At the beginning of May, we took a family mini vacation to the St. Louis area. We like to take family adventures each year, but with our current car-hating baby, options are limited. So, we decided to explore some things relatively nearby that were still new for us. We stayed at a Drury Inn in St. Louis (Drury Inns for mini-vacays are our family’s tradition. We like the free breakfast and dinner and the adults enjoy the free tequila sunrises and wine!). We picked a suite this time as a sort of “treat,” but we quickly realized that our family is actually big enough that we need a suite, it isn’t just a novelty indulgence! We stopped at Laumeier Sculpture Park on the way into the city. The kids were pretty whiny about the sculptures and Mark and I finally had to concede that we also have differing expectations of what counts as art (sticking a huge tire halfway in the ground is what we would call “playground equipment” and not “Earthmover,” an art installation of such delicacy as to not allow climbing on it, lest we disturb its majesty…). After a fairly short time at the park, we headed to a friend’s house where we had lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon. It was really great and relaxing to have a “base” to retreat to like this, rather than hustling and bustling and having to live out of our car. I lounged on her couch nursing Tanner while our boys played, Alaina visited the many pets, and our friends made a taco buffet for lunch. It was a perfect day!
The whole time were were gone the weather was absolutely perfect. The following morning we headed to Cahokia Mounds in nearby Illinois. Cahokia Mounds is the site of the largest earthwork in the Americas and the largest, most complex “prehistoric” native site north of Mexico (and larger than London at that time). I have always felt a connection between my own sculptures and those of ancient people and I enjoyed spotting some familiar figurines in the museum.
After climbing to the top of Monks Mound while babywearing and breastfeeding and enjoying the view, we were ready for lunch. (We had a short time in which we were the only people on top of the Mound and it was really cool!) The kids are obsessed with Golden Corral after going with their grandparents on our last visit to the Chicago area. So, we went to the Golden Corral in Collinsville (I had a strategically planned birthday coupon for a free buffet too!) We were there at that terrible time for buffets—not lunchtime and not dinnertime—and so most of the food was on the cold and dessicated side, which was disappointing. The kids ate too much cotton candy and I ate a pile of mini steakburgers (after forcing the attendant’s hand by taking the very last dehydrated sad burger and thus forcing him to put out the sizzling new ones I spotted him hoarding on the grill). By the time we got back to the hotel, the last thing we had room for was hot dogs and tequila, but we ate them anyway!
The next morning we decided to go to the zoo, which was Alaina’s special wish. Unfortunately, we had a very difficult time getting there and parking due to road closures and full parking lots. We managed eventually, but didn’t have very much fun. I don’t like zoos at all, the boys were bored, and Alaina threw a screaming fit about wanting a stuffed monkey. We hit some highlights of the zoo and then left for Jilly’s Cupcake Bar. I got it into my head somehow recently that I needed a cupcake bar experience for my birthday (and for my 100 Things list this year). I looked for cupcake bars in St. Louis and amazingly enough there was a two-times winner of Cupcake Wars right there! This was one of the most exciting parts of our trip. 😉
After cupcakes for lunch, we decided to go to the American Girl store. I’ve been to the big store in Chicago and the small store in Overland Park, KS, but never to the one in St. Louis, so also as part of my birthday, I wanted to check it out. I had my eye on one of the new mini dolls. Unfortunately, we hit terrible traffic (it was 2:30, so we’re not totally sure why) and had to slog around for extreme amounts of time, some of which with a screaming baby (and a mother scrambling over seats and trying to nurse him in the car seat). We got off on a random off ramp and wandered until we got to the mall, which was much better than continuing to sit on the interstate.
When we left the store, we hit more bad traffic on the way and were running out of gas (and I was being very critical of this fact). We were also starving and worried about missing our free dinner! However, Mark is a good, calm city driver and we made it back to the hotel with time to space and only a mildly further car-traumatized baby.
We all got into the hotel hot tub together every night which was fun (the boys also swam in both the indoor and outdoor pools) and binge-watched a Naked and Afraid marathon, which we’d never heard of before. The final morning of our trip we enjoyed the free breakfast one more time and then headed out of the city, stopping at a different friend’s house for a birthday lunch on our way home. Again, this was a nice, peaceful, relaxing way to travel–so nice to have a comfortable, welcoming space to visit in, rather than trying to coordinate going out to lunch or something (hard to have quality catching up time with a bunch of kids in a public place!).