Wanderers, I want to tell you about our AWESOME trip to St. Louis back in August. If you’ve never been before, you need to take a trip there. They are a very family friendly city and I believe they have a large homeschool population. There are a ton of things to do there, but for this trip we visited 3 places: The Gateway Arch, Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home, and the Cahokia Indian Mounds. First let me say, we stayed at a Drury Inn & Suites hotel. We LOVE staying in this chain of hotels. They are usually not terribly expensive when you factor in the fact that they serve a free hot breakfast and dinner everyday. We’re a family of 5 and that is a big deal! For breakfast they served, eggs, sausage patties, breakfast potatoes, gravy, waffles, tortillas, salsa, an oatmeal bar, grits, muffins, bagels, toast, and cereal. For the 5:30 Kickback (aka “dinner”) they served taco meat, tortillas, nachos, hot dogs, chili, and pasta. Each day it changes so the guests don’t get bored with the menu. There’s also something on there most everyone would like which is always a plus. Both the breakfast and 5:30 Kickback are included with the price of the room. We had to go for my youngest son to see his doctor at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital. The hotel offers a hospital rate for those traveling to visit doctors at the hospital. Super Nice!
After my son’s appointment, we ate lunch at our FAVORITE St. Louis restaurant, Fitz’s! It is a micro-brewery that makes Root Beer! My family loves their root beer. In fact, we bought a case of it to bring home. Their food is delicious and are served with huge portions. You could easily share most menu items with another person. The prices are reasonable and comparable to eating at Chili’s or Logan’s. I ordered the BBQ sandwich and had them add a fried egg on it. DELICIOUS!! (Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!)
The kids ordered off the kids menu, which includes free refills on drinks so they were able to sample as many different kinds of root beer as they wanted. My husband ordered the pizza and bottomless mug root beer. The root beer was served in a frosty mug with every refill. He loved it!
After lunch, we loaded up in the car and headed to Hannibal, MO. This cute little town is about 2 hours northwest of St. Louis, but well worth the trip. The drive gave the kids time to take a nap after lunch before touring the next stop: the Boyhood Home of MARK TWAIN! (I feel like there should be a joke in there about this: “You might be a homeschooler if…” LOL!)
I’ll be honest, I found the Mark Twain House on Groupon. We got a pretty good discount on the tour and it included the Museum and Gallery a couple of blocks down from the house. In the Gallery they had a Norman Rockwell Exhibit which was fascinating! It showed how Norman Rockwell illustrated some of Mark Twain’s stories like Tom Sawyer. The museum was very well done. The inside of the museum made you feel like you were in his stories. There was a large raft, stage coach, castle, and steam boat area that led you upstairs towards the gallery. We could have spent several more hours there, but it was getting close to dinner time so we headed back to the hotel.
THE GATEWAY ARCH
The next day, we headed to the Gateway Arch. If you ever plan to visit this attraction, here are some tips:
1) It is better to buy your tickets to the Arch online. You have to book a time for you and your family to ride the tram up to the top and they suggest being there at least 30 minutes early. I would say that’s a good estimate.
2) Before entering the line for the Arch, take a screenshot of every ticket you purchase. Once inside, your cell phone will not receive service. You do not want to get out of line to go outside and download them. This wonderful tip was shared with us by the man standing at the start of the line to get into the Arch.
3) Don’t bring a bunch of tourist-y, unnecessary items with you. Seriously, it’s a bit of a walk from the parking area to the Arch. You will not want to tote it. Also strollers aren’t allowed on the tram to the top of the Arch simply because there is no room in the tram. You will have to go through metal detectors to get into the line. (Think airline security. You don’t want to pull a bunch of stuff out of your pockets.)
CAHOKIA INDIAN MOUNDS
After the visit to the Arch, we went to Collinsville, IL to see the Cahokia Indian Mounds. Collinsville is just a short drive on the other side of the river from St. Louis. However, there are not many places to eat around the location of the mounds so eat in St. Louis before you cross the river. (Note: If you arrive at the Cahokia Museum without feeding your family lunch first, they may be disappointed in the selection at the “Cahokia Cafe”, otherwise known as 3 vending machines that didn’t work.) We probably would have stayed longer and toured more of the ruins had it not been hotter than Dante’s Inferno and had no lunch before we came. But now we know what NOT to do the next time we go! 🙂
The Cahokia Indian Museum is actually free and a REALLY good one! The exhibits are very well thought out and creative. Warning to those with young kids, or older kids, and Dads: Apparently, the Cahokia did not have the same inhibitions as modern day civilians and EVERYONE went around topless. Even the women. And the Cahokia Village Exhibit makes you feel as if you were really walking through a REAL Cahokia Village. Even the women. 😉 I get it. It was hot and humid like crazy. I’m from Tennessee and it was hotter than I was used to, so I get it. I was tempted to participate as a native, myself. It was that hot.
With the exception of a few giggles at the murals and Cahokia Village, I think the kids learned a lot from the tour of the Museum. After we left the Museum, we drove across the street to the parking lot of the Monk Mound. It is their largest mound. Be prepared to do some walking. It’s a good idea to wear comfortable walking shoes and bring lots of water. You can drive to most of the different sites, but some are still a good walking distance away. Once at the top of Monk Mound, you can see most of the other mounds/ceremony grounds. It is worth the hike up to see it.
I hope you get a chance to visit some of these places. Please comment and let me know about your experience!
UPDATE: This was a great trip and the kiddos learned so much. Ally was extra excited this week when her online history course taught about Mark Twain and Hannibal, MO. She shouted, “I’ve been there! I know all about this!” It sent this homeschooling Momma on cloud nine! Homeschooling WIN! 🙂