bert goes to St Louis and gets all touristy - Trip Report

Day 4: Last day of trip - Grant's Farm now posted (finally!)
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bert goes to St Louis and gets all touristy - Trip Report

Postby bert425 » Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:06 pm

so every year, my spouse and I try to do a trip together to someplace we've never been.

it's always a fun adventure, and if you've read my TRs in the past, you know we try to mix in a lot of culture with our fun, even if it's a quick trip
(I never have a lot of vacation time for "our" trips, since I do a lot of solo things - mainly Dragon*con in Atlanta, but also other solo trips - that eat up all my vacation days).

last year, we did a 3 day visit to Niagara Falls - and had a blast. This year we bounced around a few ideas, and tho Dollywood/Branson/the Smokies will happen some day, I only have so much vacation time . . so we settled on a trip to St Louis to experience the Arch. Something neither of us had ever seen, and always wanted to.

so after planning it out, we got up early - like 2:30 am early - to head to the airport for our 2019 adventure.

it will likely take me a week or more (at least), to get the days up, since I took a lot of pics . . . and you may have noticed I tend to get overly detailed and type a lot.

But wanted to at least get the TR started, so I can tell what I'll be posting.

on this 4 day trip, we went to:

-- St Louis Zoo
-- St Louis Museum of Art
-- the Old Courthouse (site of Dred Scott case)
-- the Gateway Arch National Park
-- the City Museum
-- Six Flags St Louis
&
-- Grant's Farm

every one of them was excellent and can't wait to share my pics/stories from each stop.

oh, and we had GORGEOUS weather, for all 4 days - our trip weather mojo working in full effect. yep, it had been pouring for weeks, and the rivers and large portions of the area were flooded (which meant cancellation of our Riverboat ride, but what can you do? nature) - but from the moment we stepped out of the airport, until the moment we flew back home yesterday? beautiful weather in St. Louis, and perfect for all of our sightseeing.

will try to get up the first part in the next couple of days! -- have to start typing up, and get the photos downloaded from the phone.

I tell you, only 2 days off of work (with the weekend, 4 days total), but still got creamed today with action items .. so didn't even get to upload pics today! :(

one "funny" thing to note - I purposely planned this trip on a weekend the Cardinals were out of town, since we were staying in downtown St. Louis. Right by the convention center/Gateway Arch National Park/Stadiums.
so what happened while we were there? Yep, the St. Louis Blues (who were ranked last in the league back in Feb), ended up in the Stanley Cup playoffs - with game 6, that could win it all for them, happening on Sunday night. oy.

yep, downtown was NUTS, with "Blues" parties everywhere, and our hotel actually ended up being the home base for the news organizations that were covering the playoffs! LOL. . .it was noisy until about 11pm, when it was obvious the Blues weren't gonna win, and the series ended up tied 3-3 and going to game 7 to decide on Wednesday night.

I mean, because they didn't win, we weren't kept up all night with the partying - the St. Louis folks LOVE their hockey (we had no idea). But it was funny to us.

anyways. . full TR starting soon.

bert
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Re: bert goes to St Louis and gets all touristy - Trip Repor

Postby ytterbiumanalyst » Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:25 pm

Glad you had a good time in Missouri! Looking forward to the report.
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Re: bert goes to St Louis and gets all touristy - Trip Repor

Postby prozach626 » Wed Jun 12, 2019 10:08 am

Not sure what you're complaining about with the Blues fan crowds. I mean... there were only an estimated extra 40,000 people in our small downtown area... :)

I'm looking forward to an outsider's perspective. With our park not being a large draw, it's rare to hear about an outsider's detailed perspective.

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Re: bert goes to St Louis and gets all touristy - Trip Repor

Postby bert425 » Wed Jun 12, 2019 1:46 pm

Day 1: part 1 St Louis Zoo

So we got up insanely early, and headed to the airport in Austin for our 5:30 am flight.

Because we were leaving so early on a Friday, the traffic was almost nothing so we made great time. Parking was a breeze at the airport.
Checking our bag, and Security were very fast too, since we were there before the morning rush of Business Travelers. Heck, we were actually at our gate by 4:15, a good 15 minutes before even the Coffee Stands / food stands in the Austin Airport were open.

Austin – Bergstrom is an International Airport, but if you have a flight before 4:30am, or arrive back post 10pm? Good luck finding anything open in the Airport – which is a shame, since the Austin airport is filled with local eateries / companies, and there really are some great options.

We flew Southwest - our preferred carrier for direct flights - and as is typical these days (especially with some other airlines cancelling flights due to the Boeing stuff), the flight was COMPLETELY full. At least we know the drill to check in 24 hours in advance, so we had our choice of seats as we were low B boarding numbers. Nick prefers window, and I get a little claustrophobic, so I like the aisle seat.

But as it was a full flight, we did end up with someone between us – who in addition to her huge bag, also had a small dog in a carrier that she put under the seat in front of her.

Side note: it’s been about 9 months since I’ve flown anywhere, but at that time there wasn’t this current thing that folks travel with animals in animal carry ons. Not only on our flight, but we saw TONS of small dogs in travel carriers in the St Louis airport upon arrival, as well as while waiting for our flight back. Is this the new trend?

Anyways, she was a nice enough center seat companion . . . although she kept opening up the carrier zipper while boarding, all the while saying “I’m not supposed to open it, but look how sweet he is!!!” Nick and I just rolled our eyes at each other behind her (she was leaning forward rubbing the dog’s head), and getting a little concerned when she turned to me and said “you’ll have to watch him when I get up to pee, which will be a lot”.

Turned out not to be an issue, as by the time the plane started to back away from the gate – literally 5 minute after she was telling me about how much she had to pee – she was out cold. And slept thru the 1:45 flight, only waking up long enough to shift over and fall asleep with her head leaning into Nick’s space, or into mine, or with her head lolling straight back in the chair. It was pretty odd, but gave me the impression there was some sort of “self-medicating” that had taken place prior to the flight .. as quickly as she was out.

At least we didn’t have to make conversation during the flight (and the dog stayed quiet the whole time too). . LOL

We arrived in St. Louis just after 7am and I was pleased to note how nice the weather was looking.

I hated booking a flight so early, but did so because: 1) it was a direct flight & 2) it would put us into town so early, we could spend the whole day at the Zoo and still make it check in by 4pm. My plan had been: pick up car rental, get to zoo by 9am opening, stay in zoo until at least 1 then head to Art Museum for a couple of hours, and head to hotel by 3:30. Backup plan for rain was to be Art Museum / Science Museum as they are both indoors. . but didn’t need it as the day was gorgeous.

We were able to quickly get our bag, and since so early, we stopped at the Info booth at the airport where a very nice gentleman pulled out a St Louis map (that included all the tourist areas), and gave me a quick tour of routes that would be good to use to get where we wanted to go. I had google mapped everything, and had the print outs with us, but I liked his map better. It was so easy to follow, and we made great use of it during our days in town.

We took the shuttle to the car rental (Dollar), and again the folks there were very nice and happy to see us – again no lines. . LOL, I guess flying early on a Friday is the way to avoid lines everywhere. He “liked” me so much, he offered me a Mini-van for only $55 a day “usually $105”. I told him no thanks, so he offered me a Sedan for $35 a day. Again, no thanks, the $24 a day car I had booked was just fine.

Ended up being more than fine – a Toyota Corolla that got fantastic gas mileage, as well as having a big enough trunk that we could easily lock the Suitcase & Carry on out of sight.

He wasn’t thrilled I didn’t upgrade, but handed over the keys and we were off to the zoo, with the map I had gotten from the information booth guy.

One thing we noticed while driving: not one cop spotted on Fri/Sat or Sun on the way to Six Flags. The only time we saw any police in St Louis was on Monday coming back from Grant’s Farm – and I think that was only because we were taking side streets and got a “tour” of some of the city neighborhoods. But on the main freeways? *everyone* was speeding, and we never saw any Police Cars.

Maybe they all just drive undercover cars? Not that it mattered, as *I*, of course, drove the speed limit.

Anyways.. . . . on to 1st batch of pictures:
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St Louis, I am in you!
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we're looking pretty perky considering how early we had gotten up (with only a few hours sleep). . and considering how long this 1st day was gonna be.

but I think that's the Spirit of St Louis (or at least a replica, since the original is at the Smithsonian), so of course we stopped to take a pic.
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we got to the zoo about 30 minutes before opening, but that was fine as it allowed us to get some great parking near the entrance, as well as to take our time looking at all the great sculptures scattered around the South Entrance to the Zoo (the North Entrance is facing the interior of Forest Park).

Parking was $15, but once we parked at the zoo, we left the car there when we went over to the Art Museum later.
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this sculpture is a lioness carrying one of her cubs. . . but from the angle Nick too the picture? I think it looks like a lion carrying a warthog's severed head !
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multiple sculptures all around the entrance to the Zoo, here in the parking lot, and also across the bridge toward the entrance gates.
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said bridge, over the road.
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Chronologically, we're 112 years old together.

mentally? we're maybe 12 total? :p
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on the zoo side now, looking back at the bridge.
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what's great about the attractions in Forest Park, and many of the attractions in St Louis, is that they are all free. The only cost is the parking. So the Zoo, the Art Museum, the Science Museum were all free admission, and you only pay for any "upgrade" or special attractions you want to do.

in the zoo, I/We absolutely wanted to do the Train and the Carousel they have on site, and I had just planned to buy tickets for those - but the zoo ambassador out front did a fantastic job of upselling us to the Adventure Pass - which at $14 was only $2 more than it would have cost us for just the train & carousel.

Instead, with Adventure Pass wristband, we got unlimited rides on both, plus the Sea Lion show, an opportunity to touch stingrays/sharks, and a 4D film (which we didn't bother with, as it was themed to the movie "Smallfoot", so we had no interest). A great deal.
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Nick attempting to "kiss the cobra"
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we're now inside the zoo, and we headed directly for the train, to take a lap around the zoo and get the layout.
and to experience the train, which several folks has told us "DO NOT MISS"

because we had gotten there right at opening, the train wasn't quite ready yet, so we hung out near the "River's Edge" section station, and took some pics.

Granted, it was helped by all the rain the city had been getting, but the grounds of the St Louis Zoo are SO lush. Just beautiful.

the "River's Edge" section is the only portion of the zoo we didn't end up going thru - not that we woudln't have minded seeing the animals over there (even tho we'd seen them before at other zoos, or at Busch Gardens' parks). . but because this one section is heavily themed with winding, uneven paths and hills - and Nick had left his cane in the car, thinking the zoo would be mainly flat. I had MADE him take his cane on the trip, and he begrudgingly agreed to make me happy.

He didn't want to go back to the car and get it, and since we had seen all of the animals featured in this section, I was fine to bypass it, and focus on the rest of the zoo.

Spoiler, all the walking this first day really did a number on him, and by the late afternoon he was using the cane, and used it heavily for the rest of the trip.
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these shots are from the first few hundred feet of the River's Edge section.

it really is lovely. .but honestly, the whole zoo is amazing. I think it might be my favorite zoo I've ever been to, knocking San Diego out of my top spot.

yes, I loved it that much.
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River's Edge waterfall
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and with the tooting of the train horn in the distance, we knew it was time to get a ride on the train so we went back to the station (about 9:15 am).

We were the only ones in line at this station -- something that would change in just a couple of hours, when they went from just 1 train to 3, and every station would have full queue lines.
(but with the 3 trains on the tracks, the afternoon lines still went pretty fast)

so the Station Engineer posed with me
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as did the Train Conductor who came over to say hello to us, as we were joining his train at this stop.
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wood seats, but an absolutely lovely train. that makes a nice long loop around the zoo, and you can see some of the exhibits from the train only (or better from the train).
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and here it is. . the back side of water! (that's the South Entrance to the zoo out there)
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a view from the train across the lagoon, looking towards the South Entrance
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take the tunnel !

there are 3 tunnels on this train (I think) . . several of them very long. So damn neat.

and like at a theme park train tunnel, everyone hooted and hollared when the train went thru the tunnels.
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at the train station, you get an amazing view of the Tigers.

(yes, this is while we are on the train letting people get on from this station)
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we passed another train getting ready to be added to the tracks on our trip around the 2nd time.
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we rode completely around the park, then stayed on the train to go back to the station over in "the Wild" area.

why?

because that's where the Zoo's "Conservation Carousel" is of course!
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for Larry - if he wanted a ride sign :)
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This is an absolutely stellar Carousel.

yes, it's themed to animals/conservation, so no standard horses or chariots here . . but they are taking incredible care of it (a couple of animals were "missing" and the operator told me they cycle them off occasionally to rehab them).

the array of animals to choose from is among the best I've ever seen, with some gorgeous painting all over it - interior panels, exterior panels, all over this carousel is just some fantastic artwork depicting animals. Most of the animals are "sponsored" with plaques under them, and all of them have the name of the animal on the wooden beams overhead. so it's a learning experience at the same time as a beautiful carousel running a nice long program.

I *loved* this thing, and we rode it multiple times, including back to back after our 1st ride (got off and immediately got back in line).

if I had to say one negative thing about it? the lack of classic carousel music.
yes, they were playing some music thru speakers, but it was all more modern songs, mainly with "animal" themes. I mean, I get it . . . . but still wish it had Carousel music.

Still loved it tho, and it made my top 3 favorite carousels.
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just beautiful.
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yep.. . . everywhere you look. . beautiful
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this tall guy squeezed onto this tiny puffin, cracked me up.

(but i got a chance to ride it later in the day too :) )
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technically, according to the wooden beam above, I was riding a constrictor snake. . .but c'mon.

I was riding a Log.

and I loved it.
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Nick rode a hippo
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I love my log.

I wanted to carry it around with me all day, like the Twin Peaks lady.
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beautiful
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the view from my log. . .
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after we got back in line, for our 2nd ride. . . I chose to ride:
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a Silverback Gorilla.

while Nick rode a Black Leopard.
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I thought it was a Panther.

but nope. . the wood don't lie !
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hey.. .they have a b-unny here too! (the b_unny is "my" ride at SFFT Grand Carousel). But with so many options here, I had to play the field a little bit!
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they even have a sea lion and her pups as an option to ride.
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We took a break to eat something, as it was already 10:30 and we hadn't eaten anything yet since getting up that morning.

I know it was ~10:30 by now, because we had decided that we'd catch the 11am Sea Lion show (it was included with our adventure bands), and then after that start exploring the animal exhibits.

we weren't super hungry, so ended up at Carousel Cafe, which overlooks the lake across from the carousel - a lake full of ducks and flamingos. Very pretty.

we had pretzel wrapped turkey and cheese - it was an "almost as good as Busch Gardens Pretzel stand" snack.


more zoo pics in next post.
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Re: bert goes to St Louis and gets all touristy - Trip Repor

Postby bert425 » Wed Jun 12, 2019 8:03 pm

zoo pics continued:
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We've arrived for the Sea Lion show - yes, they do "tricks" but there is a lot of education mixed in as well, so really appreciated that.

it looks a bit empty, but it would fill in as the show got ready to start.
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see? more people!

and the sea lions get pretty close to the crowd.

at one point, the trainer gives the sea lion a frisbee in the water, and it flings it into the crowd (and these people almost killed each other trying to snag it for one of their children. . . I dunno, I just imagine after a couple of hours (and in a hot car), that ain't gonna smell too great, since it comes out of the water - not to mention a sea lion's mouth.
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I'd recommend stopping in to see this if you are at the zoo.
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they are loud too. . and funny. Yes, I realize it's training, but still pretty impressive to watch.
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after the show, you can hang around and take a picture with the sea lions.

(not sure if they charge for them,but assume if you get the professional photog they do, since they had that set up for petting the stingrays). We actually intended to stay, but then forgot, and when we noticed they were out for pics with the audience, we were already up the hill behind the show stadium (the area IS called "Historic Hill") headed toward the Herpetarium for the snakes, and I wasn't about to ask Nick to go back down the hill just to get a pic closer to the sea lions. . since I had already taken a bunch during the show.
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Giant tortoises!
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they were moving. Slooooooowly. . but moving :)
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this guy was just pretending to be a rock tho.

probably hoping someone would come along and step on him so he could bite em!
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ssssssssssssssssss
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It was humid in here (of course), and there were TONS of school groups (or maybe daycamp groups) as it was Friday late morning already. .but the amount of unique reptiles in here made it well worth going into the building.

same true of the monkey house next door too. . which not only was humid and crowded, but had that distinct monkey odor. still worth going in tho.
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I felt like doing what these dudes wee doing - just climbing on top of someone and taking a quick nap.

but I was still pretty perky.
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just chillin on a rock, by a cactus.
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you can really tell this is an historic zoo, just from the impressive architecture and reliefs all over the place.

this is inside the Herpetarium
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this snake is horny !
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and this guy was attracted to the lights coming from above.

he was striking at the lamp covering .
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the zoo really is so lovely, you forget you're in the middle of a city. (and actually, it's not just the zoo that's this nice - the whole park is beautiful).
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in the monkey house, looking at lemurs.
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um. . it depends on what angle you are standing at when you first see this statue outside the monkeyhouse. . but um. . .yeah, made us do a double take.

LOL

they are building a new play area to be more interactive with the monkeys, and honestly, I had such a great time at this zoo? I'm more than willing to come back next year for a weekend visit JUST to go to the zoo and Six Flags.

we shall see.
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Zebras (in the Red Rocks section of the zoo)
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and beautiful giraffes
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Don't remember what this guy is -- but it looks like a zebra got busy with a Giraffe!
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Nick was starting to fade, so he sat on a bench outside the "Worlds Fair 1904 Flight Cage" while I took a look at the birds
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absolutely LOVED the mosaic on the outside of this "flight Cage" attraction.
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the pictures really do not do it justice. This mosaic was incredible.
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the "Jungle of the Apes" Gorilla enclosure in "the Wild" section of the zoo
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3 different big guys, just hanging out enjoying the sunny day
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and then it was back to the Carousel for another ride.

Nick's legs were starting to give him trouble (we really should have gone back for his cane early in the day :(. . but he did well, just needed to rest a lot). . so he rode "bench", while I rode. . . .
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the PUFFIN!
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hehehe
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I was so proud that I fit on it :)
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We headed towards the North Zoo Entrance, as I still planned to go to the Art Museum, but hit all the animal exhibits along the way, including the polar bear.
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who was hanging out in the pool, since he's no fool, and the sun had come out to warm up the afternoon.
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so tho Nick's legs were acting up, I convinced him to come with me thru the Penguin & Puffin coast exhibit.

no ice in there, as SeaWorld Orlando has (the trainer I chatted with inside told me it was due to SWO having Emperor Penguins, so they need to keep it colder), but it was nice and chilly in the exhibit, and we spent a good 15 minutes enjoying watching the penguins (and talking to the trainer there).

She had to keep stopping our conversation to scold people who were reaching over the "do not put your hands in the water" sign, to dip their hands into the water (to see how cold it is, I guess).

sheesh. . I hate people sometimes.
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Penguins!
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just hanging out on rocks.
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and on the edge of rocks
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Puffins too!
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and then we went next door to the Grizzly Ridge area, where the two bears were having an absolute ball - playing with toys, and jumping in and out of the waterfall.
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the space is designed really, really well. . so folks visiting can get some great views of the bears from multiple angles.
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oh, and they have a big bear statue out front. . so of COURSE I had to get a pic with it.

doesn't help me to *not* want a pic, when the statue seems to be saying "guuuuurl"
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playing in the water
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this pic is actually out of order a little bit, as this is from when we came back from the Museum, and took the train around from the North Entrance to our car at the South Entrance.

but it's a zoo pic, so put it in this batch.

we're in the queue line waiting for our chance to board.. at this point they had multiple trains on the track, and the queue line was pretty long.

the line was long enough that we went a little past the Train Station, down to the Stingrays at Caribbean Cove to touch them and the small sharks before doubling back to the Train station to head to the hotel.

but that was not until after 3:30. . . for now, after the Bears? we were gonna head out the North Gate, and attempt the St. Louis Museum of Art.
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Re: bert goes to St Louis and gets all touristy - Trip Repor

Postby TBpony414 » Wed Jun 12, 2019 8:56 pm

Hooray your TR has begun!! I knew you’d get it going quickly!

What a disappointment to hear that zoo carousel doesn’t play traditional music, which means no organ. But the various animals are absolutely fantastic on it so I guess it evens out. FYI the unidentified zebra-giraffe you photographed is an African animal called an Okapi. :)


The waterfalls and beautiful pathways all over the zoo are really incredible. I had no idea St. Louis had such a pretty zoo! Thanks for all the pics of it. I do love that mosaic mural. Can’t wait to hear about the rest of your trip!
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Re: bert goes to St Louis and gets all touristy - Trip Repor

Postby tinaalsgirl » Wed Jun 12, 2019 8:57 pm

Oh wow, looks like you guys had an amazing day! I'm definitely jealous. I haven't been to the St. Louis Zoo since I was a kid.... and right now I live about 1.5hrs from there and have done for 5 years and still haven't made it back there. It looks SO nice!

I'm really enjoying your TR; can't wait for the next entry!

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Re: bert goes to St Louis and gets all touristy - Trip Repor

Postby bert425 » Wed Jun 12, 2019 9:13 pm

TBpony414 wrote:Hooray your TR has begun!! I knew you’d get it going quickly!

What a disappointment to hear that zoo carousel doesn’t play traditional music, which means no organ. But the various animals are absolutely fantastic on it so I guess it evens out. FYI the unidentified zebra-giraffe you photographed is an African animal called an Okapi. :)


The waterfalls and beautiful pathways all over the zoo are really incredible. I had no idea St. Louis had such a pretty zoo! Thanks for all the pics of it. I do love that mosaic mural. Can’t wait to hear about the rest of your trip!


Okapi!

that's right. . .LOL.. now that you said it, I remember.

even with the no-traditional-music, the Carousel quickly made it into my top 3. It's just so lovely, I have probably a dozen more pics of it that I didn't post!

yeah, it's a huge, and really good zoo - with lots of semi-rare & rare animals. and it's FREE ! you could spend the whole day there and not ride the Carousel or Train (tho really, why would you do THAT), and not spend a penny other than parking - and there is free street parking by the Museum, so you could park there and walk over to the zoo.

but since the parking costs support the zoo, i didn't mind at all :)

but I loved the zoo so much, I really DO want to go back for a weekend next year just to do the zoo again, and six flags.
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Re: bert goes to St Louis and gets all touristy - Trip Repor

Postby bert425 » Wed Jun 12, 2019 9:17 pm

tinaalsgirl wrote:Oh wow, looks like you guys had an amazing day! I'm definitely jealous. I haven't been to the St. Louis Zoo since I was a kid.... and right now I live about 1.5hrs from there and have done for 5 years and still haven't made it back there. It looks SO nice!

I'm really enjoying your TR; can't wait for the next entry!


thanks!

as noted to TBPony above, the zoo really is so good, that I totally want to go back to spend another full day, and really go thru the River's Edge Section, as well as spend a bunch of time in the Children's zoo area.

we avoided spending much time in there during our visit because there were just so many kids there.

don't get me wrong, I'm *thrilled* to see so many kids at a zoo (or a museum). . . it's great that they are experiencing these places. . . . LOL, but I don't wanna be in the Children's zoo area when it's so packed. ya know?
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Re: bert goes to St Louis and gets all touristy - Trip Repor

Postby ytterbiumanalyst » Wed Jun 12, 2019 9:19 pm

Awesome! St. Louis Zoo is one of the very best zoos out there, and it's free! I love the sea lion show and the penguin/puffin exhibit. Glad you got to see both of those.

The zoo was actually built for the 1904 World's Fair, and the birdcage is part of the original fair zoo. It's a lovely and historical exhibit (and the inspiration for the pterasaur cage in Jurassic Park 3).

Forest Park itself originated as the 1904 fairgrounds. So you were at an amusement park (the remnants of one at least)!
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