Continuing where we last left off was a short two-hour drive to the city of St. Louis, Missouri.
We were greeted by this cities very beautiful skyline. The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, better known as the Gateway Arch, stood big as life right next to us.
Our afternoon consisted of a visit to the monument itself. We took in the documentary of the making of the arch called “Monument to the Dream”. In retrospect, not so sure the movie was a good idea as it struck fear into our youngest about taking the teeny tiny tram up the 630 feet to the top.
They have a replica tram in the lobby so people can see what it will be like. They don’t recommend it if you are at all claustrophobic. Eventually we all made it to the top. So worth the harrowing tram right, but unnerving, as you actually walk over the very top of the arch, the walking surface is not flat, but curved.
The cost of the movie and tram were reasonable, $17.00 for adults and $7.50 for the kids. Each adult ticket includes a $3.00 National Park entrance fee.
Once back on flat ground, the kids completed a Junior Park Ranger Program. This took us inside the Museum of Westward Expansion which was free to peruse.
A statue of Thomas Jefferson points west towards the Pacific Ocean as you enter the museum, which shows his vision.
The display that really stood out for all of us were the lit cases of American Indian Peace Medals. Part of the JPR Program was to design your own medals. We ended up with Peace Medals with frogs, wolves, dragons and bats on them! That was a fun activity for the kids!
*There is a really cool statue of Lewis and Clark and their dog Seaman along the Mississippi River under the arch, good photo opportunity!
We began our last full day of vacation with a visit to the Ulysses S. Grant Historic Site. This is probably one of the nicest National Historic sites we have been to. Great museum!
We watched an introductory movie called ‘A Place called White Haven’.
We then took a tour of the Main House where he and his wife Julie Dent spent time. She lived there during the Civil War years when he was gone fighting for the Union. Before moving to the White House when he became our 18th president.
The kids completed a Junior Park Ranger Program here and we headed out.
All of the activities at White Haven were free. We (all four of us) really learned a lot about Ulysses S. Grant with this look into his personal life.
The afternoon consisted of a trip to the St. Louis Zoo, recommended by many. It was fantastic!
The weather was nice, the exhibits were great, and it gave us a break from all of that American history!
We did pay an extra $3.00 a person to pet and feed stingrays, but you could spend an entire day at this free zoo and have a blast!
Homeward bound….however, it would have been a mistake not to stop (it was on the way) in Hannibal, Missouri. For a visit to Mark Twain’s boyhood home. In about an hour and a half we were able to walk through the museum and tour his home and his neighborhood.
In the museum you could watch a Huck Finn movie while sitting on a raft and sound a steamboat whistle!
Upstairs of the museum they have a Norman Rockwell exhibit. I’m not a huge fan, but it was cool to see the original drawings next to the original finished paintings.
It was a good reminder for my husband and me to read all of the quotes around the museum that we had forgotten were Mark Twain’s.
We were pretty tired by this leg of our trip, so if our youngest only remembers he shares a birthday with Samuel Clemens, it was worth the stop.
The cost was $9.00 for adults and $5.00 for the kids.
To wrap it all up, two days of driving and four full days of activities basically for the cost of gas and lodging. Our hotels all had complimentary breakfasts and we ate a picnic lunch most days. One of the best things we own is an plug-in cooler for the van!
Most importantly, of the three American heroes this trip focused on, two of them were mostly self-educated.
Abraham Lincoln with one year of formal schooling and Mark Twain, ‘father of American literature’, only attended elementary school.
Ulysses S. Grant lived on a farm, then attended school, Presbyterian Academy and then on to West Point.
Homeschoolers might appreciate a few of Mark Twain’s quotes on education.
Until next time……