Stuff to do in The Lou

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When we decided that we were actually going to move (to a whole different state!) we started trying to visit all the places that we figured we’d miss when we left St. Louis. Strangely, or maybe not so strangely since we want to move…. there weren’t that many places that we felt like we had to visit.

These were our top six places to visit in Missouri.

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St Louis Zoo

My #1 place that we had to see again, and the place that I’d actually recommend to STL visitors would be the St. Louis Zoo.  Brian and I got a Zoo membership before we got married and we visited fairly frequently.  It’s been our go-to place for when we just wanted to do something. Technically, there are lots of things you can do in STL completely free…. but you’re going to have to walk and be a bit creative.  STL has a really amazing zoo and you can do it completely free, but I’d recommend getting either one of the zoo memberships (a lot of zoos honor other zoo’s memberships too) or one of the day pass things.  I adore riding around on the train and seeing the sea-lion show… oh! and the new Stingray area! I’m not a big fan of the children’s area, but if you bring little humans with you, they’d probably enjoy that too, so you’d might as well have bought one of the bands or membership thingies.  Try to go mid-week if possible, otherwise the place is busy.

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Ted Drew’s Frozen Custard

Brian and I visited Ted Drew’s the first time I brought Boo along on one of our dates.  We sat in the back of the MINI and people watched and ate our custard.  (For the record, Boo likes blueberry) Brian’s parents took us to Ted Drew’s to celebrate our engagement (Cindermint).  Birthdays…. (Fox Treat) and Christmas (Hawaiian).  It’s one of those STL traditions and it became one of our favorite special treats.

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Missouri Botanical Gardens 

The Missouri Botanical Gardens is one of those places that my mom and aunts used to drag me every summer and I hated it…. and then I got my own house and my own yard and learned to appreciate all the flowers and landscaping.  The gardens are beautiful any time of year, you really can’t go wrong.  They also have a number of festivals throughout the year that are all really cool, but they’re also really crowded.  If you have the chance though, I’d absolutely recommend the Garden Glow at Christmas.


Okay, so those are the typical ‘Must See’ things that you’re going to see on every other list.  And I completely agree…. I love ’em too, but there are lots of other great things to see and do outside of St Louis.  I’m not a huge fan of being in the city anyway.  I’d rather escape the crowds and traffic.  The next two items are going to take you about 45 minutes to 1.5 hours outside of St. Louis….. and they are totally worth the drive.

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Historic Kimmswick 

Kimmswick is probably the place that I am most going to miss in the St Louis area.  Mom and I spent many a lazy afternoon roaming through the historic homes turned adorable and eclectic shops.  Each visit was always capped with a visit to the Blue Owl.  If you’re not gluten-free you should order the Levee High Apple Pie for dessert.  I don’t care how much you ate for lunch…. order dessert.  The Blue owl is famous for their desserts.  Order dessert.  If you are gluten free, there aren’t may dessert options, but you can go next door to the Blue Owl Sweet Shop and get ice cream.  I’m a fan of the Coconut Sunday.  There are plenty of Gluten Free entree options, and the staff is so sweet!  I am going to miss all of the ladies at the Blue Owl…. and the food.  Kimmswick hosts several huge festivals throughout the year that are great… but huge and crowded.  If you’re going to visit during a festival make plans to come back on another day to just enjoy the town.  (The whole town is closed on Monday.)

Elephant Rocks State Park

Elephant Rocks State Park

Elephant Rocks State Park is a fair drive out of St Louis, but it is a fun place to wander and explore.  You can climb all over the huge, elephant like rock formations and wander down paths surrounded by the granite monoliths.  Take a picnic lunch and spend the day climbing, wandering and taking awesome photos.  On your way back to the city, drive north on Hwy 21 and stop in Caledonia, MO.  It’s a teeny, tiny, blink and you missed it town, but there are several cute little shops that are fun to visit.  Stop at Old Village Mercantile to check out the antiques and enjoy and ice cream sundae.

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Chaumette Winery

Chaumette Winery is also a bit of a drive from St Louis, but certainly well worth the trip.  The wine is delicious and the food at the Grapevine Grill is wonderful.  Everything is locally sourced from area farms and dairies.  The menu changes seasonally, but there are usually several gluten-free option for entrées and dessert.  The staff is knowledgable about Gluten Sensitivity and I’ve even had the chef come out and talk to me once or twice.  He even offered to make a special sauce for me once!  Delicious food and wine, great staff, pup-friendly, allergy friendly, beautiful views, good music…..  They even have bed & breakfast villas and a spa.  I’d always wanted to do a spa weekend, but never got around to it…. It would make for an awesome Girl’s Weekend.

 

Elephants in the Fall

Elephant Rocks State ParkAs previously admitted… I LOVE Fall.  It is my very favorite season…. the festivals, the leaves, the flavors, the crispness in the air….  every last bit.  As soon as Fall arrives I start dragging Brian from one Fall Festival to the next.  If I can’t find a Festival then we take a drive to someplace where I can photograph the leaves.

This was the perfect fall weekend.  First, Kimmswick, MO hosted their annual Applebutter Festival... it’s a huge arts and crafts events.  And Sunday was a beautiful day, bright and clear, just a hint of chill in the air…. perfect.

With a packed November ahead of us, Brian and I decided to head out and enjoy our last un-booked weekend.  We hadn’t been to Elephant Rocks State Park since last fall, and the leaves are turning beautifully.

Driving down Highway 21 through Caledonia, Missouri we came across a little shop that I had passed a dozen times before, but never had the opportunity to stop.  Farmhouse 1807 is an adorable old farmhouse filled with odds and ends… old antiques, pretty bottles, birdhouses, homespun yarn and hand knitted items.  The store and the house are so cute… I wanted to take photos of the whole place, but I was too busy chatting with the owners.  Brian finally made me quit talking and we got back on the road.

Elephant Rocks was beautiful and overwhelming as always.  If you haven’t been to the park before, it is a great place to visit.  There is a picnic area with Elephant Rocks State ParkBBQ pits and real bathrooms (which is massively important… I don’t do port-a-potties… and Elephant Rocks is a pretty good distance from any public restrooms). The trails are paved, but you can also wander off the trials and climb on the huge (elephant like) rocks.

Caledonia, MOFor dinner we visited the Caledonia BBQ Co in Caledonia, MO… population 130…. seriously.  The main street is about four store fronts, a church and two old houses.  It is right on Highway 21 and if you blink you would miss it.  It is a really picturesque Main Street… perfect with the maple trees turning colors.  There are actually two restaurants, but Brian and I decided to go with the BBQ place.  Since quitting Gluten/Wheat we’ve been eating BBQ a lot when we go out…. A.) I like BBQ and B.) it is almost always a safe bet that there isn’t wheat hidden in all the food.  I was hungry and I went a little berzerk when I ordered… I got the sampler dinner… 1/2 chicken, ribs, pulled pork and two sides…. yeah… a little berzerk.  Brian just got the half a chicken and two sides… we could have just shared the sampler and we’d have still been stuffed silly.  The food was good… nothing outrageous, but good food and plenty of it.  The staff was nice, the place clean and warm… I would absolutely recommend stopping by after visiting Elephant Rocks.

If you haven’t stuffed yourself silly (I took half my meal to-go, so I still had room) stop by Carr House Antiques & Ice Cream Shop for an after dinner scoop of ice cream.  Actually, I asked for a little scoop and the guy gave me three well-rounded scoops…. I guess I looked hungry.  We roamed the old house / antique store while I ate my ice cream.

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A perfect day trip!

Winding Away the Weekend

Fall has arrived and I am SO excited.  I love fall.  It’s my absolute favorite time of year.  It’s kind of like Mother Nature is trying to gently ease you into Winter.  She doesn’t bother to do that with Summer (we live in Missouri).  One day it is winter and there is snow on the ground… the next day the tulips are blooming (there is still snow on the ground)…. then BAM!  the tulips are dead and its 95 degrees…. Hello, Summer!  With Fall she kind of eases you into it… Chilly mornings, warm afternoons, frosty nights.  You are so distracted by the pretty leaves you kind of forget that Winter is right around the corner.  I think Mother Nature just gets sick of listening to us complain.   “It’s too hot” or “It’s too cold.”  At least with Fall it is hard to find something to complain about.

Since Fall has arrived Brian pretty much knows that I am going to insist on doing something every weekend.  When Winter gets here I won’t mind staying home (directly in front of the fireplace) all the time.  Mid-September through early November I fill our weekends with Fall activities.  Resigned to his fate (don’t let him fool you too badly, he is happy as long as he gets to drive the MINIs) Brian came up with the following suggestion: Drive to Chaumette Winery (long, winding back roads!) have lunch and then explore Elephant Rocks State Park.  (He’s good, right?)

MINI Road Trip

So into the MINI we climbed (Spice Orange Roadster….. when we bought it, he sold it to me with the promise of autumn drives.  He knows me so well!)  It is completely possible to get to the winery by the main roads (mostly), but we just don’t see the fun in that.  Brian mapped out a route that would keep us on the back roads almost the entire drive.  (Coincidentally, this took us past a number of yard sales… where he actually let me stop!)

Between the yard sale stops and the winding roads, we were pretty starved by the time we got to Chaumette.  Reservations aren’t required at their restaurant, the Grapevine Grill, but it is a smart idea to call ahead.  We hadn’t made reservations, so we had a 40 minute wait.  Not horrible and well worth the wait.  Baetje Farms was onsite offering free goat cheese tastings.  Mega-Yum!  I like goat-cheese.  It has a bit more of a bite to it which I really love.  Brian isn’t the biggest fan, but even he was impressed with a number of the flavors we sampled.  I bought the Cranberry Cinnamon and the Feta (recipes coming soon).

We  still had some time to kill so we shared a wine tasting.  I say “we,” truthfully, Brain doesn’t drink…. I taste the wine and I make Brian smell it… they smell pretty!  Chaumette is my favorite winery, I already knew that I liked most of the wines, but I got to try some of the other wines that I hadn’t tasted before… namely the reds.  I’m not normally a fan of red wine (I’m a sweet, white girl… um…), but I discovered that I love the Hugenot Red.  Brian (the non-drinker) asked about the Wine Club.  It’s a pretty good deal… no membership fee and they will send you two bottles of wine (20% off) every two months.  You also get free tastings, 20% off in the gift shop and at the Grapevine Grill and invitations to special events.  Also, you can earn a night at the Villages at Chaumette when you coerce your friends to join the Wine Club too (so if you join, tell em I sent you!)  Brian and I opted to have them hold our bottles instead of shipping them to us (shipping charges eat up your 20% discount). Now we have a good excuse to visit Chaumette every few months!

Hugenot RedFinally, our table was ready, and not a moment too soon…. the goat cheese samples were not absorbing the wine fast enough and the floor of the winery was moving around a bit (I’m a light-weight, I admit it.)  We were seated out on the wrap around porch that over looks the winery.  It was an absolutely beautiful day.  There were plenty of options on the menu for Gluten-Free me to choose from (not a ton, but better than most places).  We both ordered the Sayersbrook Ranch Bison Burger (mine, without the bun).  Delicious!  For dessert, Brian ordered a brownie and I got a Chocolate and Tart Cherry Trifle (Gluten Free).  I also had a bottle of the Hugenot Red (I didn’t drink the whole thing!) with lunch.  The whole bill was around $40.

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I bought a new hat in the gift shop.  Thank you, Wine Club discount!  I’d been looking for a hat the would stay on in the convertible, and still shade my face and the back of my neck.  Brian swore I would lose it in the first five minutes, but it stayed on nicely.  It has an elastic-ish band inside that clings to to top of my head and the brim sits very low.  Perfect!

Our waitress asked what we had planned for the afternoon and we said we were headed to Elephant Rocks after lunch.  She suggested we visit Pickle Springs.  We’d been to Elephant Rocks a number of times so we decided to give Pickle Springs a try. (Post coming soon!)

Beautiful View