Wednesday, May 28, 2008

first airplane ride

We survived a 3 hour flight to St. Louis, MO. The background story is my husband, Marc, didn't want to go. He says it's a hole and never wants to go back. I, of course, want to see everywhere and really want to go. 12 hours before our flight, my husband was still trying to cancel our hotel. Secretly and outwardly, I was happy that he was unsuccessful.

We went to the airport 3 hours early. We needed to check 4 bags, 2 car seats and walk with 4 kids (ages 7, 5, 3 and 2). We ended up using curbside check-in. Saved us a lot of time and hassle dragging our bags. It was worth every penny. We took a 11 am flight so we had enough time to grab some breakfast and let the kids run off some steam. We boarded last and had a great flight. We managed to snag a free upgrade at Thrifty to the new Town and Country mini-van. The seats turned so that the kids could face each other. It was great fun and entertainment for them. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza in downtown St. Louis. We had a HUGE room with 2 queen beds and a pull out couch. The best part was we had a view of the Mississippi River and St. Louis Arch from our room. We found a great breakfast place about 2 blocks away at Panera Bread. It was non-smoking (smoking is still allowed in Missouri restaurants) and had great bagels that we could take with us everyday.

The sites - there is a lot to see and we only had 3 days. Unfortunately the timing and weather didn't allow us to go see a Cardinals game, but we will be back for that. We spent the first day sight-seeing. It was the nicest day of the trip. We viewed the museum at the base of the Arch. It is small and easy for the kids to see everything. We bought a ticket to the top of the arch and had time to do a riverboat cruise first. It was a beautiful bright day to ride on a paddle boat. The Mississippi was smaller than I thought, but it has a fast current and the driver had fascinating stories and facts to share with us. The beginning of April is a great time to go to Missouri as everything was relatively uncrowded. We went back to the Arch and got in line for our ride to the top. This is NOT for the claustrophobic people. The elevator is tiny!! It has 5 seats (we held our youngest on our lap) and is small enough that I had to lean forward to not hit my head. It crawls up slowly to the top. The top is very small. I never realized that I was afraid of heights until we were up there. The kids loved climbing the walls and leaning out over the windows that look down at the water and ground. The views of downtown were impressive, but after 10 minutes, I was ready to go. My family got a thrill out of watching me stand in the middle with my arms crossed and panic trying not to set in.

We drove around town and into Indiana for the rest of the day. We stopped at the Cahokia Mounds in Indiana and walked around for awhile. It was closed and would be more interesting to see the museum. We made a pilgrimage to White Castle for burgers. The kids and Marc LOVE them, I think they were pretty gross and opted to eat a few fries instead.

The next day we went to City Museum. For anyone with kids, this is the place to go. It is 4 stories of exploring for kids. The museum uses recycled products to make everything. There is a giant whale for them to climb in to get to the 2nd floor. There are paths and tunnels and slides everywhere. The bad part is trying to keep track of where they are. It is not a place to carry a bag because you need to crawl and stoop through many narrow openings if you are trying to keep track of them. The top floor has an art studio and a train. There is even a circus performance twice a day. There was a great outdoors area for them to explore (if it had been open). Due to rain and chance of thunderstorms, the outside was closed. We spent many hours here though. Afterwards, we went for pizza and got my coveted St. Louis toasted raviolis. They were delicious. We went to the Union Station mall after that. It looked wonderful online and is very pretty to see a converted train station. But in the end, it was just a mall.

The last day was reserved for Forest Park. An amazing HUGE park that has museums and the zoo. We could have spent all 3 days here. We didn't make it to any of the museums, but we spent 5 hours at the zoo. The zoo is free after paying $10 to park. We bought wristbands for the children's zoo, caroseul and train ride. We used our local zoo pass to get 1/2 off. The zoo has the BEST penguin exhibit I have ever seen. Also the hippo exhibit. The hippos have a glass wall to watch them swim underwater. They were swimming along the glass wall and pushing off to turn around. This scared my 2 year old, but was awesome to watch for the rest of us.

We flew home on a Saturday on an 8am flight. We didn't have the luxury of curbside check-in because our car rental was off site. But the driver was really great to carry our luggage over for us. We managed to get everything inside in one trip and hold on to all the kids. We got checked in and had time to grab coffee and pastries from Starbucks at the airport. We managed to sit behind the same man going both to and from St. Louis. The kids must have been really good because our flight wasn't full and he didn't ask to move. We had coloring books and puzzles for the younger two and our PSP and Nintendo DS for the older two. The movie was the same both ways and wasn't geared towards children. The way home felt a lot longer, but they did good. I am looking forward to more flights and vacations with them.

The only thing I would change would be getting suites when we travel. It would be nice to put them to bed and go into another room to read or watch TV without disturbing them. They all had a hard time falling asleep with the TV or lights on. And Marc and I weren't ready to turn in at 8pm each night.

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