As part of a larger road trip over Memorial Day weekend, we stopped in Saint Louis to visit the regularly hyped City Museum. This destination has been on our bucket list for a while and we finally visited it!
The 600,000 square foot museum occupies a former shoe factory. The ferris wheel on the roof along with the giant praying mantis sculpture are dead give aways that you are about to have a great time!
Frugal Boy, sporting an “Old MacDonalds” happy meal box on his head, was unabashedly enthusiastic.
We parked in a nearby $5 surface lot and walked the block to the entrance. There is a closer parking lot for twice the price. Do you like the school bus hanging off the corner of the building? You can go into that and look down!
The museum has a bit of a cult following, and can roughly be summarized as a “love it, or hate it” division. If you love climbing around jungle gyms and crawling through tiny labyrinth tunnels, start planning your trip. If that doesn’t sound fun to you, or you don’t want to keep up with your child, then go somewhere else.
Headlamps are advisable for many areas of the building. We spent three hours there and covered maybe 70% of the grounds. A 1:1 adult to child ratio would be recommended.
Right off the main lobby on the first floor there are already plenty of “crawling holes” as Frugal Boy calls them. Some simply loop around while others will inexplicably go off to a different level of the museum. You really have to follow your ward into each hole because you don’t know where they’ll end up otherwise.
Sometimes they dead end.
And other times they connect to a larger passage.
Frugal Boy, age 4.5, was just about the right age for the museum. He had a complete blast and was usually yanking our arms to go explore another section. Frugal Girl, age 14 months, was delighted to do as much as she could, but her little feet were too small for some of the ironwork sections.
I really liked this part of the museum were you could crawl John McClane style through ‘vents’.
The only thing missing was a lighter and cut up bare feet!
Frugal Boy was kind enough to stop and take this picture of me squeezing through a particularly tight bend.
One of the points of reference that we developed to help navigate the place was this aquarium on the 2nd or 3rd floor.
It was right by the exit of the 10 story curly slide. Yes, you read that right. I was so sweaty that it wasn’t much of a slide down. Squeaaaaaaakk.
Outside is more metal work, wire mesh, and rebar. All of our tetanus shots are up-to-date.
There are two planes that are suspended in the air that you can climb to.
It pays not to be scared of heights!
Up on the roof you can climb up the inside of the rotunda. We didn’t have time to do it on this trip, but there is always next time!
The “Caves” were probably the favorite sections for our family and age mixture.
After a while you start to get a feel for how the craziness is laid out. I was able to get this video showing Frugal Boy and Shae emerging from one spelunking area.
Are you wanting to go to the City Museum but aren’t sure if it is right for you? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer it. We had a great time and cannot wait to go back!
When I was growing up, we would make an annual or biennial road trip to visit my Grandma in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was a full day or sometimes even two day car ride and it was BOOORRRIINNG. I don’t mean the car ride itself was boring, of course that was, but also the destination portion as well. To add insult to injury, the route to and fro always passed by Lake Delton, home to Wisconsin Dells and some of the largest waterparks in the world. I always remember looking out the window as we crept along the interstate and wished that we would stop there instead. It would have been a lot more fun than the regularly scheduled program.
A kid can dream
Alas, we never did stop at the waterparks on our way to Grandma’s. As an adult, I understand my parents reasoning. Firstly, it is expensive, especially when you have a station wagon full of kids. Secondly the purpose of the road trip was to visit home bound family members.
30 years later and kid me got his wish fulfilled! Shae’s work puts together discount trips throughout the year. We decided to take advantage of one such trip that was a two night stay at America’s largest indoor waterpark, the Wilderness Resort in Lake Delton, WI.
3 Charter Buses Caravanned
a small part of the mega resort
3 indoor waterparks for the price of 1
The room cost was $386.27 for both nights, and the bus ticket cost was $25 per person. We also spent $85 on dinners, and another $14 on breakfasts and lunches. The total trip cost was $560.27 including all transportation, lodging, food, tickets, taxes, fees, and gratuities. Per person, that comes out to $186.76 or $93.38 per day. We could have included a 4th person for just the bus fare of $25 plus food. One could easily argue that this was not a frugal trip.
We did save gas money by riding on the charter bus, so that was probably $40 saved. We also saved quite a bit of money by bringing breakfast and lunch staples from home and only eating out for dinner. Finally, the room rate was a special group rate. We saved $15 with the Group Rate for lodging.
There are three separate indoor waterparks at this mega resort, and we tried them all out over the course of two days. All of them had a mix of little kid/teen/adult attractions. Shae couldn’t partake in any of the slides because she is sporting a wonderfully cute baby bump.
Frugal Boy at a stout 37″ was able to go with me on probably 50% of the slides. The two of us had a great time riding tubes and rafts down dark passageways. At the end of the trip, he said it was his favorite part. Ahhhh.
Some areas were included in the lodging price, such as this three story play area.
It was a lot of fun climbing around the structures and using the air cannons to shoot nerf balls at other people.
Frugal Boy loading a mega cannon.
a little teamwork
multi-story slides are fun!
We skipped other areas that were pay-to-play, such as the Arcade and High Ropes course.
my nephew would be begging to go on this.
We had packed breakfasts and lunches from home to save money on eating. I was pleasantly surprised with the cost, quality, and service of the dinner choices. I was expecting concession stand quality food at huge markups in cost all paired with crappy service. Instead for dinner we had decent food with quick friendly service at only a modest ‘tourist trap’ markup in price.
Frugal Boy contemplating what he wants for dinner
When we travel, we try to stick to our normal bed times. For Frugal Boy that is 7pm, so like it or not, we tend to have a lot of downtime during the evening. One of the tech items that I really enjoy is Plex. Plex lets you serve up your media collection at home to anywhere in the world. Now when we travel, we can bring along an old laptop, or our Apple TV and we can watch all of the same movies and tv shows that we can watch at our home theater. When Mom and Dad just need a moment, Paw Patrol is still one of the best distractions.
It will be nice when the kids get a bit older and do activities later into the day. For now though, we’ll just enjoy the cuddles.
The company does the same, or very similar, bus trips each year. Next year, we’d probably skip this trip because there is not a lot that a one year old can do at the park.
While it was an expensive weekend getaway, it was a lot of fun and our last 3-person trip before our family dynamic changes. Shae and I both wanted to enjoy and savor the last bit of time that we have with Frugal Boy as an only child.
I wanted to do something a little more memorable than Chinese takeout for Shae’s birthday, so for this long weekend, I packed up the car and we did a little road trip to two of my favorite childhood state parks in Indiana, Turkey Run and Shades. The two state parks are situated in West Central Indiana near the Illinois border. They both operate in the Eastern timezone.
Given that it was a holiday weekend, the park campgrounds were full, but I was able to make a reservation a week ahead of time for a primitive campsite at Rockville Lake Park. RLP is a private campground just 15 minutes south of Turkey Run and about 5 minutes east of the town of Rockville.
We arrived a bit before dinner on Friday night and decided to set up camp before looking for food. Who really wants to be a camp cook after a day of work and driving multiple hours.
I made Frugal Boy help pack the car, so he was excited to see those packed items come out and be used.
It didn’t take long for him to become a camping expert and start doling out advice on how best to secure the tent.
With camp secured, we drove into town and ate at a mom and pop restaurant. I had forgotten to stop at an ATM and only had $28 in cash in my wallet. Shae never carries cash and relies on the A(ndrew)TM whenever she needs it. I was a bit worried when we sat down at the cash only restaurant, but then remembered how cheap food is in rural Indiana. At $7 or $8 for an entree with two sides, we weren’t exactly pressured to eat miserly. Now I know how my middle brother, who spent a decade on the east coast, feels whenever I am bitching about the cost of staples.
The campground did not have an easily accessible supply of potable water so we stopped at a grocery store and bought a few jugs of water along with an evening treat.
A 4 pack of Smores drumstick ice cream cones was cheaper than buying a bundle of wood and having a campfire. You’re not supposed to transport fire wood because of all the critters that can hitch a ride and invade a new ecosystem and you are also not supposed to collect down branches and twigs in the campground because it depletes nutrients from the forest (my ecologist sister can correct me in the comments).
We turned in early that night because we were dog gone tired.
I woke up in the morning to an empty tent. Sometime in the night we acquired a couple of new neighbors. My stomach was growling, so I set to work making breakfast.
We had packed a cooler with half a dozen eggs, cheese, and an assortment of snack food. For car camping, I love the incredibly simple and rock solid single burner propane stove that I bought a decade ago at Wally World.
You have to buy the propane tanks separately, but they seem to last forever. The stove is strong enough to boil a few cups of water, so you can make quite a variety of foods on it. I had to take a picture of this particular propane tank because my parents gave it to us when they cleaned out an outbuilding. I remember these old tanks from my childhood, but they still work!
Shae had taken Frugal Boy down to the lake to go play.
When they came back, breakfast was ready!
I knew that Turkey Run was going to be popular on a Saturday, so we made tracks and got their early. The suspension bridge over Sugar Creek is always a favorite spot. A few kayakers and canoes drifted by below us while we crossed.
Inside, the spirit of adventure tugged at us to move forward.
Frugal Boy found a hiking stick
that he promptly lost, but talked about the rest of the day.
We found a cave (more like an overhang).
We hiked through streams
and climbed up ladders.
By lunch time, we had covered about 5 miles of trails, Frugal Boy was carried for some of that, but we made him walk even when he didn’t want to.
At lunch a bee landed on my hand. Frugal Boy asked what it was and I explained that it was a bee and it could hurt me. If I stayed still it would leave me alone and leave. We watched as it flew off and around and landed on Frugal Boy’s hand. My lesson apparently went in one ear and out the other because he tried to squish it. Maybe he is a first hand experience learner.
After lunch, we did one last trail. It was nearly empty and tucked away behind some cabins, but I thought it was one of the best trails we did that day.
When we left around 2pm all of the parking lots were full and the line of cars waiting to get into the park stretched out onto the highway. Just like the Shedd Aquarium, it pays to be there early.
We took a nap back at camp, and walked around the grounds. It was interesting people watching. Most of them were glampers, or people that were glamping (glamorous camping). We saw many satellite dishes, ginormous RVs, and flat screen tvs.
I made dinner on my trusty single burner camp stove.
I’m still trying to figure out what chain of events happened that made me the de facto camp chef. Some where history went wrong.
Frugal Boy has been doing very well with using the potty, but he still has some things to learn, like how to pee standing up. He got a primer on this camping trip and his only words were Awesome! and Again!
In the morning, we broke down camp quickly and left RLP so we could get to the canoe outfitters in time for their first run of the day. The outfitters was a well oiled machine that was processing hundreds of people. For $22 we had a three hour canoe ride down Sugar Creek. I could only surmise that the only way the outfitter made money was by sheer volume.
We got a different view of the suspension bridge that we crossed the day before.
We took one grainy selfie before we reached the pullout spot, a red covered bridge.
There is something like 48 covered bridges in this part of Indiana. I have never done it, but there is a covered bridge festival if that is something that interests you.
Back at the outfitters, we took one last picture of Frugal Boy and the canoe. He was really excited and wanted to go again.
From there we drove up to Shades State Park. The difference was night and day. Shades didn’t charge an entrance fee, even though it was listed. The parking lot was half empty at noon, compared to overflowing. The trails were sparsely populated. We ate lunch and hiked two more trails before declaring ourselves completely tuckered out. Frugal Boy loved the tricky ravine hiking and slept the entire car ride home.
If you are looking for a fun place to hike in Western Indiana, then I would recommend Shades or Turkey Run. There are some fun trails.
Yesterday for Mother’s Day, we loaded up in the car and drove to Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve for a picnic lunch.
It was a nice sunny day and several other families had the same idea.
Frugal Boy enjoyed sharing Grandpa’s cupcake.
Grandpa was a good sport.
After eating a big lunch, we went for a hike. There are paved and grassy paths totaling over five miles in the preserve.
In a couple of months there will be a ton of blackberries along the trail. I saw a bunch of thorny canes just starting to set their fruit. For now though, we settled on picking some bouquets for mom.
Have you ever wondered how dandelions manage to carpet an entire area. Shae captured the process in slo-mo.
After we were finished spreading an invasive species, we found the jewel of the trail, a natural spring bubbling up from the ground. Frugal Boy got very excited and started pulling on my arm to go ‘swimming’. I indulged him and in the process gave his grandparents and aunties a show they probably weren’t expecting.
The water was very cold, but he still went back a second time before declaring all done.
Dried off and dressed, we finished up our little hike.
After some more time on the playground, we loaded back up in the car and drove a bit south to a seemingly out-of-place Buddhist temple. It was surrounded by corn fields and looked to be built on an old farm homestead.
A man came over and started to talk to us about the temple. Construction started in 2004 and lasted about 3 years. Everything has been done by volunteers. I was a bit surprised to see the sign on the door.
I had visited several temples in Taiwan on a college sponsored trip and they did not have that kind of restriction. From talking with the man, it seemed that this was more of a Thailand/Laos sect.
Frugal Boy liked the decorative dragons.
Leaving the temple behind, we drove to the other side of the forest preserve to look at the big pedestrian bridge.
I was impressed with the living room sized inflatable ‘raft’ that came cruising by.