The fourth and final day of our trip was spent driving back to Chicago from St. Louis, but it included a stop at the Cahokia Mounds. Their website says “The remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico are preserved at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site”. It continues with:
According to archaeological finds, the city of Cahokia was inhabited from about A.D. 700 to 1400. At its peak, from A.D. 1050 to 1200, the city covered nearly six square miles and 10,000 to 20,000 people lived here. Over 120 mounds were built over time, and most of the mounds were enlarged several times. Houses were arranged in rows and around open plazas, and vast agricultural fields lay outside the city.
When you look at the area now, its a big grassy area with several visible grass mounds, and a visitors center with a museum. While it is amazing to think about the idea that this is the first know civilization to exist in what is now the United States, there is no conclusive proof of this. There is also no clear answer as to why the civilization didn’t last. But there are plenty of artifacts and history inside the museum.
I’ll be honest, this whole concept wasn’t all that impressive to me. 700 A.D. isn’t that long ago relative to our history, and there were way more advanced civilizations around the world at this time. People like Pythagoras and Plato lived in the 400s B.C., one thousand years before this civilization existed. If this is your thing, however, the museum is really nice and free (although they encourage donations). Maybe I was just tired, hot and ready to go home, but I wasn’t all that into it.
Before I wrapped up our trip, I wanted to talk about our hotel. We stayed at the Drury Inn Union Station which is in the Downtown Southwest section of St. Louis. It’s right next to the old Union Station, which itself is now a hotel (Marriott) and shopping mall. The two main draws to the hotel were it’s relative reasonable price and included free parking. In retrospect the free parking might not have been a very big deal because parking in St. Louis seemed pretty cheap at most garages.
It was located close to the highway and the Metrolink, which we took to the Cardinals game. But St. Louis is a really easy city to get around, and we rarely ran into traffic or had problems finding parking. The Drury Inn also features free food and cocktails every night for Happy Hour. Each guest over 21 is allowed two free cocktails per night and the food is all you can eat. We only partook in this one time because they happened to be serving macaroni and cheese. That same night they had hot dogs. I also noticed baked potatoes, potato chips and pretzels other nights, so you can imagine the type of fair they typically offer. They also included unlimited soft drinks, which was not limited to just happy hour.
Their breakfast buffet was not very good and I found the eggs to be kind of gross. Because of the free food and parking the hotel was pretty crowded, especially with families, so the lines were long for food at times. There was a pool, it was downstairs and was partially visible from an upper walkway, but we never went down for a closer look. There was also an exercise room, which we just passed by a few times.
The room was clean, and reasonably sized. It had flatscreen TV that looked to be 32 inches with a healthy selection of channels. The staff was polite and we had no issues while were there besides constantly crowded elevators. The hotel seemed very secure and makes you swipe your keycard at several places which is understandable because its kind of in the middle of nowhere relative to other places around it. Overall I thought the hotel was nice and would stay there again if it was similarly priced.
St. Louis is a pretty nice city. It seemed clean and safe, at least in the areas we traveled. It has a massive amount of places that are free to visit as well as some nice historic sites to see. The sports teams are all located downtown so it’s convenient if you are a fan. I definitely would like to go back and explore Forest Park more. I would see the zoo and have some Italian Food in The Hill since we didn’t do either of those this time. I would also like to see the Blues museum when it opens. Seeing that it’s only 5 hours or so from Chicago, it seems like a good place to visit if you want something different. I wasn’t blown away with any of the places we ate. My wife and I are pretty simple so we didn’t go of our way to find fancy places, and could have done a better job selecting restaurants, but now we know.
Overall, it’s a pretty typical Midwestern city, and there’s nothing wrong with that.