St Louis Arch, Riverboats & Scary restaurants

Trip Start Aug 13, 2007
Trip End Nov 12, 2007

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Flag of United States  , Missouri
Thursday, September 20, 2007

Quite a noisy RV park - trains hooooooooonking in the night, cars driving around and the odd people talking. Fred went over to the office this morning, new girl at office, slightly more helpful, but still not willing to go out of her way to help. We were trying to find out the Gateway Arch Riverboat tour times, so we could fit it into our day with the St Louis Children's museum which we have promised to take the kids to. They had no brochures, and Fred was curtly informed that no, they didn't have a yellow pages he could use to ring either.

So we decided just to drive down to the riverfront for ourselves. We managed to get down to the Arch & riverboat area without getting lost - so far on our journey St Louis wins the award for the easiest city to get lost in - but that could be because of the Streets & Trips sometimes vague driving instructions! The first cruise was at 12pm (and it was only 9.30) so we decided to take the kids to the St Louis Children's Museum first. After taking the wrong exit on the Interstate, and having a brief ticky-tour around the suburbs of St Louis, we made it on the right Interstate to go to the museum. We were nearly there when we decided to check the opening hours of the museum and discovered that because the school holidays had finished, the museum didn't open until midday! Being that it was only 10 O'clock, we decided to turn around and drive back to the riverfront and go up the arch, take a ride on the riverboat and then return to the museum - talk about your waste of gas!

Luckily we found some free parking at the riverfront, and we went to the Arch, which is a national monument. The Arch signifies a lot of things, but it's partially as a monument to Thomas Jefferson & as a symbol of Saint Louis being a 'Gateway' to the West. To get up inside the arch, you go down under the ground to a waiting station & then you climb into these small 5 seater circular tram cars (these would not be fun if you were claustrophobic!) which haul you up to the top of the arch (on the inside of the structure). The top of the arch inside is unexpectedly sloped following the shape of the curve, with only a small area and small windows to view the panorama below. Still, we had some amazing views of the Mississippi and surrounding St Louis city - we could even see our RV Park and our teeny-tiny truck parked below us in the parking lot. We didn't spend long there, as to be honest there wasn't that much to see, so we queued up to go down again.

Once outside in the fresh air, we crossed the road to go on our riverboat tour. We were a bit disappointed with our trip on the 'Tom Sawyer', and I wouldn't recommend it. For one, the boat didn't look like the one on the website, and the paddle on the back didn't even turn and was covered with mould. Going under the bridges spanning the Mississippi & seeing the Arch was neat, but the rest of the riverfront of the St Louis side of the Mississippi was not pleasant to look at: abandoned buildings, graffiti, jumbled rocks, a half sunk car, a rusted upturned hull of a WWII warship. While we realised that cities aren't always pretty, we thought that being that this boat and other tourist boats travel up and down this stretch multiple times a day, that the city could make an effort to tidy this area up.

After our tour we drove back to the museum. The kids had a fantastic time here, again lots of hand on things for them to do, though probably more science-based than the Memphis museum. The museum itself was built in a donated house dating from the turn of the century and the story of the original family members was very interesting. Being that it was originally a house, the rooms were a lot smaller & more inter-connected - so the exhibits were smaller in some areas than in a normal museum building. On the top level was a spiral slide that circled down 3 stories. The kids thought this was fantastic & must have had about 10 slides each. Fred, being Fred, decided he had to go (even though there was a sign saying that it wasn't suitable for adults) and I heard him crashing & bumping & 'ow-ing' all the way down the slide! There was a room with an electrostatic charger that made your hair stand on end but it didn't work too well with Josh & Kate, as Josh's hair was too short, and Kate's hair too thick. The effect worked well on some of the other kids we saw with fine, soft hair. Like the museum in Memphis, there was a section for kids to use their imagination & pretend - there was a pizza parlour, a supermarket, a bank, a library, construction zone, Victorian house and a pond that you could 'fish' with magnetic rods. The kids also made their own TV news and weather show.

Because we had spent such a long time in the museum, we decided to eat out for dinner. We thought we'd go back to the RV Park's Casino for a buffet meal. Wrong. Fred found out when he went inside to check the prices at the casino that no one under 21 was even allowed in the door - not a family friendly casino! So we thought we'd just drive down the road a ways from the RV park & find a restaurant to eat at. Wrong again. East St Louis is NOT a place you want to try and find a restaurant to feed your family! Driving through run down streets, with boarded up buildings and the few restaurants that you see are the type with no windows and solid wooden doors... uh no, I don't think so. We went back to the 5th Wheel and had packet Mac & cheese!
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