20 Reasons to Love Winter in St. Louis

15. Winter hikes -- Here's a contrarian position: The best time to go for a hike in the Midwest is the winter, not the summer. You don't have to worry about mosquitoes and other bloodsuckers (we're looking at you, ticks), and the leafless trees provide hidden vistas you don't see in other seasons. Such is the case at Cliff Cave Park in south St. Louis County which affords stunning views of the Mississippi River this time of year.

16. Soulard Mardi Gras -- Boobs! Beer! Beads! Tens of thousands of your St. Louis brethren! What's not to love about the nation's second-biggest Mardi Gras celebration?

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Dancin' in the streets: Soulard Mardi Gras 2012

17. Brunch among the paperwhites at Cafe Osage -- Walk into Cafe Osage, the restaurant attached to Bowood Farms in the Central West End (4605 Olive Street; 314-454-6868) and the scent hits you like a perfumed-soaked boxing glove to the face. The smell of glorious paperwhites is so intoxicating, so heavenly, that you won't know which is better: the aroma of the flowers or your order of eggs, potatoes and sausage.

18. Hot chocolate at Kakao -- Hot chocolate is a winter staple, but the sweet and divine syrup served up at Kakao (2301 S. Jefferson Avenue and 7272 Manchester) transforms the beverage into a treat like none other.

19. Saint Louis Symphony at Powell Hall -- Everyone needs an elegant event to attend a few times a year. Thankfully, we have our world-renowned symphony and stately concert hall to scratch that itch. Gentleman, dust off your suit. Ladies, find your pearls and furs, and everyone make their way to Grand Center for one of the symphony's many Friday and Saturday night shows this winter.

20. Penguin Parade at the Saint Louis Zoo -- Sundays at 2 p.m. during the winter the zoo opens up its penguin enclosures to allow its most dapperly dressed residents to march waddle along the pedestrian pathways.

Bonus: Awkward holiday greetings from television news stations

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