Our first stop just might be one of the closest buildings to the Missouri River, the Lewis and Clark Boat House and Nature Center in St. Charles. A two-story building, the bottom "floor" is open-air and houses several boats, including a keelboat and two pirogues. They are all replicas of what carried Lewis and Clark up the Missouri River during their expedition, and they were used to reenact the historic journey during the bicentennial celebration (watch a clip of these boats in action, courtesy of KETC's Living St. Louis). Visitors can climb onto platforms to peer into the wooden boats, and Michael particularly enjoyed this.
On his own expedition, Michael made a beeline for an open patio surrounded by crops and plants native to Missouri. A hiking trail curves into the bottomland forest next to the boat house, but it appeared too flooded to explore, so we headed to higher ground, the museum above the boat house.
For its small size, the museum was well-appointed, and the kids enjoyed peering into the small cabins and buildings (in fact, Michael would have happily climbed all the way into the buildings). Michael's brother's particularly liked completing the animal scavenger hunt through the museum, finding a woodchuck, fox, raccoon, frog and others. A movie was playing in an adjoining room, but given the attention span of my entourage, we didn't attempt it. Instead, we stepped out onto a deck for a sweeping and gorgeous view of the Big Muddy. Albeit interesting and educational, I'll save a future visit for when my kids are older and can truly appreciate the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
From the boat house, we took off on foot through Frontier Park along the Katy Trail. A sliver of floodplain, the park had three things going for it, according to Michael: trains, airplanes and fish. Two cabooses and the charming MKT Depot call Frontier Park home. Unfortunately, all were just for looking at, not touring. Located just south of the flight path for Lambert St. Louis airport, the park makes a good place for spotting planes on their final descent. A few feet from a walking path, the flooded Missouri River had created a shallow pond, loaded with very active fish. We watched them jump and splash for a bit before heading uphill to Historic Main Street.
Wilting in the excessive July heat, we decided our next stop should be Riverside Sweets. The handmade candy shop operates an ice cream parlor and a separate storefront where you can watch them make fudge, and enjoy candied apples, ice cream and several other treats. The air in the store was thick with the smell of fudge. The kids decided to split a large vanilla ice cream, while I opted for the cookie dough flavor. We grabbed a shady bench near a gazebo and quietly inhaled our ice cream.
We did a bit of window shopping along the storefronts on Main Street as we headed back to the car. With stomachs full of ice cream and a few history lessons tucked under our belts, we hit the road for home.
Lewis and Clark Boat House and Nature Center
Bishop's Landing, 1050 S. Riverside Drive, St. Charles, Mo., 63301, 636-947-3199
Cost is $4 for adults, $2 for children under 17
500 S. Riverside Drive, St. Charles, Mo., 63301
416 S Main St., St. Charles , Mo., 63301, 636-724-4131
1)The gardens surrounding the Lewis and Clark Boat House include native plants, crops and a dug-out canoe. 2) Michael loved the replica buildings in the boat house museum. 3) The Katy Trail leads right through Frontier Park. 4) With its cobblestone streets and sidewalks, Main Street in St. Charles is like stepping back in time. 5) Three boys devoured a cup of vanilla ice cream from Riverside Sweets.
About Meandering with Michael
Let me introduce you to Michael, the unofficial ambassador of St. Louis Sprout. Like most toddlers, Michael meanders. He roams about until something catches his eye, and then, he's off to explore. In "Meandering with Michael" I follow Michael through the region to learn more about the things that catch his attention. We start with a map or pictures of different things or places. He points to something, and we're off to explore. Let's meander...
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