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.

 

Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event

Mom and I went to the Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event in St Louis today.  I don’t think there were quite as many vendors as last year.  Though maybe, they were arranged differently?  I dunno, I swear I ate a lot more samples last year! It was still a fun event.

IMG_9675I got to meet a GF blogger that I follow.  Of course, when she started to introduce herself I said something stupid like, ‘Oh! I follow you!’ like a creepy stalker.  Sema of Eat Without Gluten is an adorable teen who blogs about growing up GF and posts delicious recipes.  It’s always interesting and weird to meet people that you follow online in real life.  You’re meeting them for the first time… but you already feel like you know so much about them.
Mom and I snacked our way around the room.  It’s so nice to be able to sample anything in the room without having to grill the staff and then still weigh whether its safe or not.  Everything was Gluten Free!

I tried Andrea’s Lemon Bars – available in Dierbergs, Schnucks & Hy-Vee.  I’ve had them before and love them.  Every time I see them at the store I think about buying them, but I know that I will eat the whole pan.  All – by – my -self.  I will not share.

I also came a cross Full Flavor Foods which offers soup mixes, gravies and stocks. According to their website they’re only available online…. and of course, on Amazon.  I was mostly interested in the Mushroom Soup Mix because it is hard to find a good GF Cream of Mushroom Soup and some of my old/favorite crockpot recipes call for a can of cream of something soup.  On Amazon they look to be about $5 a pouch… which seems a bit steep, but they did taste pretty good.  Its always nice to have another option.

There also seems to be a new GF restaurant in St Louis.  The menu looks tasty, so I’ll have to give it a try soon and report back to ya’ll!  It’s called  A² The Cafe.  “Protein rich, gourmet completely Gluten (GF) & Casein (CF) free options for all.”

My favorite discovery of the day was the Outrageous Baking Company.  I picked up a couple of loaves of their breads (Cranberry Orange Bread and Cinnamon Coffee Cake).  I’ve been craving French Toast lately and I plan to experiment with these… If I don’t eat them straight first!

There were other vendors there… yup…. ummm… BBQ sauce?  And UDI’s of course…. um… Yeah, I didn’t say this was going to be a comprehensive review.  If you wanted to hear about all the vendors you should have gone yourself… I did tell you about it.  I did. On Facebook… a couple of times.  See?  This is what you’re missing out on if you don’t follow mw on Facebook.  Go fix that right now.  🙂

MTTS: Day 10 – St. Louis, MO

IMG_8318Home again, home again…

MINI Takes the States was an awesome experience.  It wasn’t entirely what I had expected, but for the most part it was awesome.  Monday was our last day with MTTS.  MINI stopped for the night in St. Louis and after the evening event Brian and I waved good-bye to our new friends and returned home.  It was a bittersweet goodbye.  We’d had a great time… but we were worn out…. we were both happy to be going home.

We’re already discussing MTTS 2016…. if we’d do it again and how we’d do it differently.  Yes, I think we definitely do it again… MTTS was a great experience.  MINI people are just a happy, friendly group of people and MINI USA throws an amazing event…. that’s a recipe for AWESOME.

Things We’d Do Different

Start near St. Louis and follow MTTS east. – You notice we’re not even mentioning ‘going all the way’?  Coast to coast sounds awesome at first, but Brian and I were so tired after 6 legs of MTTS.  Getting in late every night and getting up early to leave with the pack in the morning… it wears on you.  It’s just too little sleep to be fun.

Skipping some Rise & Shines.  – It is really fun to line up with all the MINIs in the great locations that MINI arranges and take off with a pack of 500 MINIs and a police escort….. but it’s really early.  Most mornings we were getting up around 5:30 to get to the location on time and get lined up.  It isn’t as much fun to be in the back of the pack and you get better photos if you get there early.  I’m not sure how we’d choose which ones to skip…. I wouldn’t have thought the Texas Capitol Plaza would have been cool…. but the photo of Posh right in front of the Capitol is pretty cool.  I’d have skipped the Cotton Bowl…. but I didn’t know that until we’d been there.  This one will be harder to do.

Wander off on our own.  – This is another that will be hard to know which days to wander and which to stick with the crowd.  MINI does have some pretty great “surprise & dazzle” midday events…. and part of the thrill of doing MTTS is being with the crowd.  There is nothing like zooming into a little town with 300 MINIs…. the look on people’s faces is priceless…. but there were some times and places that I wished we’d had more time to visit and explore.  These weren’t places that we’d drive/fly back for an entire vacation…. but another few hours would have been really nice.

Things We Wish MINI Would Do Differently

Don’t get us wrong… MINI did an amazing job.  I was blown away by their coordination and planning.  MINI took amazing care of us while we were with them. There are just a few things that we think would be nice in the future.

Rallye Notes – Don’t bother.  Just tell me where we’re headed and let us decide how to get there.  Some of the roads that MINI chose to send us on were not the route that I would have chosen.  It took us a few legs to catch on to that.  I wish they would have just given us an address for the next events and let us make our own way.

Apps – Either make em work or don’t bother.  I know… I know… its a computer program…. they have bugs.  It just makes me insane when they don’t work.  The Trivia Game and the Photo Challenges/Boards were buggy.  Push notifications for the app would have been nice.   There were a couple of times when MINI sent us a notice, (traffic or accident) and we didn’t get it until late that evening because we hadn’t known that we needed to check the notices in the app.

MINI Tour Guides – Have someone at the Rise & Shine’s with suggested points of interest/restaurants/events for each leg of the trip.  (Maybe people from the local MINI Clubs?) They could help with driving directions if necessary (Google Map). I’m sure we drove right by interesting places because we didn’t know they were there.  You can’t always count on signs and billboards to let you know that something cool is right down the road.

Food – MINI, it’s great that you fed me as much as you did…….but you really didn’t have to.  There were a couple of times that I wish MINI wouldn’t have bothered providing dinner.  In Austin, for instance.  MINI said they would be providing food trucks… apparently food trucks are a huge thing in Austin… they were everywhere around town as we were driving to the evening event.  I was SO excited…… and then there were only 3 trucks…. only one with anything gluten free…. and it was cold pizza.  In St. Louis they did the food truck thing again and this time there were five trucks and MINI gave us each a ticket for one item from a truck… if you wanted more, you had to buy it.  That allowed for so much more variety and the food was HOT.  One of the things I enjoy about travel is getting a ‘taste’ of the culture.  I realize that it is massively expensive to feed 500 people.  I wouldn’t mind having more variety and options and having to pay for it.  The “ticket” system would be a perfect compromise for the people who are trying to keep to a really low budget…. Just eat what you can get for your one ticket… And those who don’t paying a bit more…. we could buy other items.

Clubs & Dealerships – MINI did an amazing job coordinating the whole thing and many of the MINI dealerships and MINI clubs were awesome.  Some of the dealerships and clubs need to think about stepping up their game for 2016…. It’s not like there is a MINI dealership on every corner… I wound’t mind driving back to MINI Sandia in New Mexico for our next MINI.  (We’ve also gotten AMAZING service from Dreyer & Reinbold MINI…. I’d be willing to drive to Indianapolis for our next MINI).  With a MINI, it’s not just buying a car…. it’s like adding a kid to the family.  Some dealerships get that… other don’t.  MTTS really gave the dealerships a chance to shine.  Some used it…. others….. 😦

Media – MINI’s photographers and media people were wonderful!  They were all so nice and fun…. they really made us feel like rockstars.  I wish MINI would have had two teams of photographers…. or a separate crew that was uploading all the photos… there was a huge lag between when the photos were taken and when they hit the site.  I know those poor photographers weren’t getting any sleep!  They were up late at events and then up later working on the photos and then later trying to get them on the sites….. Then they were up early to beat us all to the Rise & Shines.  (There was a definite lack of sleep all around.) They were all always so nice…. I don’t know how they managed.  (MINI!  Hire more next time and let some of them sleep!…… You guys should sleep some too, come to think of it….)

All in all, we had a great time on MTTS.  MINI did an amazing job.  Can’t wait until MTTS 2016!