We were edging ever closer to Chicago and the end of our self-planned 3-week road trip through the Midwest States of the USA. Starting in Chicago 15 days ago, we had since travelled through the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas and were currently in the state of Missouri having spent a couple of days in Branson.
Staying in the state of Missouri, we were now travelling further north to the city of St Louis but first, in keeping with the theme of our road trip, we had a few stops to make at some random roadside attractions!
Our first stop this morning was in the town of Springfield, Missouri where we went in search of the World’s Largest Fork! Not obviously visible from the road, we eventually found it rising from the ground in front of an office building after wandering around the area our Sat Nav had taken us to.
Slightly underwhelmed, we were unsure it was really worth the effort but we did at least find a supermarket nearby to stock up on some snacks for our journey and grab something from its coffee shop!
Our next stop was a late addition to our itinerary and an hour’s detour away from our original route to St Louis but after seeing it listed on a few road trip websites, we immediately knew we had to include it in our adventure! The Famous Swinging Bridge of Brumley at the Lake of the Ozarks looked way more fun than a giant fork – an almost 90-year old single-lane bridge suspended across the water without supports from below. Definitely a ‘cross it if you dare’ challenge!
After hours driving down long winding roads in seemingly the middle of nowhere, our Sat Nav directed us onto a gravel track masquerading as road. Eventually, this led us to Grand Auglaize Swinging Bridge.
Parking just down from the bridge, we got out to inspect the structure. It didn’t look particularly safe but it had taken so long to get to it that not crossing it would add hours onto our already long journey. So after taking photos on the bridge and making sure nothing was attempting to cross it from the other side, we jumped back into our car and slowly edged across. Thankfully the bridge withstood the weight of our car and a couple of long minutes later we had made it to the other side!
It had been an exciting day for road side attractions but we had one more stop left before making it to St Louis. his time, we were back on Route 66 for the second time this trip, stopping in the town of Fanning to seethe ‘Red Rocker’, formerly the largest rocking chair and way more impressive than this morning’s giant fork!
Then it was on to St Louis, arriving in typical fashion as the sun began to set and finally checking into our city hotel almost 9 hours after leaving Branson that morning!!
The next morning, we were up early to walk through the city towards the banks of the Mississippi for our first up close look at the huge Gateway Arch and a river cruise aboard a Steamboat.
The cruise was fun although similar to my experience cruising along the Mississippi in New Orleans, there was not a huge amount to see or hear about on from the live commentary.
We had pre-booked tickets to go up to the observation deck at the Gateway Arch and by the time our cruise had finished, it was time to return to the arch to check in.
Visitors travel to the top of the arch in a tiny capsule – not one for the claustrophobic! – and once up there, there isn’t a huge amount of space to move about.
It was a beautiful clear day however and the views across to Illinois in one direction and over St Louis city in the other,stretched for miles.
After lunch at a Sports Bar in the Laclede’s Landing Riverside District, we walked back through the city to City Museum.
Calling this a ‘museum’ is a bit misleading as it’s actually more of a giant adventure playground with tunnels to crawl through, structures to climb and slides to slide down both inside and outside the building. It gets its ‘City Museum’ label because all of these structures were made of pieces of buildings, artefacts and just general bits and pieces from various cities and were fashioned into a giant playground by artists!
This isn’t a playground restricted to children, big kids are allowed too and we had great fun scrambling around and even playing in a huge ball pit although we came out aching and covered in bruises reminded that we’re not as young as we used to be!
In need of something a bit more relaxing, we stuck with the art theme and walked to the Citygarden Sculpture Park, a small park area with fountains and sculptures dotted around, our favourite of which was a huge Pinocchio sculpture!
We finished our day with a visit to the Old Courthouse Building near the Gateway Arch, a building which we’d passed many times over the course of the day but had not been inside yet. As well as being able to tour the Courthouse, it also acts as a National Park Service Visitor Centre for the Arch.
Exhausted from being on our feet most of the day, we then made our way back to our hotel, leaving again only to grab some dinner from the nearby Hard Rock Cafe.
We’d enjoyed our day exploring the city of St Louis and spending time in the state of Missouri.