How to party like a St. Louis Cardinals fan on opening day — even if you hate baseball

Every April, the gates of baseball heaven open and thousands of the devoted make the pilgrimage into Busch Stadium where Stan Musial is god and the Chicago Cubs are the devil incarnate. But if you're not into organized religion, you can still enjoy all the opening day festivities without tithing your entire paycheck to the beer vendors or sacrificing your backside to hard plastic chairs for nine innings.

With the Cards taking on World Series champion and their chief rival Chicago Cubs on April 2, this opening day is set to be the most insane and expensive yet. Here's how to minimize the hit on your wallet and maximize your nacho-to-beer ratio.

Celebrate like the locals
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Want to do a little pre-partying? You could visit Ballpark Village for a bite to eat and the city's biggest pep rally — along with every tourist and suburbanite waiting to elbow their way inside the stadium.

Or, you could ditch the crowds and save big on your beer tab by heading down south. Only five minutes from the stadium, the neighborhood of Soulard offers a lineup of restaurants and bars for every taste. Listen to live bands at Hammerstone's, load up on shots at Bastille, or get a $12.50 bucket of beer and an eyeful of the body-painted wait staff at Social House.

Best of all, many Soulard bars offer free shuttles to the stadium. So customers can park and ride for absolutely free and avoid the gridlock around Busch.

Stick to the south
Since most of the parking garages are to the north of the stadium, you can find cheap and convenient parking to the south on 7th street. As you head to Busch, you'll pass scalpers offering lower ticket costs than their northern counterparts, stands to stock up on peanuts and Cracker Jack (yes, you can take them into the stadium, you cheapskate), and local hangout Kilroy's where you can grab a bratwurst and cheap beer. Better yet? Head a block over and enjoy homespun blues and Cajun cuisine on the patio at Broadway Oyster Bar.

After the game, the legendary St. Louis landmark, Paddy O's keeps the party going with two giant patios, a DJ and dance floor, and six individual bars. Not your scene? Soak up all those beers you drank with a slinger at Eat-Rite Diner, the ultimate greasy spoon at 7th and Choteau. When you need to leave, the south lots offer a quick escape to the interstates.

Brew with a view
Inclined Glass of beerphotologica via Getty Images

With opening day tickets hitting hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, you can still enjoy all the festivities and every play of the game without dropping a cent on a seat. Once Ballpark Village clears out at game time, catch the action on the 40-foot screen inside Fox Sports Midwest Live!, or throw out a blanket and watch the game on the outdoor jumbotron at the Busch II Infield.

Another option? Take the elevator to the roof of Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark for Three Sixty, a 6,000-square-foot bar that gives you a cardinal's eye view into Busch along with craft cocktails and world-class wines. Or, hit up Flying Saucer Draught Emporium, just steps from the stadium, where they'll be serving specials on Missouri-brewed pints in celebration of the big day. With a view of Busch from the patio and TVs tuned to the game, you'll feel like you're in the stands all afternoon.

Nicole Plegge is a freelance writer and pop culture aficionado based in St. Louis. While she's busy writing for a variety of websites, magazines and blogs, she still can't get over never being able to attend the Eastland School for Girls.