride to class in less than five minutes from the Park Royal. Riding through Forest Park, in particular, has been a really awesome way for me to unwind. In my opinion, Forest Park is an absolute jewel of St. Louis, and biking is the best way to explore/appreciate it. Walking in the park and the surrounding area is great as well. If you live in the CWE, it is easy to walk around, and my walk to school is roughly 12 minutes. The CWE and the campus are fairly safe areas. Still, use common sense (walk with friends late at night, etc.) and you should be fine. The CWE is fairly small and conducive to walking. If you have a bike, buy a U-Lock. One day I walked out of class, and it was clear someone had tried to use pliers or something similar to try to cut my normal bike chain lock. St. Louis drivers aren’t the best when it comes to sharing the road, but if you avoid the main thoroughfares and use side streets, the traffic is light to non-existent.
— Spencer K., M1
All WUSM students receive a free pass each semester that allows unlimited access to the St. Louis area bus system (MetroBus) and light-rail system (MetroLink). Most of the city’s major tourist attractions can be reached easily via MetroLink, including Busch Stadium, the Scottrade Center, Forest Park, the Arch, Union Station and more. Many of the train stations have free parking, and a few even have free long-term parking. This is especially helpful if you’re headed out of town a few days. You can drive to a long-term lot, and take the MetroLink straight to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. You can also carry bikes aboard MetroLink or MetroBus. Although there are people with complaints about St. Louis public transit, in my experience the train mostly arrives on time. It’s also nice that the walk from the Central West End MetroLink station to Moore Auditorium takes approximately 94 seconds. And did I mention, it’s totally free?
— Dean O., M2
To make travel work while in medical school, all one has to do is travel! St. Louis is in America’s heartland. Chicago, Indianapolis, Nashville, Memphis, Louisville and Kansas City are five hours (or less) away by car, and thereby make easy, quick adventures. Spice up your three-day weekends with longer road trips to cities like New Orleans, Atlanta, Madison, Detroit or Minneapolis. Grab a pile of friends, cram yourselves into a car and get cozy in the cheapest room you can find through whatever bargain hotel-booking website or house-share app suits your fancy. If all this city talk is distasteful to you, also note that you can find great rock-climbing, river-splashing and hiking across Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and beyond! Where there’s a will, there’s a way. When in Rome. *Fill in other clichéd phrases about taking advantage of life’s opportunities.* You DO have the time and cheap methods to make travel a part of your life while in med school; you just have to go for it and make it happen!
— Christine A., M2
Chicago is the nearest “major” city, and at only five hours by car or six hours by train, it’s a perfect weekend trip! Many of us have a combination of friends, family, and significant others in Chicago, so there are usually people willing to carpool or take a train or bus together if you’re looking to go with a group. Lots of members of the class of 2019 frequently visit Chicago after exams! While St. Louis has everything from museums and professional sports to restaurants and shopping, Chicago has it all on a much larger scale. One of the best things about the Midwest is affordability; train tickets can be as low as $50 round trip, and there are plenty of cheap and free activities. It is a great way to take a break from St. Louis and classes, without spending too much money or time on travel.
— Maren L., M1
The drive from St. Louis to Nashville is a short four-hour trip through the farmlands of southern Illinois and rural towns of western Kentucky. You pass through no major cities, so traffic should not be a concern. As a non-Nashville native, I have had the opportunity to discover some of Nashville’s greatest sites over several weekends there. Whether you are hopping between the honky-tonks on Broadway, seeing a show at the Grand Ole Opry House, or visiting a friend on 21st Ave. by Vandy, Nashville should always be a fun time. I’m not a huge fan of the hot chicken, but Hattie B’s is the place to try it. Also, Bartaco (tacos and margaritas) by Belmont is great.
— Taylor D., M1
Memphis is definitely a great place to visit, and it is only five hours away by car, making it a great weekend trip! While you may be tempted to simply hit up Graceland and the Elvis memorabilia, I (a local) would love to give you some tips to make your trip even more fantastic. Memphis is all about that barbecue! Check out the Rendezvous, or take a seat at a local favorite, The Commissary. Make sure to stop by Jerry’s Sno Cones, a favorite of everyone I know. The Peabody Hotel is a great place to rest after a long day and watch the duck parade. The Pyramid, Civil Rights Museum, Pink Palace and the Memphis Zoo are also great stops. For night-time activity, Beale Street is the tourist destination, but I would recommend anything in the Cooper-Young district. For sports fans, a Grizzlies Basketball game is a must. And to finish your day, get a doughnut at Gibson’s, open 24/7!
— Natalie G., M2
Did you know Kansas City has the most fountains of any city in the world after Rome? Kansas City is about a four-hour drive from St. Louis, which makes for a perfect weekend trip. KC is famous for its barbecue, and there are plenty of great barbecue restaurants, including my favorite, Joe’s KC. You can enjoy shopping at the Country Club Plaza, explore the Westport area or watch a Royals baseball game. Other activities include the World War I museum, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art or a tour of Boulevard Brewing Company (including a free tasting). If you ever get tired of St. Louis, Kansas City is a great option for a quick weekend trip!
— Jackie Y., M2
Meramec Caverns is a great place for hiking and other outdoor activities. The park has lots of trail options that pass through beautiful forests along the Meramec River and areas with cabins to stop for bathroom/food breaks as well. There are cave tours during certain times of the year, but they can be limited when bat “white nose” syndrome is high. The caverns are only about 90 minutes from campus, and once you get onto I-44, it will be impossible to miss the exit since you will pass about 200 billboards with advertisements.
There are some great camping locations near the caverns as well. This fall, a group of about 30 of us went on a weekend camping trip in the area. Although this was definitely more of a “glamping” trip (glamor camping including fancy coffee mugs, a rum-ham, an outhouse within a five-minute walk from the campsite, and great camping gear rented from the Outing Club), we got to see an amazing view of the stars at night when we ventured away from electronics and civilized light sources. It was a great outdoors adventure that I would highly recommend!
— Hannah B., M1