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And now…for this week’s post about SUMMER!:
This summer, we’ve spent a lot of time hanging out on our farm in Mississippi. The weather has been unusually mild and the bugs haven’t been as bad as most summers, so we’ve enjoyed lots of time in the sun (and in the shade).
But what would summer be without a little travel? So…we started the summer with a trip to the beautiful Emerald Coast of Florida. Then we ended it by hiking along stunning trails in the Colorado Rockies. In between, we backpacked in the Smoky Mountains and had a fun family trip to the quirky city of St. Louis, Missouri — not a place you might think of when planning a family vacation but the city is very laid back, easy to navigate, and it’s got tons of FREE family activities to keep us busy.
In case you haven’t been to St. Louis, I’ll share some of our favorite things to do there.
- City Museum: This is the most unique playground I’ve ever found…and the best part is that it’s all sized for adults to play along. Brilliant artisans took over an abandoned 11 story downtown building and are constantly adding to the marvelous maze of tunnels, slides, and crawly spaces that will keep you active for at least half a day. There’s a rooftop Ferris Wheel too, not for the faint of heart, and a ten story slide that served as a chute used in the shoe factory previously housed in the building. My son’s favorite part is the metal cage you can climb all the way to the top of the dome, so that you’re upside down on the ceiling like Spider Man. My daughter, notoriously afraid of heights, felt brave when she maneuvered her way to the driver’s seat of a school bus that teeters dangerously off the top of the roof. In a world of overzealous lawyers and a stunting fear of lawsuits, I’m grateful “play at your own risk” places like City Museum still have the guts to exist…and to free the inner child.
- The Gateway Arch: I didn’t expect much from the arch, but it turned out to have an interesting museum and store that intrigued all of us. My daughter HATED the tiny capsule that carries you up to the top of the structure for a skyhigh view of the city, but my son wanted to do it again! This attraction can take more time than you think, so plan accordingly. You can walk to the river from there, and there’s a great Drury Inn right by the arch for budget-conscious families like ours.
- St. Louis Science Center: Top notch! And unlike the arch and City Museum, this one is FREE! An excellent way to spend the day for any families who like to explore hands-on science stations. My kids spent a week at NASA Space Camp last summer, and they both said they learned more during their day at the Science Center than the entire week with NASA.
- St. Louis Art Museum: Our family spent half a day here and could have stayed longer. Like the Science Center, this one is also FREE (unless you opt to pay for closer parking which is not necessary at all). The collections are impressive, and visitors of all ages seemed to be enjoying it tremendously. Unlike a lot of art museums, this one isn’t awkwardly silent and stuffy. Instead, it’s packed with folks actively discussing the various exhibits. It’s a happy place! My son loved the exhibit of medieval armor, while my daughter was intrigued by the Renaissance paintings. My favorite exhibit was Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree (seen in photo above). We each wrote a personal wish on a tag and tied it to a branch of the tree. Since 1996 Ono has been gathering wishes from around the world—now totaling over a million. She sends them to the Imagine Peace Tower in Reykjavík, Iceland, created in 2007 by Ono in memory of her late husband John Lennon
- The Hill: This is a quaint neighborhood that gives you a taste of old St. Louis. It’s ideal for an evening stroll before or after dinner at one of the many Italian restaurants that fill this area. We’ve tried a few, but our favorite so far is Favazza’s. http://www.favazzas.com/
This list doesn’t even include Six Flags, for which we now have an annual pass, and the zoo, which is ranked second in the nation and is also FREE, or the vineyards, which are worth the drive for the scenery alone, or the Budweiser facility, whose FREE tour offers samples of beer at the end and a visit with the famous Clydesdales. Nor have I mentioned shopping, walking around downtown, the St. Louis Cardinals, the outdoor sculpture garden, or the architecture…especially the Cathedral Basilica…one of the most breathtakingly beautiful spaces ever created. I kid you not. Go there; light a candle; say a prayer; you will be blessed by the experience.
Summer for me means FAMILY time, and I do try to pack in as much fun as possible in our very short, flies-by-too-quickly, summer vacation. Now, we’re back into the full-speed-ahead school schedule and I long for the time to sneak away with my family. If you get a chance to visit St. Louis, I think you’d be pleasantly surprised by all there is to do there with children (or without).
Where would you suggest we go next? Here’s a happy update…I’m leaving for Germany TOMORROW! Bon Voyage! (Only wish I could bring my children with me!)
WHEN MOUNTAINS MOVE is now available from many retailers, even though the OFFICIAL release date is SEPTEMBER 1. Grab yours today: http://juliecantrell.wordpress.com/order-books/