Couples with a hankering for something different might want to consider a space-aged guided tour around Forest Park aboard a Segway Human Transporter.
Since they first began rolling off assembly lines a decade ago, these two-wheeled self-balancing machines have captivated the public's attention, but relatively few people have had a chance to wheel around on one of the devices.
The Saint Louis Science Center aims to correct that through a number of Segway training and touring programs perfect for first-time riders and veterans alike.
Most of the programs commence with a training session inside the science center before venturing outdoors for a tour around Forest Park. The basic training sessions can be a little disconcerting at first, since riding a Segway is unlike anything else.
Rather than relying on a throttle, the Segway speeds up and slows down based on the rider's posture: Rock forward on your toes, and it moves forward. Lean harder still, and it speeds up. When you want to stop, you simply lean back on your heels. The Segway turns from side-to-side through the use of handles that work more like gaming controls than bike grips. The Segway doesn't offer much in the way of shock absorption, so riders are advised to stand with their legs slightly bent to absorb the little jolts that result from gravel or rough pavement.
After a brief instructional video and 15 or 20 minutes of closely supervised training, most riders get the hang of it. The hardest skills to master are stopping, parking and maneuvering up the first few hills, but in short order they become second nature.
For first-time riders, a number of tours are available, each of which includes basic training and is led by at least one trained guide:
The Glided Tour of Forest Park runs about three hours and costs $80 per rider ($75 for science center members). The tour takes riders across roads, paths and bike trails to visit some of the park's most popular attractions including the Missouri History Museum, Jewel Box and Steinberg Skating Rink but also lesser-known points of interest like the Korean War Memorial and the Confederate Army Memorial.
The Sunrise Segways tour is a great way to kick off the day. Slightly longer than the Glided Tour (3.5 hours) and slightly more expensive ($95 or $90 for members), this program offers the added benefit of breakfast at Forest Perk Cafe during the tour.
The Nature Glide 'n Brunch tour puts the focus on the park's natural splendors rather than its manmade highlights. It also includes brunch. The tour lasts about three and a half hours and costs $95 per person ($90 for members). For those later to rise, the Nature Glide 'n Lunch tour is also available for the same cost and tour length as Nature Glide 'n Brunch.
Riders who complete any of these tours will receive a "Segway License" from the science center, which enables riders to take more advanced tours like Segway Date Night and Advanced Glide. Additional tours are offered in Alton and Hartford, Illinois.
Tours move at a leisurely pace with plenty of stops built in to rehydrate and take in the sights. The Segways top out at about 12 miles per hour, and more adventurous riders get a chance to test out those limits, though the majority of the ride is much slower.
Tour guides offer mini-history lessons on the various points of interest throughout the park, and even if some of their observations are factually suspect, chances are you'll be too charmed by the experience to mind.
Water bottles are provided, but you might want to bring along a Cliff Bar or another simple snack. Riders participating in a daytime tour should also bring along some sunscreen. The Segways are equipped with small packs to hold all of your essentials.
Programs are offered at various times throughout the week and are open to riders ages 16 and up, making Segway tours not just a great getaway for mom and dad but also a great excursion for families with older teens.
To learn more about the Saint Louis Science Center's Segway programs and schedules, visit their website. Make reservations by calling 314-289-1418 or 800-456-7572, ext. 1418.
Pictured: Top, Jeff Konkel braves his first Segway ride through Forest Park.
Bottom, A participant in a Segway Scramble at Saint Louis Science Center. Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Science Center.