Saturday was a full day to say the least. We started the day with a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi River. For $14 a person, it included a boat ride that lasted just over 1 hour and went slightly up and then back down a ways on the river. The captain/narrator was very knowledgeable and provided a very entertaining tour with a good mix of history as well as pointing out pretty much everything you could see from the water. It seemed like one of the only places to get a boat ride right downtown, and it was my wife’s favorite part of the trip.
After the boat ride we headed out to Clayton to get a hamburger at The Fatted Calf. This is an older place with lots of wood on the inside. The menu is very limited as they are known mostly for hamburgers. We each got the standard burger and a large drink, then we ordered fries and onion rings. The total rang up to $25, which was pretty steep for what you got. The burger was good, but nothing mind blowing and overall the food was overpriced. We probably could have found a better burger somewhere in downtown St. Louis.
After lunch we headed south of St. Louis to visit Grant’s Farm. Once the pre-Presidential residence of Ulysses S. Grant and his family, the land was purchased by the Busch family (of Annheiser-Busch fame) and eventually converted into a National Park. The farm only costs money to park, as you are charged $12 per car as you pull into the parking lot. At the north end of the parking lot, separate from what seems to be the official entrance to Grant’s Farm, are the stables for the Budweiser Clydesdales. About 25 of their horses are housed at this facility. After walking back across the parking lot, you officially enter Grant’s farm and immediately board a tram. This takes you around the Deer Park portion of the park where animals are just roaming free. We saw a couple of dozen deer of various species, as well as bison, ostriches, cows, elk, birds and a few other animals. All of these animals are just roaming around this big open area, and some of them were just a couple of feet of the tram with no fence in between as we drove by. This was probably the single coolest moment of the entire trip.
When you arrive at the main part of Grant’s Farm, the Tier Garten, it’s very similar to a zoo. There is a large pen of goats near the entrance. For $1 you could get a small baby bottle full of milk to give to the goats. My wife decided to go for it, but it was mayhem. As soon as the goats realize what you have they mob you, and they kept trying to chew on her dress. It was a sight to be seen. They had iguanas, birds of prey, lemurs, camels, zebras, llamas, alpacas, elephants and more. We happened to be there during the elephant demonstration and decided to watch it. Towards the end of the demonstration, seemingly without warning, the elephant sprayed water on the crowd, or at least the people in the middle section in the first three rows. I didn’t really appreciate getting doused in water, but we appreciated even less while holding our very expensive camera. I thought it was completely uncalled for to not give any sort of warning that you could get wet sitting in the first couple of rows, and have never seen anything like it before. The trainer did seem genuinely sorry afterward, but it was still ridiculous. After milling around a bit more, seeing some donkeys and consuming the free samples of beer that were available we headed out. Overall Grant’s Farm was a good experience, and definitely one I would check out if you are into the animal thing.
Before heading back to the city, we passed the National Historic Site where Grant’s actual house is. It was free and there was guided tour of sorts, but most of the information presented was stuff we had heard other places already during our trip. The house was small, as you would expect, and you could only see the downstairs. There were lots of artifacts they had found in and around the house that were cool to look at as well, and the way they built a freezer utilizing the creek behind the house was very cool.
During our trolley tour on the first day we were made aware of a place in University City called Blueberry Hill Cafe. The restaurant is known for it’s eclectic look, copious amounts of memorabilia and crap on the walls, and also for being home to a monthly Chuck Berry performance that continues to this day. I had the macaroni and cheese (surprise!) and the wife had some Australian burger sliders, which she said tasted a little like bison burgers. The food was OK and the service was good. There is lots of stuff to look at all over the restaurant and it was fairly reasonably priced. I would not call it a must visit place though.
After dinner we headed to the City Museum. This place is simply indescribable. An old building was gutted, and basically just filled with crap people were throwing away. It costs around $10 a person depending on when you arrive, and it is slanted towards kids for the most part. The first floor is mostly composed of metal work that has been formed into basically a big play ground of tunnels and slides. The second story features a cafe and aquarium (which is an extra cost). The third floor hosts the few exhibits that qualify this place as museum. One of the exhibits is a collection of ornamental stone pieces from buildings all over the country. Picture the intricate stone carvings, letterings and statues that are on the outsides of old buildings and this is what the entire exhibit is full of. The second exhibit is a collection of mostly insects on those little pins stuck into styrofoam in glass cases. Most of which were almost certainly donated by some other museum that no longer had a need for them.
The third exhibit is a collection of random metal and machinery welded together with buttons and levers to play with, but servers no real purpose. There is an area for children under 6 to play where they can run around without the fear of being trampled by bigger kids. There is a skate park with no skating, where kids can run up and down the ramps. The outside is a bunch of ramps, ladders, slides and other contraptions for climbing and playing. There are disassembled vehicles that are a part of the playground as well. The craziest part of the museum is hidden within the center of the building.
A collection of “caves” lead to a 10-story climb up the center of the building. At the top is a slide that takes you all the way back down. The wife enjoyed it, but the heat made it hard to slide smoothly all the way down unimpeded. Overall there were lots of places to climb around and slide down. I called it “hipster Discovery Zone”, and for anyone between the ages of like 7-15 would probably have the best time ever at this place. It’s almost a guarantee your kids would have fun here, but I wouldn’t recommend it to a group of adults over the 30.
After the City Museum, we hit up a bar near our hotel, Maggie O’Brien’s. It had a very local feel to it, and it was clear there were some locals in the place. At one point, a gentleman came in with two other guys and two younger (than them) females. The guy seemed like a complete regular and basically every employee came up to say hi at one point. At one point it seemed like maybe the guy owned the place, and after he left, my wife noticed a bunch of pictures on the wall, all featuring this guy. We had a few drinks and ordered a small pizza. St. Louis style pizza is really thin crust with no yeast, and often is made with provel cheese, which is a fusion of provolone, Swiss and white Cheddar. I assume we will call this an “acquired taste” because it was not good.