View Full Version : Trip report - St. Louis
08-02-2010, 10:35 AM
We spent 3 days in St. Louis, this was a new destination for us. First, I should probably say that July was not the ideal time to travel south (we're in Michigan), but that's what we had to work with this year. While it was extremely hot, we really enjoyed the small taste we got of what seems to be a very cool city! We'd love to visit again.
We opted for the Forest Park area because of the free activities and because the Science Center there had an exhibit we really wanted to see. We stayed at the Forest Park Hampton Inn - great hotel! Lovely rooms, nice pool, great location.
We spent the first day at the zoo. Word of warning, we ended up spending $90 at the "free" zoo. In all fairness, I expected to spend some money there, but was surprised when I added it up. Even though we were close enough to walk, we opted to drive because we thought it might be difficult for the girls (6 & 9) to walk back in the heat after being out in it all day at the zoo. Parking was $11, and I'm so glad we did it because it was well up in the 90's. You can certainly do this zoo totally free if you're close enough to walk, opt not to pay for the extras and pack your own food. We chose to pay for the stingray petting $3 each, and food for the stingrays $1 for each child. We bought train tickets $20 for the family. The train has stops in all the different areas of the parks and your ticket allows you to get off and on at any stop, but you can only ride each section once.
We didn't opt to do the other areas with fees, like the children's zoo or the carousel. The rest of our cost was in snacks, drinks and a meal. This was a really incredible zoo! Everything that you can see for free there is great. In fact, we didn't even see the whole thing. There was a free butterfly house and one of the most impressive areas was the bug house. I've never seen anything like it anywhere else.
08-02-2010, 10:39 AM
Our second day was the Science Center, which we opted to walk to because we'd be spending the day inside in a/c. Short, easy walk - very cool destination! We bought tickets to see the special National Geographic exhibit of the Whydah artifacts. These are the only artifacts ever brought up from a pirate ship. So worth it!! About $50 for a family of four to get in. They had hands on things for the kids - even real coins to touch. There was a full size partial replica of the ship. Even the opening movie was exciting! The only other money we spent that day was for lunch. Again, this place had so many cool things to offer and we didn't even take advantage of all of them. It had a moving T-Rex on the ground floor, a lab the kids could go into and use microscopes, dinosaur skeleton puzzles and more. Well worth a stop!
08-02-2010, 10:51 AM
Our final day was spent at the Arch - this was the only thing I found disappointing. Part of the problem was our lack of research. I had assumed that we'd head there, pick up a ticket, go up for the view and move on. This actually turned out to be a half day event. First, you stand in a looooong line just to get into the building at the base of the Arch. Then you stand in another long line to get your tickets which allow you, if you're lucky, to go up to the top 2 hours later. We didn't want to leave the building again, because we weren't sure what was nearby to do, and we didn't want to stand in that line to get in again. We wanted to make sure we were there to get in line at our time, because I'm sure if we missed that we would not be allowed to join a later group.
We did this shortly before lunch, expecting to be able to get a late lunch afterwards. Once we realized that wasn't an option we had to stand in another long line in a gift shop to buy enough snacks to make up a lunch. There were no tables and chairs to eat at, and the benches were pack, so like many other families we sat on the floor to eat. One saving grace was the free museum in this building. Very well done, interesting things to look at, some interactive stuff and a puppet show to entertain the kids. We could have bought a dual ticket that would have allowed us to see a movie while we were waiting to go up. In retrospect, this would have been a good plan, but we didn't opt for it.
When it was our time to go up, we got to - you guessed it - stand in yet another long line to get to the elevators. Two things I was impressed with here. The grouping system - they hand out numbered cards that let you know which elevator to get on; and the queue, which had some interesting things to look at and read.
The elevators are most definitely not an option for anyone claustrophobic. They look like tiny little space pods with five seats. The ride up was interesting as the elevator adjusted every once in awhile for the curve, but it didn't take long and none of us were bothered by it. DD9 wasn't thrilled by it, but she wasn't upset either. The observation room was not at all what I expected. I certainly didn't think it would be big, but I expected something the size of, say, a conference room with wall sized windows to look out. The reality is that it's a very narrow, dark space with windows about the size of our basement windows to look out. To look out the windows you have to lean on a wide, sloping windowsill. Incredible view - but somewhat diminished by the small windows. For a half day wait, we really only spent a few minutes up there, and were too exhausted to do much else that day.
08-02-2010, 10:54 AM
Overall observations about this destination: It was obvious that we only saw the tip of the iceberg in terms of what this city has to offer. We would love to visit again and see more. As I said, July was not a good choice, we would definitely choose a cooler month next time. One thing that really impressed me the most was the people. This is such a friendly city! It also had a little of that Disney feeling, in the sense that the tourists were chatting with each other and exchanging tips. There was another family in our hotel and every morning at breakfast we chatted about what we had done the day before and what our plans were for that day.
08-02-2010, 01:22 PM
Nice to hear you had a good time. The Arch sounds alot like the Washington Monument. IMO not worth all the trouble and the wait.
08-04-2010, 02:10 PM
Yes, I think that sums it up perfectly.
One thing I meant to mention was that the hotel we stayed at was $125 a night. The room was really nice and spacious. It was within walking distance of the zoo and the Science Center, and they did a pretty good free, hot breakfast in the morning.
08-09-2010, 06:35 AM
That's a great deal. What hotel was it?
08-09-2010, 09:06 AM
It was the Forest Park Hampton Inn. One other nice thing, they had coloring books and crayons that you could pick up for the kids at breakfast. It seems like a small thing, but we were able to take them with us when we ate at the restaurant attached to the hotel, which didn't have them. One tip if you stay there, I would suggest making sure you don't have a room that overlooks the front of the hotel where the restaurant is. There are tables outside and we had one or two evenings where people were out there and quite noisy late into the evening.
And I have to say, one Intercot tip totally saved our trip at both locations - moleskin for blisters!! :thumbsup:
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