Saturday, March 16, 2013

Ultimate Road Trip Day 12: My New Favorite City

St. Louis.  It's one of those cities that you've heard of, you know basically where it is.  You can probably even say a few things about it.  Mississippi River.  Big arch thing.  American history stuff.  But you don't really find yourself there much, unless maybe a layover at the airport.  It's not usually a destination.  Which is why we wanted to check it out, since we were passing through anyway.

After just a few minutes' research, I wanted to stay for a week.  I was especially taken by a project local second-graders did for the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission - a kid-made tour of the city, with kid-made activities to do at each spot.  (See here, scroll down.)  Love it. 

But we only had a half-day.  I thought maaaaybe we can squeeze in two things, but probably just one.  It seemed City Museum was not to be missed, so we went there first, more out of curiosity than certainty, hoping to visit the Gateway Arch briefly on our way out of town. 

The thing about City Museum in St. Louis is that there are actually no adequate words to describe it.  One website tries by saying, "Explore the unexpected at this exciting, interactive museum for children and adults. A mixture of funhouse, playground and architectural marvel."  But those words do not quite do it.  Others that may come to mind, like labyrinth, rebar, fantasy, concrete, caves, slides, hidden tunnels, scrap metal, shoelaces, body skate park, industrial design, maze, Tim-Burton-meets-Dr.-Seuss, mosaic, and wonderland, also do not even scratch the surface.  Two days later, I am still speechless.  All I can say is, I don't know when, but we are going back.  As often as possible.  And I recommend it to EVERYONE. 

Pictures don't do it justice, either, but I still couldn't help taking some anyway.
This is what you see from the parking lot.  And you know you're going to have a good time.

As soon as we got there, the girls climbed up this tunnel.   
 The tunnels at the top were dark and went in all directions; they were too scared to delve in, so they backed back down.  Only after exploring the underground caves for an hour or so did they become very courageous, and suddenly the tunnel labyrinth in this space's ceiling was no biggie.

You can hardly tell but this is a snack area.  See the table/bench under the stairs? 

The underground labyrinth.  Too dark and tight-spaced to take good pics.  A kid's dreamland.

 They had a vintage shoelace-weaving machine in here, and a small shop where they sold stuff it wove.  I bought the girls woven headbands for Easter baskets, and a new pair of shoelaces for myself.
There were even some real museum-y rooms.

Concrete slide bowl; Poppy instinctively chose the section right for her (green pants to the right; Hazel is in the pink coming down.)

And then we went outside.

Ginger is the middle person up there in the tunnel...and I took that picture from one story up; at the highest, it was four.  She was fearless!

We played hard for almost four hours.  There was always more to see and explore; we still didn't do it all.  Dude, if I lived anywhere within 2 hours, we would be members.  Best play area.  EVER!!!  I need to read a little history of the place; it looked like my brother and his buddies had designed it.  I just wondered how it ever got the funding - things this cool usually don't exist.  It made me an immediate fan of the entire city. 

Even though we had a hard time getting there.  Turns out it was the day before St. Patrick's.  Which I knew but didn't think about.  They had a fun run followed by a parade downtown.  Just used my trusty iPhone to navigate around things, but we did lose some time.

Everyone was tired, hungry, and very sweaty when we left.  Poppy fell asleep before we were out of the parking lot.  Which kind of dashed hopes of visiting Gateway park.  So instead, we pulled over, jumped out for a few pictures, jumped back in, and drove off down the highway.
A few miles into Illinois, pulled off for a mid-afternoon lunch at Golden Corral.  I could write a whole blog post about that place.  I don't think I'd been to a buffet-style restaurant in over ten years; the thought made me cringe.  But it was just right for us that day.  Something for everyone, even me, including a decent salad bar and some really good yeasty rolls hot from the oven.  Fun dessert bar, too, including chocolate fountain and cotton candy. 

Then we had to make some hay on the road.  We drove late into the night, with just a small supper in Indianapolis, landing exhausted in Richmond, Indiana, and only getting so-so sleep thanks to Poppy who was restless and kicking everyone.

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