Or anywhere in the Midwest, really.
I've known for 2 months I was taking a trip after Christmas, originally thinking it would be to Georgia to see some friends -but life of course had other plans.
So, with laptop in hand I sat down Christmas Morning (still planning to leave on Sunday, less than 40 hours later) to search for places I had never been before, that I could drive to within 8ish hours.
I was determined to drive because I had a shiny new car, and because with 2020 being the way it is, I wanted to have control over my plans and who I surrounded myself with.
2 hours later I had landed on St Louis, Missouri.
It fit all the categories, and I found an AirBnB that was super affordable.. so I convinced my brother to come with me, and the trip was on!
If there is one thing I've learned, and obviously am still learning, is to check reviews for hotels and any sort of AirBnB/VRBO locations!
This is the outside of where we are staying - swanky, right?
We were in the ground level unit (read between the lines as partial basement with 1 tiny window).
You can hear your neighbor using their microwave across the hall, I've seen bigger showers in RV's, and it was definitely more run down than the pictures make it look.
Still, for $40 a night, it was clean enough, safe enough, and very nicely located so I was okay with it.
Out first full day involved getting up early and heading to the St. Louis Zoo.
I typically include a trip to the zoo whenever I travel. They're a great, usually cost effective way to be outside all day and feel like you're somewhere special.
Pros: The Polar Bear likes to show off. You can go in the building with the penguins and they are close enough to throw a fish at you. Many of the attractions like the amphibians are in beautiful indoor areas.
There is also Starbucks inside the zoo.
Cons: Much of the zoo is up stairs and hills. Also, if you accidentally leave out of the south entrance - when you in fact parked in the North entrance - you cannot re-enter the zoo and will have to walk 2.2 miles around Forest Park to get to your car.
Do not ask me how I know this *cries silently*.
To add: We did not get to spend much time in Forest Park, but I fully believe it's worth planning a few hours there. It was too cold and I was exhausted after the zoo escapades, but plan to go there if I find myself in StL again!
Once we left the zoo, I was halfway to hangry and needed to find a fix for that FAST.
I did a quick search for popular places to eat in StL and landed on Stacked Burger, which was only about 15 minutes away so we decided to try it.
We came at about 2pm so we missed the lunch rush, and were able to park within 200 ft of the front door. We were seated right away, and our waitress was knowledgeable and sweet.
I ordered a lemonade and built my own mushroom-swiss burger. My brother got this bad boy to my right, called the Bella-Blues (Ground Chuck, Bleu Cheese Crumbles, Mushroom Medley, Spring Mix and Honey-Thyme Balsamic Glaze on a Brioche Bun) along with the sweet potato fries.
My brother is a foodie, and declared this may be the best burger he's ever had. He also said their pure cane version of Mt Dew was an upgrade. I'll trust him on that.
Overall, the pricing was also very reasonable for the amount of food and we had a great experience... 10/10 recommend!
The Cathedral Basilica of St Louis
I am not Catholic, but I did grow up in church and have a deep love and appreciation for the history of religion. We spent less than 30 minutes in the main cathedral, just soaking in the beauty of all the mosaics and marble. I have been to several cathedrals, temples, mosques, and other places of worship in my travel, and I always appreciate the dedication put into making these places feel holy and reverent.
The Cathedral was also a stone's throw from our AirBnB, and had it not been snowing (and had we not been wimpy Texas weather humans), we could have walked the maybe 2 blocks.
We also spent some time in the Cathedral's museum, which is in the basement. It has a lot of interesting information on how the Cathedral was built, and Catholic relics, etc. It was also free, but with a $2 recommended donation.
When we left the Cathedral it was still slightly snowing and it was COLD. So of course, we needed coffee. Once again google to the rescue, am I right?
GPS in hand, we ran over to a local coffee shop, The Mud House and ate one of the most delicious breakfast sandwiches (Egg + Cheese (white cheddar. maple-mustard sauce, bacon on a brioche bun.).
The coffee was good, but the vanilla caramel I had added wasn't my favorite. Still, it was hot, and since we had to sit on the covered back patio for social distancing it kept my insides happy while still seeing my breath.
Also, we witnessed what seemed like a first brunch date where the boy had $500 shoes and the girl referenced him as a "straight male" so I'm not sure where that will go.
The Gateway Arch
There are several parking lots within .5 a mile of the Arch. I think we paid $7 for an all day pass. There's also a couple of good restaurants on the walk.
The Arch has it's own park and I'm SURE it will be gorgeous in the spring when the trees are in bloom at it isn't 28 degrees outside.
You can also take a Lyft/Uber and it will drop you off within 100 ft of the main entrance.
You can enter the museum and gift shop portion of the Arch for free. You can also buy tickets at the main entrance for the tram ride up to the top. Either way, you will have to go through security, which takes all of 5 minutes.
I am not much of a museum person, but I really enjoyed all the American memorabilia and taking selfies with stagecoaches and tomahawks. My history major brother was delighted.
I will say that this was the only place we went on the whole trip where social distancing might have been an issue. But honestly, StL did a really good job of keeping the numbers down, and it was only an issue if you have no patience (this does not apply to me. At all. ).
I am not scared of heights. I am not typically claustrophobic. But let me tell you.
To get to the top you have to ride in a capsule that can only be described as an astronaut tube. It's bright white and less than 5ft high by 5ft wide,
Honestly thought I was in the canal on my way to Jesus.
I wish I had a picture for you, but they were strict about being in and out.
Then you take the climb, which is about 4 minutes long. and you will spend about 10 minutes at the top, where you will awkwardly lean over to look out the windows and your stomach will plummet into the river below.
Still, for $16, it was a fun 1-time thing!.
One more latte for the road.
Before we headed out to our next adventure, we stopped by this very hipster coffee shop - The Northwest Coffee Roasting Co.
This shop was about 4 blocks from our AirBNB and drew me in right away with it's outdoor courtyard, covered patio, and remodeled garage building (as pictured behind.)
There were also plants and nature all around the building, and the whole vibe was just very organic.
The coffee was good, though they could have pulled it a little hotter for me. Still, I'd go back!