Being that I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, you would think that I would have already taken the three hour drive down to visit St. Louis, Missouri at least once in my life…
Surprisingly, this is untrue.
Me and T wanted to take some type of road trip while he was home on leave and my friend had told me that the St. Louis Zoo has a penguin tour where you can meet and pet the penguins. T’s favorite animal is a penguin so we easily settled for St. Louis as our road trip.
We drove three hours down to St. Louis and checked into the Drury Inn hotel in Collinsville, IL, a mere 10-minute drive from downtown St. Louis. A single room with a king size bed for two people was only $100 for one night and the hotel and staff were quite nice. Free Wi-Fi and breakfast was served. They gave you a ticket for a free drink at their happy hour each night which I’ve never seen a hotel do before and Taylor’s favorite part was the free popcorn that they had in the lobby (made in one of those fancy popcorn machines you see at carnivals and the movies).
For dinner, we went to John D. McGurk’s Irish Pub and Garden which was absolutely amazing. If it’s nice outside, you can ask to be seated in the garden which consists of a water fountain with a little garden that is surrounded by multiple bars and TVs playing the Cardinals game. Hands down, one of the nicest pubs I have ever been to.
For food and drink, I ordered a Magner’s Irish Cider and a grilled three cheese sandwich made with monterey, cheddar, goat cheese, Guinness onions and tomatoes. The cider was crisp and bubbly with a fresh apple taste (much better than Redd’s). My sandwich was heavy, nothing I would eat and then go running afterwards, but good as well. The goat cheese and Guinness onions balanced out the cheeses with a slightly sweeter taste. If you have ever had fig jam with cheese on a cracker, it was very similar to that.
The next morning, we got a head start to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, home of Budweiser among many other beers, for a tour and tasting. We decided to take the complimentary tour, however, there are several other paid ones that you can do as well. The complimentary tour walks you through the history of the company, their specific brewing process and what makes their company different from others. You get one free sample half way through the tour for those that are 21 and then a free ticket towards the end for a full drink to enjoy at their on-site restaurant where you may also order food and appetizers.
After dropping $200 at the gift shop, we drove over to the St. Louis Zoo to pet some penguins. The tour was held in penguin zookeeper’s headquarters where they keep all their supplies, suits and have their desks and meetings at. The first part of the tour was informational so the tour guide gave us a brief run down of what they do there, general information on penguins themselves and then gave us a tour of their kitchen where all the food is made and stored. Then we all had to sit in a square shape while the tour guide went to a door off to the side, told us the names of the penguins we’d be meeting and then opened the door. I heard little pitter patters of tiny claws on the tile floor and out they came as cute as ever.
We all had to keep our hands to ourselves until the penguins came to you at which point you could pet their backs. One rested his flipper on my leg and I about died. Afterwards, you were able to ask any questions that you had left and then we were led down a stairwell and into the penguin habitat to learn a bit more and see where they live in the zoo. It was an absolutely incredible experience. The staff and our tour guide, Mandi, were beyond friendly and made everyone feel comfortable and welcome. The zoo offers several behind the scenes tours for other animals that are well worth the money. For both me and Taylor, I spent $120 for the “Behind-the-Scenes” Penguin Encounters.
You can click this link to see what other tours they offer and how to schedule yours.
And of course, what better way to experience St. Louis than to take a trip up to the top of the Gateway Arch. We went online and bought tickets for “Journey to the Top” costing us $13 for one person. As we were loading into the tram car that takes you up to the top, a staff member was saying that there were a little over 1,000 stairs you’d have to take to get up to the top. The tram car started moving and is a bit rickety so, being afraid of heights, I made the joke that maybe we should’ve taken the stairs instead. But after you take the ride up, the view is beautiful. You can purchase your tickets and look up other information about the arch here.
I would recommend stopping in St. Louis if the opportunity ever arises, however, I would not recommend dedicating more than a day or two to visiting. While the experiences I had were amazing, there wasn’t much else to do or see in St. Louis besides maybe the museum and some gardens and the town itself appeared rundown. I was warned several times before visiting to lock my car doors, keep my purse nearby and to always travel in a pack and not wander off alone. From visiting, I can see why. Am I dying to go back? No, but the experiences I had were totally worth the trip and I have some great memories from visiting.