We just took a vacation. The first of two planned for this summer! Wild, I know. We spent four days down in St. Louis, MO, and it was a wonderful time.
Sunday we traveled. Packing up the kids to get out of the house for something like this always takes twice as long as I think it will. It didn't help that the kids had made no fewer than 30 Father's Day cards for their dad, all of which had to be opened before we could load the car.
It's a 5 hour drive, so we stopped at a playground for a picnic lunch at about the half way point, and rolled into St. Louis around dinner time. We walked around the famous Gateway Arch, although it's a major construction zone right now, and then went out for mediocre pizza and excellent beer.
We stayed at an Airbnb. It was our first experience doing so, and we were delighted. It was so nice to have a kitchen. I didn't really cook, but I prefer to slap together quick and easy meals than to take three kids out to eat twice a day. Also, it was awesome to have multiple rooms. One night L went to bed in the big bedroom, V went to bed in the little bedroom, Z set up a nest in the kitchen, and Husband and I stayed up late chatting in the living room. All for 2/3 the price of a single hotel room. I'm hooked.
On Monday we went to the St. Louis Zoo. It's consistently rated as one of the top five in the country, and it was easy to see why. They do a tremendous job balancing the need for animals to live in somewhat natural environments, the need to keep people and animals safe from each other, and the desire of zoo visitors to actually see the animals in the zoo. There were quite a number of "talk to the keeper" types of experiences all throughout the day. Also, the garden plantings were gorgeous. I know nobody goes to the zoo to see the flowers, but these were truly exceptional. To top it all off, the zoo has free admission!
We tried to cram it all into one long day. In retrospect, it would have worked better for our family to plan an extra day in town and spend two long mornings at the zoo, followed by lunch, naps, and playground time. We missed quite a few animals, and everyone was exhausted and cranky by the time we got back to the Airbnb for dinner.
Tuesday we went to the City Museum. It's like nothing you've ever seen. I keep calling it a recycled junkyard art installation playground. There are enormous slides, a three story rebar climbing maze jungle gym, ball pits 15 feet square, a rabbits' warren of caves constructed from concrete, an indoor skate park with no skateboards, a tiny circus, a Ferris wheel on the roof, and more. The whole place is eye-popping, weird, and exciting. Z, V, Husband, and I loved it. L is two, so his experience was more mixed.
His comment after riding the Ferris wheel was, "I not crying." He rode the tiny train, but at the end of his first lap he said, "I no like it!" He then proceeded to wail "I NO LIKE IT!" during the entire second lap. The ride operator let him out after that, so he didn't have to do the third lap. He told me, quite seriously, "I no like it" as soon as I picked him up. He slipped on a slide and scraped his ear. He was scared of the circus. He didn't like when other kids were in the ball pit with him because they kept bumping him. And he got lost for a few minutes in the caves. He really did enjoy exploring the rebar maze, the tree house, and the caves, though, as long as I stayed right behind him.
Wednesday we spent a few hours at the Science Center and Planetarium. To be honest, we were all tired, so half a day of half-hearted looking was enough. We drove home with movies and snacks to placate the masses.
It was a wonderful vacation, all things considered. I'd recommend St. Louis if you're interested a not-too-stressful trip with your kids.