Museum at the Gateway Arch ~ St. Louis, Missouri

Hey all! I’m back after a long nearly two months away! Who knew the life of a pastor’s wife could get so busy during the holiday season!? At least this has given me plenty of time to have some new travel adventures so that I can keep the blog posts coming!

For now, let’s take it back to our final few days in St. Louis, this past summer. One of the last things we did was visit the newly reopened and redone Museum at the Gateway Arch.

One thing that is super exciting about the way things have been redone is that you now can enter the Arch in the middle of the base, instead of through the leg. These new doors let in a ton of natural light, making the whole entryway a lot less dark than it ever was before!

img_6492

You still have to proceed through security once getting in, but you can buy tickets to go up the Arch before then. We’ve gone up plenty of times before, so we just hopped into the very long security line so that we could see the museum. I think it took us nearly half an hour to get through security seeing as how the new museum had only been open for about a week and everyone wanted to check it out!

Once you get through security you head down a set of steps that takes you to a very cool map of the U.S. during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. And that shows how both Rivers and other trail starters to head west affected the area.

From there you continue down one more set of stairs to reach a museum that is divided into 6 distinct sections: Colonial St. Louis, Jefferson’s Vision, New Frontiers, The Riverfront Era, Manifest Destiny, and Building the Dream. Be careful to make sure you are following the timeline through the sections! Otherwise you could easily end up skipping forward a section and then having to jump back. The timeline kind of weaves it’s way back and forth through the main center aisle.

One display I really liked was found in the Riverfront Era section. They had a replica display of what the city would have looked like, but even cooler, they occasionally turned off the light in the area to show what it looked like at night as well!

The other section I really enjoyed was Building the Dream. I love seeing miniature replicas of towns and it was also really cool to see how the tram cars travel to the top of the Arch.

Of course there are so many other neat things in these 6 exhibits, but has it was quite crowded the day we visited, I didn’t get that many pictures, plus a lot of the exhibits were also similar to things I’ve learned and seen at the Missouri History Museum as well.

If you are planning a trip to the Gateway Arch, it is well worth making sure you save time to not only go up the Arch, but also visit the new museum, plus don’t miss out on the Old Courthouse across the street that also has some great historical exhibits and beautiful architecture. But do allow yourselves plenty of time to get through security lines!

For more up to date news on our travels, follow sitesandbitesjournal on Instagram or sign up for e-mail updates from this blog!

Seamus McDaniel’s ~ St. Louis, Missouri

Located just south of the St. Louis zoo is the wonderful Irish neighborhood fondly known as Dogtown. Every year they have their own St. Patrick’s Day parade, which we always seem to miss since we are usually at work or school. But one wonderful place to visit in Dogtown during any time of year is Seamus McDaniel’s.

Seamus McDaniel’s is a delightful Irish Pub. Most often when I visit, I order a burger, but on our final visit to this pub before moving it was rather warm outside, so we opted to just order appetizers to have a meal on the “lighter side.” In reality, there is no lighter side when buying food at Seamus McDaniel’s as all the portions are quite large.

On this particular visit I opted to get Pub Pretzels as my main course, while Andrew went for the Toasted Ravioli, a St. Louis specialty.

As you can see by the table top, this particular visit we chose to eat outside, but they have plenty of seating both inside and out at Seamus McDaniels. Another thing we always have to order when visiting is the Fried Cheese. This is because it isn’t just your typical Mozzarella sticks, they also have the with pepper cheese. We always get the combo of the two!

20180515_181332

Luckily with these, they are different sizes, so it’s easy to know what kind of fried cheese you are grabbing. We highly recommend a visit to Seamus McDaniel’s but after having the appetizers suggest going with just a burger and some fried cheese instead of the other appetizers.

For more updates on our travel adventures, follow sitesandbitesjournal on Instagram or sign up for e-mail updates from the blog.

Missouri Botanical Garden ~ St. Louis, Missouri

I’ll keep this post short and sweet because I have mentioned how much I love the Missouri Botanical Garden before in my post about the Garden Glow. But since I did mention then how this is my favorite place to visit in the city, I thought my readers deserved to see some pictures from the Garden when the temperatures are a little warmer.

(Side note, I do believe prices have also increased for admission to the garden….although we were able to use AAA membership to get in at a discount.)

I love visiting the Garden anytime in the spring or summer because something is always blooming! We got especially lucky when we visited in May as all the flower beds by the Tower Grove house were in full bloom.

received_10216591844897493

My most favorite part of the Garden, no matter the season, is the Japanese Garden area. Here you get to walk along a beautiful pond area. At one point they even have food available to feed the Koi and geese and ducks that take over a bridge area. But my personal favorite is the bridge walking path along the edge of the pond.

received_10216591846497533

For the first time ever, while visiting this time around, we decided to check out Home Gardening section. Before this I never had much interest as we were always living places where I couldn’t have a garden, but now that we knew we were headed to South Dakota for an extended amount of time I could actually start thinking about it. They had all sorts of plants growing in that area and also have an entire building where you can go to get advise and look up info about when it’s good to plant certain things and how you should go about it.

Another grand feature of the Garden is the Climatron, which is always filled with interesting plants. They also have a special kids playground area outside if you are bringing your little ones to the Garden. I’ve heard from several parents that it’s one of the best playground areas in the city.

As you can see, I have nothing but positive things to say about the Missouri Botanical Garden. If St. Louis was my permanent home, I would pay to have the membership just so I could visit whenever I chose. Plus members get a discount on special events like the Garden Glow and get a discount in their amazing gift shop!

For more travel adventures, follow sitesandbitesjournal on Instagram or sign up for e-mail updates from the blog.

Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail ~ Weldon Springs, Missouri

A place I discovered following our stay at Wingate St. Charles, was the Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail. We actually hoped to visit it Sunday morning after checking it out from our hotel, but the weather was unseasonably cold, so we didn’t have a huge urge to climb a 7 story pile of waste without warmer attire.

This meant we pushed back our Nuclear Waste Trail hike by about a month. Now I’m sure all of you reading this are already growing concerned about the fact that I’m talking about hiking around Nuclear Waste, but the best thing about this hike is that it’s completely safe.

This site was home to an explosives factory first, and then a plant that refined uranium for Cold War nuclear bombs, which was then abandoned in the 1960’s. As you can imagine, that left quite a bit of toxic mess. Rather than haul it out, which is both dangerous and expensive, the solution was to entomb the toxic mess.

They have a visitor center that wasn’t open during our visit to the site, but if you visit when it is, you can get a little more history about the area, and also see the layers that make up this mini-mountain just outside. Once upon a time it may have been dangerous to visit the area even with a gas mask and hazmat suit, but now you can hike to get the best view of St. Charles county.

20180428_154404

There is plenty of parking below the mini-mountain from there you follow the gravel path to the stairway that leads to the top of the nuclear waste mound.

20180428_154638

Once you climb all the stairs and each the top, there are a few benches where you can sit and rest as well as plaques describing the town and views you see spread out before you. This spot claims to be the highest in St. Charles county and the view is quite lovely.

20180428_15503320180428_15504420180428_15510520180428_155109

While this isn’t something I’d detour out of my way to visit, it’s a nice little hike with some great views just outside of the St. Louis area, and it certainly has a unique history that you can’t find just anywhere!

For more adventures, follow sitesandbitesjournal on Instagram or sign up for e-mail updates from this blog!

Wingate by Wyndham St. Charles ~ St. Charles, Missouri

After over a year of hotel stays, we finally had earned enough points to have a free hotel night through Wyndham. The one nice thing about Wyndham is you need the same amount of points saved for any room in their system. This isn’t super exciting if you are looking to stay in an area that is very low budget as is, but can be a huge perk if you are planning a trip to downtown Chicago and can get a room worth a couple hundred a night for free. That had been our first plan to use our points on, but sadly Chicago just wasn’t in the cards for travel plans for the near future.

Because Andrew and I wanted a date weekend without our dogs in St. Louis, we opted to find the “highest quality” Wyndham hotel in the area and use our points for that. The best one I could find was the Wingate in St. Charles. I say in St. Charles loosely because it’s no where near downtown St. Charles and actually much closer to nearby Weldon Springs.

Several people on Trip Advisor complained about the hotel because it’s on the edge of a research/industrial park and therefore isn’t within walking distance to any restaurants or shops. Since we were just wanting a quiet night away on our own, this didn’t bother us at all.

When we arrived in the early evening, we were asked if we were with either the wedding or the anniversary party…our answer…neither. There were two small buses parked out front that were shuttling people to either of those parties. Once those groups left, it was pretty quiet in the hotel, but we opted to avoid the pool area anyways in case it was taken over by one of the groups later on. They also have an outdoor pool, but it was a very cool day in April so the pool wasn’t open yet.¬† Off to the side of the check in desk there was also a small pantry store area, as well as an office use area, with the breakfast area straight ahead off of the lobby.

Our room was on the first floor just a few doors down from the pool and office areas. This meant we were subject to quite a bit of foot traffic down our hall as people came and went from the pool area.

When you walked into our room the bathroom was to the left and a spacious closet that contained a safe and ironing board was on the right.

We also had a small fridge/mircrowave and coffee maker counter top area on the right had side.

Our bed was straight ahead and to the right.

The TV was nice and big and the additional comfy chair was an added bonus to the room. There also was a desk directly across from the chair.

20180414_165830

The room was very spacious and I could see this as being a great place to stay for a longer vacation. There was access to a walking path quite near to the hotel that hooks into a lot of other trail systems around the area. It also was a pretty short drive to Weldon Springs where there were several dining options to choose from; we opted for Cracker Barrel that night.

Breakfast the next morning had a nice spread, but was quite busy due to the other groups that were utilizing the hotel. Overall though, we had a wonderful and comfortable stay. I’d love to revisit sometime when the weather is warmer and utilize their outdoor seating area in the back!

National Blues Museum ~ St. Louis, Missouri

During a staycation date weekend, Andrew and I decided to use tickets I had bought for the National Blues Museum back in March through Groupon. I’d been itching to visit the museum ever since I had heard it finally opened. This museum had been in the works since we moved to St. Louis back in 2014. One of my preschool kids had brought in a souvenir from the museum and after talking with his mom, she said it would be a great place to visit without kids.

The Blues Museum is filled with tons of old artifacts dealing with our Blues music began and continues to be an influence in the music world today. Because of this, you are not allowed to take many pictures in the museum. Only in very specific areas they have marked for “selfies.”

When we walked in the doors, it was very easy to get our wristbands in exchange for our Groupon voucher. We got in for nearly half price. After receiving our wristbands we were greeted warmly by a museum volunteer who gave us a brief run down of what we would see in the museum and pointed out some of the “Blues Greats” on the wall.

From time to time, there are interactive exhibits located throughout the museum. One fun one taught you how to play certain bluesy  percussion instruments like the washboard or spoons for a bluegrass band.

They also had a sections where you could take pictures of yourself as the star blues singer in the club.

20180414_124827

While we were there, we also got a unique presentation on our a player piano works and were allowed to step into the display area to see it’s music turning. This to me was the highlight of the visit. Sadly since it’s an older artifact, I have no pictures to prove it!

The museum works you through the history of the blues chronologically and ends in a nice gift shop. While we enjoyed our time at the museum, I’m glad we only paid the Groupon price to get in. I know it’s a new museum that needs funds and was really well put together, but for me, $15 a person is quite a bit for the extent of the museum. Apparently some evenings they also have their live music and recording room open for people to come down and hear some authentic blues. That could prove to be a good time!

Cardinals Nation ~ St. Louis, Missouri

Hello again! I’m finally back at the blogging following a month of travels in June and our big move to South Dakota in the middle of July. Needless to say since I am still reviewing places we visited in spring, and I have a ton more to report on from this summer, I’ve already got enough blog posts to keep this blog busy through October! Since we finally have nearly all the boxes unpacked in our new home, I figured I’d get things started back up on here! Hopefully since I’m taking on the role of housewife I’ll have time and remember to keep up with my 5 posts a week!

Something I’ve always wanted to do since we first moved to St. Louis was dine in one of the many restaurants that makes up Ballpark Village. So naturally we waited to do that until one of our last months in St. Louis. We took the Metro in with plans to visit the Blues Museum later that afternoon. We got off near the ballpark, but were met with quite a mess of construction as they are currently expanding Ballpark Village. It also took a bit of effort was we got to the village complex to arrive in our choice of restaurant as the main area was closed off for a special event occurring in the center of the building. Once we finally got ourselves into Cardinals Nation we were promptly seated by the hostess at a nice booth where we also could still see several of the TV’s in the bar area across the way.

Cardinals Nation offers a variety of seating from booths to tables to bar seating. And of course, the decor is all based around baseball!

They also have a very extensive menu….I’ve included the pictures of the menu below. There were lots of tempting items to try!

Andrew and I are both suckers for Mac and Cheese so we each ordered that. His with bbq pulled pork and mine with buffalo chicken.

We were both glad we opted to order meat with it because I think it would have tasted a little bland without it. You certainly got a decent portion for the money you spent, but I wish the flavor had been a little more enticing. However our meat was some nice quality meat.

We both had to eat as much as we could and leave the rest seeing as how we were headed to the museum next and heading back home on the Metro. Neither of which would be great places to be carrying around takeout boxes. I’m glad we tried Cardinals Nation but have a lot of other places I’d rather spend my money.

Strange Donuts- St. Louis, Missouri

We have been coming to Strange Donuts for years! Well 4 years since that’s how long we’ve lived in St. Louis, but we just love their donuts more than any other donut place in the area!

We used to go to their Maplewood location all the time because it was close to campus when we lived on campus for two years. This year since we live in Florissant, we opted to visit the Kirkwood location following choir rehearsal at church the Saturday before Easter. The Kirkwood location is much smaller but still has those fantastic donuts. It was fun to visit before a holiday because on top of their normal strange creations, they also had some Easter themed creations.

20180401_062833

My donuts are at the top of the picture. I got a Bart’s which is butterfinger and chocolate frosting. We both got dirt cake which is pretty self-explanatory with the chocolate frosting and oreos on a chocolate donut and of courase garnished with a gummy worm. Andrew also opted to try one of their Easter creations that included the Peep topping. He said it was the heaviest donut he’s ever eaten but still gave it a big thumbs up!

I love Strange Donuts, but you just never know what your options will be when you walk in the door since they changed menu options frequently and also sell our quickly. I got the last Bart’s of the day! That being said, you’ll have much better luck going later on a week day and having things left than going on a Saturday morning like we did.

The nice thing about Strange Donuts is that they also offer some gluten free options. Sure you are limited to one or two options, but at least they have something!

Following along with our travel adventures by following sitesandbitesjournal on Instagram or sign up for e-mail updates from this blog!

Nathaniel Reid Bakery- St. Louis, Missouri

Early in the year, I’d heard announcers discussing their favorite bakeries while listening to the radio. One of the ladies swore by Nathaniel Reid Bakery. I hadn’t heard of it prior to that but a quick web search told me this was a place to check out. I’d been wanting to try French macarons for a few months, and they had several flavors listed on their site.

When we drove to the bakery a few days before Easter, I was not prepared for the line of people we would meet inside. Several people were picking up special orders for the holiday. Others were simply picking up a sandwich for brunch. Everything smelled wonderful and looked amazing, but we were there on a mission for two little macarons.

This had lots to choose from that day, but most were fruit flavored, which is not my thing when it comes to dessert. I’d seen online that they had a chocolate macaron, but that was no where to be seen in the display case that day. We had to settle for one that was vanilla on one side and chocolate on the other with a chocolate ganache in the middle. I have no idea what the actual flavor was called and it’s not on their website for me to find now that I’m writing.

As soon as we reached the counter displays we were able to tell a girl what we wanted. She bagged it up, but then we still had to make our way through the line to get to the cashier. We probably spent 20 minutes in line for those two macarons, and the cashier thanked us for being so patient while we waiting for such a small order.

We took our macarons home for dessert to have with our lunch. I have to say that they were quite delightful! The top of mine did get a little smushed during the journey home, so the picture isn’t the best!

20180331_124934

To follow along with our travel adventures, sign up for email updates from this blog or follow sitesandbitesjournal on Instagram!

Pappy’s Smokehouse- St. Louis, Missouri

Ever since we moved to St. Louis, Andrew’s relatives have been suggesting we try Pappy’s Smokehouse. Finally, over spring break, we gave it a go. Boy! We probably should have tried it sooner, but I’m sure our pocketbooks are much happier that we waited! This has been my favorite barbecue we’ve found in the city!

20180321_131600

As you can see, Pappy’s is the type of place where you order at the counter and then your food is delivered to your table. You may also notice the small white board to the side where they will list anything that is sold out for the day. Since we went during lunch, nothing was sold out at that point, but given how busy and long the line was when we were there for a late lunch, it’s easy to see how they may sell out during the day. We both ordered brisket platters which come with two sides, and while the fried corn on the cob sounded like an interesting choice, I opted to upgrade my two sides to just one baked potato.

IMG_6048

Pappy’s has 4 different sauces in bottles out on their tables, Pappy’s original, Carolina Vinegar, Jane’s Sweet Sauce, and a spicy Hoodoo Sauce. Normally I’m a spicy person, but this time around, Pappy’s Original Sauce was my favorite.

IMG_6050

As you wait for your food to arrive, you can take in all the menus that have been signed by famous visitors.

20180321_133453

Finally our heaping baskets of food arrive. My potato was huge and the serving of brisket was also quite large and also comes served on a piece of toast. The brisket was the tastiest I’ve ever had but I wound up eating more potato than brisket while we were there only because I knew the brisket would be far easier to reheat at home than the potato would be. And I was right, the brisket did make for a wonderful lunch the following day as well! I just made sure to douse it with my favorite sauce before putting it into my to-go boxes. They have those boxes readily available for you to grab on your own since they don’t come back to your table after bringing the food to you since you’ve already paid when you ordered at the counter.

If you are looking for barbecue in St. Louis, there are many options, but in my opinion, this is your best bet!

Follow along with our travel adventures by following sitesandbitesjournal on Instagram or sign up to receive e-mail updates from this blog!