One Long weekend we packed up our bags and headed up the Mississippi River. Having a young reader who is learning American History and adores the history of The Walt Disney Company made this a perfect trip.
First Stop, St. Louis, Missouri.
Bogart’s Smokehouse to be exact. Thanks to Bryan Lemon who does photography for us we hit the home of St. Louis BBQ hard. This popular BBQ restaurant did not disappoint. They serve Memphis and St Louis specialties in a laid back, casual restaurant that always has a line out the door. They serve all kinds of smokey meats but we went for the pork ribs. They were served in a generous portion and were juicy and so full of flavor. The BBQ sauces were a perfect accompaniment to the smokey meats. Not to be missed are their side items. We had the baked beans—perfectly sweet, smokey and peppery. But the real winner was the Deviled Egg Potato Salad. Wow! Two of our favorites combined to make the perfect side dish. This place definitely lives up to the hype.
The St. Louis Gateway Arch you have to drive by and just gaze at the marvel. This is the world’s tallest arch and was built as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States. It is commonly referred to as “The Gateway to the West” and is a popular tourist destination. The arch was completed in 1965 and is a 630-foot monument, clad in stainless steel. Tourists can travel to the top for views of the Mississippi River, southern Illinois and the city of St. Louis. (Side Note: Did this as a slimmer younger person and it was a tight spot. Do take head it’s a tight journey. At least in the 1990s). We found this to be a great family educational experience. The museum, which is newly renovated and updated, is very informative and allows you to explore what it took to win the west. Don’t miss this iconic monument to American history!
Imo’s pizza is not really a small business as it’s St. Louis’ favorite chain for pizza. Is it good? Are you familiar with Provel cheese? Neither were we….St. Louis has created their own kind of processed cheese and the locals go crazy for it (us not so much and yes we did. Just changed tastes like three times in our mouth)! It is a blend of cheddar, Swiss and provolone cheeses. It has a low melting point and has a gooey texture at room temperature which makes it the perfect topping for a St. Louis style pizza. We tried this specialty cheese at Imo’s Pizza “Original St. Louis Style Pizza”. Our conclusion was it’s not that good or bad, just really different. The crust was super thin and it was loaded with gooey Provel cheese. I think you’ve gotta try it when you’re in St. Louis. It might just be your new favorite (ours is still Buddy’s in Detroit)!
You can visit Mark Twain’s boyhood home which sure does feel like Huck and Tom’s as well! Located in Hannibal, Missouri, this was the home of author Samuel Langhome Clements, better known as Mark Twain. The small town of Hannibal offers plenty of exhibits to explore including Twain’s boyhood home, Becky Thatcher’s house, museums that include his personal artifacts, statues, and Huckleberry Finn’s house. You can have a Mark Twain-like adventure when you explore local caves, ride a raft, pilot a steamboat and paint the famous whitewashed fence. To really get into the spirit of the area, there are live shows that are offered, including Mark Twain Himself. The Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse also provides excellent views of “Old Muddy” the Mississippi River and the Mark Twain Riverboat.
After all of that touring, you will need to take an ice cream break at Becky’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor & Emporium. We had the famous Huckleberry ice cream and it was creamy, delicious and the perfect cold treat on a hot day. We highly recommend this unique ice cream to complete the Mark Twain experience.
If you are a Walt Disney fan, this road trip is for you! Marceline, Missouri is Walt Disney’s boyhood hometown and here you will be able to see the influence this town made on Walt Disney and his career at the Walt Disney Hometown Museum. The museum is filled with memorabilia from the Disney families farm, the art of Walt Disney, original theme park and memorabilia and personal items of Walt Disney. The audio and video presentations take you through Walt’s upbringing and his humble beginnings as well as his success. You can even view an original Midget Autopia car from Disneyland’s original ride. Also on display is one of Walt’s drawing desks and the siding of his childhood home, where he drew a large bird in a nest. This museum is well organized and you could spend several hours here. It is located in a beautifully restored red brick train station. Freight trains traveling outside gives you a deeper understanding of Walt’s love for and interest in trains. In fact, you can get up close and personal with a Disneyland Railroad train just outside of the museum. Drive down Marceline’s Main Street, which is the model for Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. On that street, you can stop by the Uptown Theater where, in 1956, Walt and Roy Disney help the premiere of “The Great Locomotive Chase”. Don’t forget to stop by Ma Vic’s Place for a “Dusty Miller” ice cream treat.
The Disney family farm is also open to the public. It includes a reproduction of the long-gone barn and has a bench inside the barn where you can leave your signature. The barn was known as “the happy place: and the birthplace of “Disney Imagineering”. Near the barn is a 40-foot tall tree. This is an offshoot of the large cottonwood tree that a young Walt called his “Dreaming Tree” where he would go to let his mind wander. This tree is also near the old Disney someplace. This is a must-see for the Disney fans out there.
You’ve gotta drive it! Snake Alley is a street located in Burlington, Iowa, that was built in 1894. It is a local landmark that helped to connect the residential district at the top of the bluff to the commercial district down below. Snake Alley consists of five half-curves, two quarter-curves and drops 58 feet. Ripley’s Believe It or Not! declared this street #1 in Ripley’s Believe It or Not!’s Odd Spots Across America Campaign.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum are great ways to immerse yourself in the 16th president’s world and time. This museum is full of interesting exhibits and well-informed volunteers. The video presentation gives a good overview of Lincoln’s life and the Civil War. You can walk over to the log cabin exhibit and explore the beginning of President Lincoln’s life until his death. You can also view Mary’s dresses and other historical artifacts. We also took another tour of the Lincoln Home National Historic Site where Lincoln lived from 1844 until 1861. This was the only home the Lincoln ever owned. A ranger will lead you throughout the tour while you explore the formal parlor, sitting room, dining room, bedrooms, hired help’s room, backyard, outbuildings and kitchen. You will also learn about the family’s affinity for sugar!
We also visited the final resting place of our 16th president at The Lincoln Tomb. He is buried in a granite tomb with a semicircle receiving room entrance-way. His wife, Mary, and three of their four sons are also buried there. It is a grand and ornate burial site with granite, marble and many statues of President Lincoln. Outside of the tomb stands a large bronze statue of President Lincoln’s head. You may witness visitors rubbing Lincoln’s bronze nose for good luck, thus the nickname “The Lucky Nose”.
These places are worth the stop in order to better understand President Lincoln’s life and legacy.
Time for lunch! We stumbled upon a local restaurant called Ron’s Redbird Cafe in Gerard, Illinois. This place was a “hole in the wall” off Route 66 and was completely packed. It was suggested that we try the local dish, the Pony Shoe. This was our first horseshoe and it consisted of thick sliced toast, topped with a hamburger patty, French fries and smothered with cheese. It was….interesting. Their spin on a Hot Brown made famous in Louisville, Kentucky. Next time, I think that I’ll stick with traditional breakfast offerings, which they do really well.